Musician and Photographer Denée Segall Reveals What Makes Her Feel Good

Photo Credit: Denée Segall

What makes you feel good? Is it a tub of hummus and Netflix, or is it the love of your life in a matching onesie beside you on the couch? Or the sound of grumbling, guttural guitar? Perhaps it’s all of these. Denée Segall shamelessly admits she feels good when she’s with her husband Ty. A couple for thirteen years, their co-written single “Feel Good” (from Ty’s recent Harmonizer album) came out in August, accompanied by a video featuring Ty and Denée on a glamorous night-time road trip. In disco-era satin and sequins, Denée poses up a storm in the back of the car, on the hood and then, finally, taking the wheel while Ty rides shotgun. Serrated-edge guitar riffs sound like they were recorded in a photo booth, yet almost rip the hairs off your arms. Somehow, there’s a dance-friendly melody at work, too.

“’Feel Good’ is not directly about [our] relationship,” Denée clarifies. “I wrote it as a more universal theme. Ty came to me with a loose concept he had for the song and I took it and ran with it. But of course, when writing a love song, he is my ultimate inspiration. I don’t think it really reveals anything specific about us. Since we typically like to keep our relationship somewhat private, I guess it’s just a nice little glimpse at our collaborative minds, and our love and adoration for each other.”

It’s also a love letter to dance punk – a running theme for both Ty and Denée. They collaborated with Emmett Kelly under the moniker The C.I.A. back in 2018, releasing a self-titled album that year (via In The Red Records) full of furious hip-shaking, head-tossing, carnal noise. True to their experimental approach, the band consisted of two bass guitars, no lead guitar, and a drum machine. Recordings and reviews of their live performances reveal Denée’s natural frontwoman persona, a singer and lyricist who punctures the poker-faced cool of the Cali crowd with her intensity. While Ty’s simultaneous multi-project, multi-band work has defied the 24/7 human schedule, Denée has a trail of musical glories in her wake too. She was the bassist for LA punks VIAL, which released their 7″ EP in 2015.

“I was in VIAL from the beginning to the end, which was 2013–2017,” she recalls with evident joy. “It was such a fun band to play in. We are all old friends from San Francisco and had all recently moved to LA from SF with a lot of other friends in a mass exodus because of the tech boom and insane rent prices that followed. Playing shows in the LA DIY punk community was a really great way to settle in and to meet people. At the time, most of us considered ourselves very amateur musicians and we really encouraged and supported each other to grow musically. Man…reminiscing about this band always makes me miss it!”

A VIAL reunion isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, though. When she’s not making music, Segall keeps busy: snapping photos – including promo shots for Ty, Shannon Lay, LA punk legend Alice Bag, and more; designing album covers; and working at In The Red Records, her day job of the last eight years. “I’m the only employee so I basically do whatever is needed. A big chunk of that involves laying out album art, running the website, talking to artists and customers, mail order, etc. [Label founder] Larry [Hardy] is the greatest boss so it’s easy to work for him and also make time for music,” Denée says.

There’s been more time than ever to dedicate to music while touring has been off the table, and both Ty and Denée have been working from their home in Topanga, where they’ve lived for two and half years. “I felt at home here as soon as we moved in,” Denée says. “I grew up in Northern California in the Sierra Nevada Foothills and Ty grew up in Laguna Beach. Topanga is very reminiscent of our respective hometowns. We are a short drive to so many beautiful beaches, but our home is in the canyon nestled among giant oak and eucalyptus trees.”

“As for the space itself,” Denée adds, “there isn’t much division. We do have our separate workspaces. I have an office upstairs, and Ty has the studio in the backyard. We do our morning chores together at our dining room table while we drink too much coffee.”

In her own space, Segall embraces quiet moments. “When I’m working in my office on the computer, I tend to enjoy the silence. It helps me focus. I listen to the birds chirping, the dogs barking at the squirrels, or whatever record Ty has on that drifts upstairs,” she says. But naturally, Audiofemme wants to know what she’s been listening to.

“If I’m driving, I usually like something upbeat that I can blast and sing along to,” she replies. “I’m all over the board, but lately I’ve listened to The Hunches, Free Kitten, Plastics, Swell Maps, and Suburban Lawns. I’m pretty picky when it comes to new music. I don’t mean to be biased, but I most enjoy the music that my friends make. Oog Bogo, P22White Fence, and CCR Headcleaner are just a few favorites.”

Segall says she’s also a huge Neil Young fan (“Simply put, he is one of the greatest songwriters of all time. There is an album and/or song to fit any mood I’m in. Ty and I actually saw him standing on Pacific Coast Highway a few weeks ago. Blessed day.”) but her first musical loves were Beastie Boys and the grunge/noise-art bands she discovered in the ’90s.

“My older brother Todd introduced me to [Beastie Boys] when I was super young. I remember either he or my dad took me to our little local record store at midnight to get a copy of Hello Nasty when I was 10. I still love them,” Denée says. “In high school, my favorite band was Sonic Youth. I looked up to Kim Gordon for sure. I loved The Breeders and Nirvana too. I guess I was really into early ’90s stuff in general. I worked at Hollywood Video in high school and would rent 1991: The Year Punk Broke over and over until they transitioned from VHS to DVD and then I bought it for a buck. I also loved Le Tigre and the first Yeah Yeah Yeahs EP and album.”

These bands have been formative to Segall’s very identity. “Now that I’m thinking about it,” she muses, “I guess I mainly looked up to women who had unique voices, were uninhibited, and who seemed to not give even one single fuck.”

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