By Ty Bianucci
Los Angeles-based alternative rock quartet Sego returned to their home venue of Provo to play an album release show Friday for Sego Sucks, a record delving into hyper-connected life in 2019.
It is the band’s first full-length album since their 2016 release of Once Was Lost Now Just Hanging Around.
Sego is led by frontman Spencer Petersen, who bears a half-singing, half-talking approach to deliver his lyrics—a style that emphasizes the accessibility of his music. It’s not just his elocution that makes this new record accessible to his audience though—it’s the subject matter.
Petersen opens up right out of the gate riffing on modern culture—specifically the influencer-dominated society we find ourselves living in. Influencers aren’t the only target of this new album, however. It’s our dependence on smartphones, social media and the requisite opinions that freely flow in response.
“Neon Me Out,” the first track on the album, illustrates the feeling of being blitzed from all directions by influencers on social media. Took my life for granted till I saw myself in pixels. All alone and lost for words so take a thousand pictures. Then you bought a camera. Made my female friends all models. Now I’m seeing Sophie posing nearly naked by the water.
Therein lies the meaning behind the album’s title Sego Sucks—satirizing the pressure to be exerting your own importance in some regard at all times, whether through pictures or opinions. “Initially it was just some silly hashtag that some disgruntled audience member started using on Twitter to malign us,” Petersen says over the phone, calling from his home base in Los Angeles. “It was kind of funny considering we had just barely started a band and we weren’t even playing a show.”
During the ugly presidential election cycle of 2016, Petersen says there was a call to arms spreading across the art world, admonishing this is the new ‘60s, this is your chance to say something. Petersen wasn’t galvanized by the political upheaval. “If anything, I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of heavy-handed opinions that I encounter every day about everything.” Two and a half years after the election, the coarse and rapid-fire opinions aren’t limited to just the artist types. For Petersen, this record represents a lack of an opinion on things that he’s not qualified to weigh in on.
Inside Velour on Friday night, Sego set up all around the room to create a surround sound effect. Petersen and drummer Thomas Carroll stationed in the front and back—bass player Alyssa Davey and guitarist/keyboardist Brandon McBride on each side. The result was a disorienting episode that matches the pathos of the record. That is, being stretched thin by the amount of media being thrown at us.
With the crowd bombarded by the music in the middle of the room, it morphed at times into what felt like a counter-culture dance party with intermittent chants, including “USA! USA!” and “A bet is a bet! A bet is a bet!” and, of course, “Sego Sucks! Sego Sucks!” to call for an encore.
In contrast to the other projects Petersen has worked on where recording became a piecemeal effort, he carried the goal of laying down this record from start to finish without succumbing to the itch to micro-manage every cut. He hoped this approach would give the record a more compact feel. Considering one of the themes of the album is being overwhelmed by modernity, leaving imperfections cooked into the final mix attaches another human element to an album already layered in the contemporary human experience.
So, the band spent a month recording in the basement of a 19th century Protestant church and sleeping in a house next to it with the producer, Dave Newfeld. “We sequestered ourselves in the great white north,” Petersen says.
The most human feature of their Canadian recording effort came when, after a month, there wasn’t quite enough material for an album. Recording sessions in familiar California and Utah filled in the loose ends.
It’s on this note, human imperfection, which coincides with Sego’s criticism of modernity—they’re not above it. “I’m also pointing the finger at myself. I’m just as guilty as anybody,” Petersen says. “It’s easy to call other people out, but in reality, we’re all kind of in the same boat.”
Here’s the tracklist for Sego Sucks, released April 5:
- “Neon Me Out”
- “Give Me”
- “Heart Attack”
- “Whatever Forever”
- “Sucker / Saint”
- “Anvil Hands”
- “High Tide”
- “Buy Time”
- “Coming Home”
Sego’s spring 2019 tour dates:
- 4/26: Austin, TX @ Mohawk
- 4/27: Dallas, TX @ Three Links Deep Ellum
- 4/28: Houston, TX @ Continental Club
- 5/1: Tampa, FL @ Crowbar
- 5/2: Orlando, FL @ Will's Pub
- 5/3: Atlanta, GA @ 529
- 5/4: Raleigh, NC @ Kings
- 5/6: Washington, DC @ Songbyrd
- 5/7: Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda's
- 5/9: Brooklyn, NY @ Baby's All Right
- 5/10: Boston, MA @ Great Scott
- 5/11: Ithaca, NY @ The Haunt
- 5/12: Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom & Tavern
- 5/13: Detroit, MI @ Loving Touch
- 5/15: St. Louis, MO @ Fubar
- 5/16: Milwaukee, WI @ Colectivo
- 5/17: Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
- 5/18: Chicago, IL @ Schubas Tavern
- 5/20: Kansas City, MO @ The Record Bar
- 5/21: Denver, CO @ Hi-Dive
- 5/22: Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
- 5/23: Boise, ID @ The Olympic
- 5/24: Seattle, WA @ The Sunset Tavern
- 5/25: Spokane, WA @ Lucky You Lounge
- 5/26: Portland, OR @ Portland Center Liquor Store
- 5/30: San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
- 5/31: Los Angeles, CA @ Moroccan Lounge
- 6/1: San Francisco, CA @ Cafe du Nord
- 8/10: Waynesville, OH @ Bellwether Festival