In a Pitchfork cover story last year, Ty Segall was confused. “There are all these kids growing up on Skrillex and all this digital music,” he lamented at Aaron Leitko. “What are they gonna think when they hear rock’n’roll?”
Hilariously reductionist overtones aside, I thought he had a point. Ty Segall likes Kiss and Led Zeppelin, and Ty Segall is fostering an increasingly iconic career in a decade where Electric Daisy Carnival might be the most culturally relevant musical event in the world. Ty Segall constructs incredibly unapologetic rock music, in an era where the very nature and existential importance of rock music is coming under question, (I wrote about that last week). Ty Segall would never even consider of adding an MPC to his repertoire, kids are more excited about the Postal Service reunion than the Stone Roses reunion. It’s easy to consider Ty Segall like some doomy martyr of old fashion and outdated tradition. We are predisposed to respect his diligence, and his authenticity. Over the last year his records have become the very definition of who’s keeping it real—far beyond the questionable artistic child’s-play of the Bangarang EP.
To put it simply, the lovable shitheads who work at my college radio station all really fucking love Ty Segall. They are his exact demographic. And a couple Fridays ago, I went with literally every shithead I knew to a Ty Segall show. These kids would never listen to Skrillex, not even ironically. The Mohawk, one of Austin’s more dependable rock clubs, was packed to the gills. Segall is an angelheaded saint in the right corners. He’s grubby, brash, and casually hostile. His guitar is fished from the gutter; he strums it like he’s trying to hurt somebody. It’s easy to have a really good time.
So Ty's playing in front of a legion of enthusiastic shitheads, including me. “I Bought My Eyes” starts a rinkydink psychedelic warble before dropping into a ridiculously heavy three-chord pummel. The kids go nuts, and at least 3 shitheads I know start crowd surfing. It is at this precise moment where I realize I am basically at a Skrillex show and the high-art, elitist implications of live rock music is total nonsense.
If you could somehow mute the volume of a Skrillex show, you would see a bunch of kids anxiously standing around waiting for an incredibly loud noise. Upon delivery of this incredibly loud noise, they would jump around, hit each other, and act like the world was cracking open. Outside of tighter jeans and longer hair, that’s essentially what happens at a Ty Segall show. Slaughterhouse is an album about waiting for the drop, except the drops are made out of guitars instead of highly-concentrated bass. The sonic aesthetics are wildly different, but Ty Segall and Skrillex deliver on the same fundamental need of their audience. They make money off of making teenagers freak out.
There is a fundamental truth in pop music that things that feel good usually become popular. Ty Segall has earned his adoration because his music feels incredibly good. Beyond anything else, he’s a crowd pleaser. Sure he might write deep, prognosticating lyrics, but nobody paying money for his shows cares about that shit. They want to get crazy; it’s a desire that transcends songwriting. When Segall hits that churning, brain-splitting fuzz, nothing else matters—just like when Skrillex works his laptop. Maybe there’s something questionable about the world holding giant, titanic hooks over everything else, but fuck that, it’s almost reassuring to know that there are some laws of pop that will never be broken.
So if Ty Segall is actually worried that kids growing up on digital music will somehow be incapable of understanding rock’n’roll, he’s pretty shortsighted. Because for the most part, I think Ty Segall and Skrillex feed off the same things. They both come from a similar heritage. They both probably really love Kiss. They both want to end the universe every night, in every club and festival across the world. Pop music is an egalitarian language, it is best told in crowd surfers. “What will they think when they hear rock’n’roll?” They’ll probably just jump around.
Luke Winkie once convinced a girl to make out with him because he really, really, really looks like Ty Segal. You, too, should make out with him. Or at least follow him on Twitter here - @luke_winkie
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