Record of the Week: Ty Segall’s ‘Three Bells’

Ty Segall is inarguably prolific. The indie rock artist will drop his 15th full-length album, Three Bells, early this year. Do we chalk up this impressive output to Segall’s musical self-efficiency? He’s kind of his own band — a drummer first and has become most known for his virtuosic guitar playing. Is it access to a robust home studio for this self-professed “demo freak” to indulge endless sonic exploration? Can we credit his family unit — longtime partner and musical collaborator Denee, plus his Dachshund dogs Fanny and Herman — with a foundation of love and creative stimulation that permits him to take risks and push himself?

It must be a combination of all the aforementioned factors, with the underpinning of just being a very cool dude, that keeps the SoCal native pumping out the jams. His tour brings him to Nashville’s Brooklyn Bowl on April 24, and we talked about Three Bells right before he began rehearsal for this new batch of songs.

Read below for highlights and insights from Segall or listen to the full interview via the WNXP Podcast feed.

“My Best Friend”

Why, yes, Ty Segall has now written a great song about both of his dogs — the bombastic, horns-aplenty “Fanny Dog” appeared on his celebrated 2018 LP Freedom’s Goblin, and now we get “My Best Friend” about the younger pup, Herman. Both Fanny and Herman appear in the delightful GoPro-shot music video.

Segall said this about canine inspiration: “They’re part of my family. They’re my best friends. They’re part of me… I had some pets as a kid, but I didn’t really have my dog until I was an adult, and that was Fanny. Then Herman came to live with us during COVID. He’s hilarious and the best. They’re both the best and they just make life better, ya know?”

“I had a riff that was bouncy and felt like Herman, then [wife Denee and I] wrote the song and we’re like ‘Yeah, that’s Herman running around!'”

Compared with his typical songwriting, Segall said “My Best Friend” felt light and fun: “It’s nice to put out some positive stuff. I tend to write very introspective songs, some of them are mysterious and abstract. I like to be subversive and sometimes, at least aesthetically, harsh with sounds and things like that. And so it’s nice to put out a positive tune about these amazing creatures we have in our lives.”

“Void,” “Eggman” and “Watcher”

The six-minute 42-second “Void” is a tune on Three Bells indicative of Segall’s penchant for experimentation with sounds and tempos, unafraid to let a musical theme stretch out past that of a conventional three-minute rock song. But he leaned heavily on his wife Denee to get the lyrics right.

He said the same was true of songs like “Eggman” and “Watcher”: “‘Watcher’ is cool, it was a much weirder song. I sort of had a rough draft and she made it more of a direct thing. ‘Void,’ as well — it was a far more nonsensical tune. It’s almost like we came up with the thesis together. ‘Eggman’ is her song. She wrote all the lyrics and I just had the idea. It’s cool to come to her with an idea, like, ‘Yeah, I wanna make this tune.’ And she comes back with these awesome lyrics and I’m like, “Great, that rules, I would’ve never come up with that.'”

“My Room”

ForThree Bells‘ lead single “My Room,” Segall said what really stands out is switching up how he records the vocals.

“That’s a good example of what I’m really into vocally at the moment, which is a strong single vocal. Like I’m really trying not to double my vocals or do a lot of punches or editing. To have that kind of human feeling to it. On all my favorite records, there’s usually a single lead vocal. That’s not true across the board, you know, you listen to something like The Ramones’ first record, that’s doubled vocals. [Same goes for] lots of pop music. But I think there’s something really cool about trying to pull of a single vocal.”

“My Room” also marked a change in his rhythmic approach (he plays drums on the lion’s share of Three Bells). “With the beats, I got really into what moves people. Obviously melody and structure. But as a drummer, to me, the beat is really important. And if you can sneak in a really groovy beat, maybe like a subversively groovy beat into a poppy song, that’s a cool kind of move. That was the goal for ‘My Room.'”