by Daniel Colussi | Tim Presley has positioned himself as the rightful heir to so much fine rock n roll pedigree. The LA dude behind all things White Fence (songs, sounds, graphics) oozes Syd Barrett gonzo-whimsy, Ray Davies pop construction, Germs-ian punk destruction, and all of these elements wrapped in a cocoon of hazy, lo-fi freakiness. He’s a diligent guy, having spent the last several years studiously home recording gem after gem of fractured pop and showing no sign of slowing down. To wit, this spring sees the release of not only two White Fence albums – Family Perfume volumes 1 and 2 – but also Hair, a collaboration with that other West Coast garage-psych wunderkind, Ty Segall (who you’ve read about on Scout before, of course). That’s a lot of tuneage. I probed Tim on his new albums, his West vs East backup bands and the indelible, if unintended, link betwixt White Fence and tattoo culture. Get down.
Explain to me a bit about the various chapters of White Fence. There’s an LA line up, an NY line up, and an SF line up.
Is this just the economics of trying to run a band? Well, it’s kinda tricky. It started of as a kind of a fun thing and then its becoming a little bit more stressful with people’s schedules. Because the whole White Fence thing – I never really thought I’d be playing out live. But I kept getting some show offers and so I was like, “Fuck it, let’s do it.” And my brother in San Francisco, he rehearsed the band in San Francisco and I flew up there and they already knew the songs. And I was like, “Oh man, this is awesome!” I didn’t have to do anything. But because I live in Los Angeles, it’s kinda hard to get them down here just for, like, a basement show. Because they all have jobs. And then the New York thing, it was kinda just more economic. I have some friends out there, so instead of playing for four or five plane tickets. It’s definitely different from that band/gang mentality, which is was I’m used to.
Is it a nice change? It keeps things fresh? To be honest, it’s kind of cool because you get to play with people – they can add a different vibe to it. Like I feel like the San Francisco band is kind of more of an all out punk band. Real simple and to the point. Whereas the LA band has that but its also a little more musical.
I wonder about the live aspect of the band vs the recordings. Are you precious about the shows sounding like the recordings? A lot of people ask that. Because I could’ve easily gone up there and done a bunch of tape loops. Kind of like a more arty thing; experimental. But there’s something about me and just the way I am. I don’t know if it’s a nervous thing but I kinda just wanna rock, I guess. It turns me into a primal cave man. I don’t really want to think too much, and I don’t think the crowd wants to either. It’s made the live band more of a kind of rock and roll band by default. It just kinda happens. I would love to do an extravagant, big band with crazy sounds, but I don’t know. Some other time.
White Fence was initially never intended as a full time, live band thing, was it? Yeah, exactly. I never thought about making it a working band. Its kinda like the guy who makes tooth-pick airplanes in his room, and all of sudden people are like, Oh, wow!, you know? It just started turning into a full time thing.
Is it correct Family Perfume 1 and 2 are what’s been whittled down from a much larger cache of recordings? There were about eighty songs and then I just – there was just so much music that I couldn’t make a record out of it because there was so much. So I had some friends consult and whittle it down to sixty, and then I had to get it down to thirty. It’s all from the past year.
How did you decide what went on each volume? It just had to do with what songs worked best together. I actually had Ty Segall do the track list for the first one. I was so overwhelmed that – you know how you’re so overwhelmed with something that you can’t even start? I couldn’t do it. So he put one together and I used it and then because the ball got rolling, the second volume actually came easy. One thing that for me defines the White Fence from other home-recorded bands is our use of sampled drums, rather than using a 808 or a more rudimentary drum machine. It just came out of necessity. And I grew up on hip hop like any kid in the nineties, so I figured, what the fuck? Why can’t I do it? It couldn’t be limited to just that type of music. I feel like if I did do the 808 thing it would turn it into a different kind of music.
Has your recording process changed at all from the first album to now? It’s exactly the same tools, everything’s the same. I’m just starting to get a little bit better at the four track. It’s the most simple thing, but you keep learning. You can expand on it so much. And I think that just doing it everyday I’ve gotten better at it.
One of the tunes on Vol.1 that’s a real highlight for me is “It Will Never Be.” For one, that song is like the most meaningful song I’ve ever written in my life. You write lyrics and they always mean something, but then sometimes you just nail it. In some songs you might have a couple lines about a certain thing, but this whole song’s about one thing and if there was any time for me to be proud about anything it would be that song. It’s so pure, there’s something really special about that one. It’s personal. And then the back end of it is a jam that actually had another minute shaved off. It was an improv jam out.
You’re playing Vancouver with Ty Segall, and you and Ty have a collaborative album coming out, Hair. Are you gonna play some Hair tracks? Yeah we’re gonna do some Hair man! I think during his set we’ll just jump up there and bust it out.
I saw on you Facebook that some dude got a White Fence tattoo. And your first album cover is essentially this collage of tattoo designs. What’s the dilly? Ha, I don’t know! I actually know that guy. His name’s Byron. He’s a really cool, cool kid. And that little thing he got tattooed is in the liner notes, and I was so flattered. Because in Vancouver everyone has tattoos from their jawline to their knuckles. I don’t know. It’s weird. Tattooing. Did you know that one in three people who have face tattoos commit suicide? I read that somewhere. That’s insane. My friend calls face tattoos the Fucked For Life Club. Well yeah, man, the one in three club!
Have you ever played Vancouver before with Darker My Love? Yeah, we’ve played there. In fact, the guitar player from the band jumped out of the van to get food, ended up smoking a joint with this kid and it was way too strong. That’s all I can remember from Vancouver. He got ghanja-rea, and you can quote me on that.
Ty Segall, White Fence, Sex Church and Nu Sensae play the Waldorf Friday May 4th.
Zulu Records veteran and tunage aficionado Daniel Colussi is the Music Editor of Scout Magazine.