The night before, Segall and I met for dinner at El Castillito, a Mexican dive in the Lower Haight that ranks among his "favorite places in the world, man." After seven years in San Francisco, he's spent the past several months contemplating a move back to sunnier climes. There was a brief flirtation with Nashville this past summer, a town whose burgeoning garage-rock scene was ultimately too far away from his dad and 16-year-old sister in Laguna. (His mother, an artist, now resides in Washington state.) He's decided on Los Angeles instead, a place "filled with weirdos." His plan is to move his belongings in waves, during breaks in a forthcoming tour.
Segall first came to San Francisco for two reasons: 1) To keep a promise to his parents that he'd see college through to graduation (at the University of San Francisco); and 2) To experience what was left of the city's late-'90s, early 2000s garage-rock scene, built by bands like the Mummies, the Numbers, and Coachwhips. But when Segall arrived in 2005, the Bay Area had become a West Coast hub for a far less aggressive form of psychedelic music: freak folk, as spearheaded by bearded minstrel Devendra Banhart. "Yeah, I didn't get it," Segall says of what he heard and saw his first year. "I was like, ‘Where's rock'n'roll? Where is it? Where did it go? Living rooms? Acoustic shows? What?’"
Though he'd continue to write and perform with his high-school punk crew, Epsilons, a year into college, Segall also began playing drums with some classmates in a band named Traditional Fools. After catching a set that featured Segall wailing away despite a cast on his broken arm, Coachwhips founder and current Thee Oh Sees frontman John Dwyer was so impressed he approached the young SoCal kid to offer his compliments. And after accidentally booking a show his bandmates couldn't attend shortly thereafter, Segall decided to perform on his own for the first time, as a one-man act playing songs he'd written and recorded at home, with just a guitar, and a tambourine and kick drum taped together. Dwyer volunteered to release Segall's self-titled debut in 2008, also introducing him to an ever-tightening community of like-minded musicians, as well as a reservoir of new psychedelic music he's tapped to exhilarating effect.
"Should we get a beer and sit in the dog park?" Segall asks as we walk past a series of bars along Haight after dinner, each one louder than the one before it. "Or is that kind of sketchy? We'd have to be stealth." We buy a six pack to share and a loosie for Segall to smoke, his black, second-hand dress shoes clicking loudly on the sidewalk as we trot downhill to Duboce Park. The temperature has dipped and the Bay Area's infamous micro-climates seem to be conspiring to rustle this neighborhood's every tree, forcing Segall to light his cigarette while huddling against a garage door. "This is a magical place," says Segall, as we sit down under a large cypress, two Golden Retrievers racing in the grass nearby. "In the same way that the Pacific Northwest has supernatural vibes, to me San Francisco is purely psychedelic at times. It's screaming from everywhere. You go to Ocean Beach, it's psychedelic. Go to Golden Gate Park, man, that is a psychedelic place. It's hard not to imagine psychedelic music thriving here in the '60s. It's very, very weird."