Spencer Segelov opens up on flawless ‘You’re a Lighthouse, I’m at Sea’ album
OUT today – and genuine contender for 2024’s album of the year – the incredible ‘You’re a Lighthouse, I’m At Sea,’ from Spencer Segelov & Great Paintings.
Originally from Swansea, Wales, Segelov is a composer, and multi-instrumentalist who has written and recorded eight albums across various genres including pop, indie, country, synth, and yacht rock.
And having honed down over two and half years of material, we’re awarded with an album of such majestic accomplishment it’s nigh on impossible to accept it isn’t a ‘Best Of,’ but rather a collection of instant favourites, songs that sweep over you, touching your soul, embracing you with the love and passion of a heartfelt embrace from an old friend.
‘Lost Under the Lights,’ ‘The Agony of Nothing to Say,’ listen to any of the twelve tracks and you’ll hear perfection. From the heartfelt ‘Through Joke,’ a song evoking memories of a prime David Gates, to ‘Call it Sympathy,’ and anything in-between, there’s not a wasted second.
‘Couples Therapy’ is what ‘Man in a Suitcase’ would have sounded like if the Police had possessed an ounce of soul. They didn’t. And Sting still doesn’t. But here, clearly, is a man who does.
“Overall, the album is my tribute to dancing at indie nightclubs,” said Segelov.
“I really wanted a very short, punchy opening song. It can be hard to get a whole song across in two minutes and the song ‘Don’t you Know’ is jangly power pop, like the Cars doing early Beatles, and there are references to other songs in the arrangement including, ‘Boom-a-Bang-Bang-Bang’ by my close friend, Simon Love.
“I once played bass for a touring band in a festival, and someone gave me something without telling me what was in it. Hours later I was in a field alone staring up at some high floodlights feeling like I was no longer corporeal – so the song ‘Lost Under the Lights’ is about gently losing it.
“There’s a song by the Who called ‘The Good’s Gone’ which starts with this very ‘80s jangly, sounding riff and I always wanted a song which had more of that in.
“Actually, the whole album is supposed to replicate being at an indie night and the third song, ‘And We Get Burned,’ is that song where you have to ask your friends who it’s by as you’re not sure which noughties band wrote it. Is it Bombay Bicycle Club, The Cribs, Mystery Jets, Hot Hot Heat? But it’s not quite those.
“You always have that friend who’s dynamite in a social situation, and you bring them along at your peril, so this is about that friend. Sometimes they’re the ones crying on stairs at a party, or arguing with door staff or throwing drinks over someone – we all know these people.
“’Through Joke,’ track four, is all about when I was listening in to a guy trying to impress a girl on a train, and he was reeling off all the things he does for people and letting it accidentally slip out that he’s in therapy – to try and score points for vulnerability – but it was transparent he was a villain. The harmonies remind me of Fleet Foxes, and I hear this as a faster, Sufjan Stevens lament. My wife Alice played some beautiful piano on this.
“Musically, ‘The Agony of Nothing to Say’ was inspired by a purchase of five Teenage Fanclub albums for £10 in one of those box-set CD things, they always have some long guitar solos, so I thought I do my own. I roped in occasional TF band member Steve Black (aka Sweet Baboo) to play the saxophone section after sending him a really cheap midi arrangement.
“Lyrically inspired by a real man called Geoff who did some online training on stress relief for two whole days. He managed to not answer a single question straightforwardly, preferring long anecdotes about forests, beaches and beathing in dreams. It made no sense.
“Track six, ‘You’re a Lighthouse I’m at Sea,’ is song for my wife with a bit of the type of arrangement ideas used by The School who I’ve drummed with on some of their tours. I simply put a Bernard Butler type guitar figure in the chorus with some Pulp chords, a Beach Boys break down, and some light to medium Buddy Holly inflections.
“For ‘Disco In Your Heart,’ I had the title first and had to double check it was not already taken. Some songs fall out of the sky, and this is one of them. It feels like was written by someone else or automatically, almost without my input.
“The more I try and explain it the less sense it makes, but I know what it means and I’m sure everyone else does too. Sounds to me like Belle and Sebastian and I wanted the song to sound like it goes from a cheap demo to an arena.
“I prayed to the indie spirit realm for just one more riff and they sent me ‘The Contender,’ a really quick song to write and record and it sounds like those first few REM albums only I put a Yeah Yeah Yeahs type breakdown near the end, lots of noise etcetera, it was another happy accident like with getting Steve Black on the TF song. Charlie Francis who mixed this album worked with REM so he’s the very man for the job. The song would take longer to explain than the actual song itself, it’s just about a group of teenage friends, one of them is a writer and they meet a new friend who is also a writer and jealousy ensues.
“For ‘Friends With Playlists,’ I was thinking about the sound of Violent Femmes, and also how to break up the rhythm of a song so it’s not all on a drum kit – something the guys in Field Music are good at – so I just arrived at this Latin type feel. The title must have been something I had in a notebook about the way we tend to communicate these days, playlists are the new mixtape and whether you’re too shy to meet, or whether there’s a zombie plague stopping people meeting up, a playlist can explain a lot of emotion.
“’Couples Therapy’ is based on the BBC programme of the same name, real couples in actual therapy. I watched a whole series and got the lyrics based on their conversations. Musically it’s a little puzzle, lots of simple tiny parts that come together to do something more interesting. My sister is an ethnomusicologist and always tells me I keep putting Chinese phrases in my music maybe this is one of them? I was stuck for what to do in the guitar solo, so I imagined the song in slow 3⁄4 time and thought about what a piano would do if it were a jazz song.
“Song eleven, ‘Hard Work,’ is about how I get frustrated when people say they could never write a song. They tell me music is some sort of mystical gift they can’t understand, yet those same people would recognise the effort needed to get a six pack or to become a lawyer. I tell them music is the same thing and it’s taken me years and years of intense work to just be ok at it.
“They smile and say, “Oh Spencer you just have a gift,” which is insulting because it really is hard work. Musically I was struck by the thought of what a song would be that combined The Walkmen’s ‘The Rat,’ with Kings of Leon’s, ‘The Bucket,’ and The Modern Age, by The Strokes.
“And then you have two options to end an album, one, an all-out, majestic epic or two, a low-key downer. So I picked the latter and ‘Call It Sympathy’ is what would play if the album had credits running like a film. My friend Dan played a Pickaso bow which sort of replicates strings.
“We all have close friends with topics of conversation which are off the table, and I’m sure people do this with me too. I recorded the music first and then opened my notebook to write the lyrics only to find I’d already written them. Not sure how that happened, but it saved me a job as I find it hard to write lyrics.”
Could this really be 2024’s ‘album of the year?’ Who knows, but I’ll happily wager it’ll be at least one of the top three.
‘You’re a Lighthouse, I’m At Sea,’ was mixed by Charlie Francis (REM/High Llamas/Robyn Hitchcock) and is released on CD, vinyl, download and may be streamed via Spotify and Bandcamp.
Full purchase information here: Home (countrymile.org)