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Ty Segall on Goodbye Bread, Numb Happiness, and His Intense, Personal Relationship With MTV’s Laguna Beach

Photo: Roger Kisby/Getty Images
Ty Segall. Photo: Roger Kisby/Getty Images

Last year, California scuzz-rocker Ty Segall dropped Melted and all but cemented his place atop the heap of sounds-like-it-was-recorded-30-years-ago garage rock. But the Über-prolific Segall has never been one to stand still: On last month’s Goodbye Bread, he threw his sound completely out the window in favor of something slower and softer — and just as indelibly catchy as the rest of his lengthy back catalogue. Oh, one other thing: Early in his life, while growing up in the idyllic beach town of Laguna Beach, California, Ty had a brief brush with the MTV reality-TV machine. Vulture got on the phone with Segall to talk Bread and the truth about Kristin Cavallari.

You spent six months on Goodbye Bread, a relatively lengthy amount of time for you. Was there any specific reason?
It took me about six months to fully get where I was going. Like, Melted took three months or something, and Lemons took two weeks, and that first record took, like, five days. We were trying to make [Bread] the best we could, and we actually had time to do it, and we had the resources. We recorded it in my buddy’s basement, so we just had all the time in the world. We just weren’t gonna stop until it was done.

It feels like there’s a theme running through the album …
There’s definitely a theme: This numb happiness that I’ve gone through, and that I see people going through. There’s a lot of different ways to talk about it, which is what all the different songs are about. There’s the conforming 9-to-5-lifestyle thing. Then there’s like settling down, trying to find a balance in a relationship sense, or having a dog and having a house. All these things, like, they’re not really gonna make you happy. So there’s this strange numbness I see in people these days, and I don’t know what causes that, but it’s definitely there. I had it in the past, and I try to not have it.

How have things changed over the five years that you’ve been putting out music?
Now I’m doing this as a job, not just for fun. This is my main source of income and stuff like that. I’ve had a long-term girlfriend, then we broke up, was in school, then graduated, lived in many different houses, worked many different jobs. Like, it’s like everything that’s happened. It’s just, you get a little older and you’ve lived — just from existing in time, hopefully you’re gonna change a little bit.

You started putting music out while you were still in high school.
To put it best I can, I just wanted to get out of school as soon as I could. But it wasn’t blossoming while I was in school. It wasn’t like, “Oh my God, I should like drop out, because this shit’s crazy right now,” or whatever. It was like, “Oh man, I get to put out a record? This is insane!” It was more like that.

And you actually grew up in Laguna Beach while they were filming the show?
Yes, I did. It was only happening when I was a senior. We were all just fucking pissed off, because it was our town, you know? It was ridiculous what happened the next couple years after that, because it was already dying because of the money that had moved into Laguna Beach. It was a really disappointing time to watch all of these great things from your childhood get destroyed. The following years there were all of these people moving into Laguna Beach because of the show. It was just obnoxious, man. It went from an already popular beach town to like ridiculously overcrowded in the summer. You couldn’t even surf. At least the first couple years I was in school I tried to not tell people where I was from because it would always turn into some ridiculous conversation. Uh, a couple times people even snubbed me, stopped talking to me. I mean, college kids are super mean, but it was really fucking stupid.

Was the portrayal of the town way off base?
Oh, it’s just fake. They pick eight of the most wealthy, popular kids. It’s extremely one-sided. Five percent of the people that live in Laguna Beach are of their social stature and money bracket. So they pick this small, elite group of kids, make a TV show about them, and it paints a really bad picture of the place I grew up. There’s a lot of different people that don’t live there anymore because of this show. There used to be way more artists and these weird, awesome, acid-head dudes from the sixties, like surfer guys and crazy, old, burnout artist dudes. I mean, Timothy Leary lived there with his acid cult. There’s some pretty awesome history with that place, and all of those weird, arty, awesome surfer types are not there anymore. Any reality-TV show on MTV is gonna be fake and stupid. They’re all scripted and bullshit.

Did you know any of the kids on the show?
Yeah, Laguna Beach was a really small town. Literally everyone knew each other. I knew Kristin Cavallari kinda well. She was cool. And this girl Alex Murrel, who I don’t think was really one of the famous ones. Kristin, she was like portrayed as the bitch, but she wasn’t. She was like actually the coolest girl, out of any of those girls, the most real. MTV just kinda like sculpted the show; they made it look how they wanted it to. It’s something ridiculous — I think they all got ten grand for the first season. I mean, how stupid are you guys? I’m not too sure what happened later, I remember hearing that, and you sign a contract, and your likeness, your name, are basically owned by MTV for ten years. So, I dunno, it just seemed moronic.

Ty Segall on Goodbye Bread, Numb Happiness, and His Intense, Personal Relationship With MTV’s Laguna Beach