Ty Segall Wants to Give Aidy Bryant Surf Lessons
A comedian and a singer-songwriter walk into a bar…Scratch that. A comedian and a singer-songwriter attempt to log in to a Zoom call from opposite coasts, while one of them uses his wife’s new iPhone for the first time. That’s how this conversation between the musician Ty Segall and the comedian Aidy Bryant—a long time Segall fan— began earlier week, when the pair hopped online to discuss the 34-year-old Laguna Beach native’s new album Harmonizer. Predictably, the rock star and the improv legend didn’t miss a beat. Below, the two pals discuss the anxiety of performing live, making music the old fashioned way, and even make a surfing date.
TY SEGALL: My wife [Denée Segall] just got an iPhone, so we’re trying out the iPhone. I’ve got a flip phone.
AIDY BRYANT: That’s so—it’s for the better. I wish I used a flip phone, honestly.
SEGALL: There are pros and cons to that life— this Zoom fiasco and me not knowing how to use anything being a con. But it is nice.
BRYANT: Did you ever have an iPhone? Have you been living free since the beginning.
SEGALL: I totally did, for a couple of years, and it was fine. But I think I just needed a solid disconnect. Now, when I’m sitting on a bus, or waiting at the doctor’s office, and seeing everyone staring at their phones, it feels crazy to me. I much prefer staring at the walls in my doctor’s office.
BRYANT: Well, I’m very honored to be interviewing you. This is very fancy.
SEGALL: Likewise, thank you. It’s great to talk to you.
BRYANT: We had such a funny, I’m gonna say almost a non-meeting, in many ways, do you remember? I basically popped into the dressing room and asked, “Is Mikal [Cronin] here?” And you guys were like “No.”
SEGALL: I don’t know where he was, did you find him?
BRYANT: I don’t think I ever found him.
SEGALL: Well, I told Mikal we were talking today. He says “Hi.”
BRYANT: That’s so nice. I’m a big fan of yours and a big fan of his as well— so is my husband, who sometimes works with Mikal. He’s been producing some of his videos.
SEGALL: I’ve seen a handful of those videos, and they’re amazing.
BRYANT: Are you ready for my hard-hitting journalistic questions?
SEGALL: Let’s do this. I’m ready.
BRYANT: I love your new album. It’s so good. Now tell me if you think I’m dead wrong, but I always love sitting down and working through your albums as a whole. I don’t do that with most artists. When you’re making an album, what comes first? Do you have the full concept before you begin recording? Or do you start with a little piece, and see where it leads you?
SEGALL: I’m kind of all over the place. I think that half of the time, I’m reacting to whatever album I made prior. There’s always a bit of a reaction to the last album I’ve made, sometimes you just kind of make a bunch of songs ,and then you take a step back and go, “Oh, there’s a story here.” I do love when a record is unified by a single idea.
BRYANT: I feel that. I love how cohesive the visuals are. Do you think of the visual component when you record, or does that come later?
SEGALL: It’s hard to imagine the visuals until the music’s done. They do go hand in hand, you start to get ideas along the way, but nothing comes together until after the fact.
BRYANT: How old are you?
SEGALL: I’m 34.
BRYANT: Okay, so am I. I know you’ve been making music since you were very young. What are some aspects of making a record that felt very important to you when you first started out that mean much less to you now? When I first started, I only cared about writing jokes. Now, I care a lot more about writing stories.
SEGALL: When I was younger, I was kind of obsessed with the idea of making the album that would be “My Best Album.” That feeling has gotten in the way a couple of times, where instead of making the most fun or satisfying creative choices, I tried to do things that I would help that album fit into boxes so that other people would like it. So, nowadays, I really enjoy making albums that don’t fit into any one genre or box. I make music for myself now, fully, and I hope that people enjoy it.
BRYANT: I think that’s the right way to do it, that’s truly the artist’s way. So much better than worrying about what your audience is going to think of it. How do you make sure that making music stays fun? I don’t know, sometimes I feel like there’s such misery in making something that I actually like. I love the song that you made with your wife— I’m embarrassed, because I know she’s in the rom with you, hearing me ask a question about her.
SEGALL: [Laughs] She’s here. Collaboration is seriously, like, the best thing ever. If I had to make music only by myself, I wouldn’t really enjoy what I do. There’s real creative fulfillment that comes from making work by yourself, but the coolest part about collaborating is that you create something that you could never have imagined beforehand.
BRYANT: In quarantine, I found myself writing a lot with my husband, just because we were together all the time. You make a lot of your music with analog recording. At SNL, we still make TV like they did in the ’70s, with three cameras and cue cards. I feel like it has shaped how I approach every other project. What’s your relationship to using old school methods?
