White Fence Stays Home for New Album ‘Cyclops Reap’
Inside Tim Presley's surprising new full-length, due April 9 on Castleface
The way Tim Presley describes his songwriting process, it sounds like he’s trying to outrun himself. “I just wake up and start [writing and recording] all through the day and night,” he says. “I’m in my room always thinking about [the songs] and always writing shit down.” Under his White Fence moniker, Presley has dedicated the last three years to a series of collections of ramshackle psychedelia. Counting Hair, his album length collaboration with San Franciscan kindred spirit Ty Segall, Presley has released five full-length records since 2010, a momentous feat no matter your process.
Records come together piecemeal, Presley often sending large batches of songs to label heads and sorting through the deluge to form cohesive statements. “For Family Perfume I reached out to Jeremy [Earl] at Woodsist and Ty Segall,” he explains. “I gave them like, 80 songs and I wanted to see which ones they liked.” That set of songs turned into 2012’s sprawling, collage-like collection of ’60s guitar pop for Woodsist, but a bit of subtraction shows that Presley still had a lot of songs left over.
Cyclops Reap, Presley’s forthcoming album on Thee Oh Sees frontman John Dwyer’s Castleface Records, was originally intended as a grab bag of leftovers from his last three years of insane productivity. But Presley’s drive quickly transformed the project into a full-fledged album. He assumes that there are “30 or 40 decent [songs]” left from the Family Perfume sessions, but time spent with his home-recording equipment drove him to press forward with new material.
“It was all recorded in my room and there’s a lot of trial and error on [the four-track recorder],” Presley explains, speaking of the device that he’s used to track White Fence’s material to date. “Just recording so much, I think I got better at the four-track on this one.” That growth has made itself audible in Presley’s trademark warbles and analog chaos. The weird tics that marked previous recordings — e.g. the sped-up vocal take on “Trouble Is Trouble Never Seen” — are by design here rather than the result of “happy accidents.”
But still, Presley asserts that Cyclops Reap maintains the hallmarks of his homespun sound. “It’s the same thing, it’s just a newer thought,” he says. “When you do record at home, you get surprised at things that you do. There isn’t an engineer there who knows what happened. If [a song] was recorded wrong, I just embrace those moments.”
Just because Presley started out 2013 looking back on leftovers from past albums doesn’t mean that he’s kicking back for the rest of the year. After three years at home, Presley figures it may be time to head back to the studio. “I became disillusioned with studio recording,” Presley notes of his homebound aesthetic. “But after the Hair record and seeing what Rob [Barbados, Presley’s bandmate in Darker My Love] can do in the studio, I’m starting to get more comfortable with the idea again.” Those feelings might be rooted more in reality than just idea. Presley says he’s working on another album already. “I’m in the process of putting together something for Woodsist,” he explains, “maybe a studio record. Something a bit more focused. Maybe I’ll add a string section, pedal steel, weird backup vocals. I want it to be a bigger deal, not just a bedroom affair.”