SEGALL: There are definitely limits with analog recording, it’s archaic in a certain sense. But for me, using an old mixing desk is like involving another instrument. It adds a whole new layer. I think live TV is very similar to mixing music.
BRYANT: Maybe most comparable to performing live. Like, doing shit like playing music or doing stand up for an audience, it’s weird right? Especially post-lockdowns. It had been so long, so it felt very unfamiliar, almost like it was my very first time. Super fun, and really trippy. When you first started playing live shows, were you scared or did you feel breezy?
SEGALL: I was totally terrified. What’s really odd is, the bigger the venue, the easier it is for me. A smaller crowd is more scary to me. But I started performing very young, because my mom used to make me play guitar at dinner parties and stuff.
BRYANT: Oh, my god.
SEGALL: Luckily, I got some practice in high school, because I was in the chorus and I did a few plays, so I had an idea of what being on a stage was like.
BRYANT: Ok, now you have to tell us what plays you were in and what parts you played.
SEGALL: I was in the barbershop quartet in The Music Man. In the sixth grade, our drama teacher created a role for me in this play A Damn Yankee— I was the bat boy. I would just run around singing stuff. And then, what’s that Shakespeare play—A Comedy of Errors.
BRYANT: Oh damn, so we have a real thespian on our hands here. When I was like ten years old, my sense of what was cool was just whatever was out there. I’d listen to whatever was on the radio and be like, “Lit, this is what’s up. It’s sexy and nasty, and I’m bad to the bone.” Before you found what you actually liked, before you even found your gateway bands—what were you listening to?
SEGALL: I mean we’re the same age, we know we were listening to the same garbage. I had a 311 CD. Some Korn. I was also into classic rock, and in the 7th grade talent show, and I performed “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zeppelin, solo, on the bass.
BRYANT: That’s commitment.
SEGALL: I used a Wah pedal, because I thought that would make the bass sound like the guitar does in that song. All the dads in the audience came up to me after.
BRYANT: Do you like touring? You’re going back on the road soon, right?
SEGALL: I love touring so much. I gotta get used to it again, because just after the 10-day mini-thing we did recently, my body was just dead. I think of it like being a chain smoker. You quit smoking, and then a year later, you have to just smoke a pack of cigarettes. It hurts.
BRYANT: I mean it’s a natural energy that just enters your bloodstream. It’s good.
SEGALL: Do you do comedy tours at all?
BRYANT: I used to. Long before I was on SNL, I would drive from Chicago to Ohio to Indiana, and many other beautiful states like that. I did shows for people who didn’t want to watch them. I think it was the best thing I ever did, because now I’m not scared to do anything. I once did a corporate buyout that was all cops, literally all police chiefs from Texas. That was really bad. Demonic, honestly. I don’t know if you know this, did you know that Conner named our dog Fuzz after your band? Can you believe that?
SEGALL: What kind of a dog is he?
BRYANT: He’s a dirty little terrier mix. We don’t really know what he is, but he’s a die-hard fan.
SEGALL: He’s fuzzy, I hope?
BRYANT: Kinda. Where are you right now? You’ve been on the go while we’ve been chatting.
SEGALL: Right now we’re in the parking lot next to our house. We live in L.A. somewhere. Are you in New York still?
BRYANT: Yep. We’re about to start the new season of SNL, so I have to be.
SEGALL: All I want to do is go to the Grand Central oyster bar.
BRYANT: That’s a good New York ritual. I feel like my L.A. ritual is I arrive, I spend time in West Hollywood, and then I have a mental breakdown. I can’t handle showbiz. But I like L.A.
SEGALL: I actively try to avoid all of the industry stuff. Are you a beach person?
BRYANT: I like the beach, but the problem is my husband hates the beach. That’s hell for me. You’re from the beach, aren’t you?
SEGALL: Yeah, I’m from Laguna Beach, so if you ever want to come down, I’ll take you surfing.
BRYANT: Don’t they always say that 34 is the perfect age to learn how to surf?
SEGALL: I’ve been surfing since I was eight. I just do it for fun, I’m not like a wild surfer dude. Well, I am pretty dude-ly in certain respects, but I don’t aspire to be dude-ly. I think it’s just the way, you know, my hair looks. I need to cut it.
BRYANT: You’re going on tour, so you’re going to need that hair. Do you have a favorite song on your new album?
SEGALL: I can definitely pick favorites. I have a couple of songs that I like because of how different they are from my usual stuff, “Harmonizer” is pretty different for me. I also really like “Pictures,” it has this weird electronic techno breakdown thing. If you’re in L.A. soon, reach out. I’d love to take you surfing.
BRYANT: Oh I will. This is going to fully change who I am as a person.
SEGALL: Yes, I have extra boards.