Tim Presley is a songwriter that paves his own twisted road. Whereas being referenced to the term “traditional” seems harmless, it’s almost boring and repetitive, because why borrow a sound or a style when you can pen your own incarnation and watch it be free? Under the name WHITE FENCE, the West Coast native has sessioned with a handful of labels (Woodsist, Drag City and Castle Face) and counting his latest disc, Cyclops Reap, he’s dropped an iconic total of four records in a year’s span, with each release complimenting the other’s raw concept of rock and roll.
Only with Presley, every record is its own artistic voyage. His brain-seizing guitar pop is groomed to linger, with his productivity acting as a catalyst for bedroom recordings that appeal to true Burgerama devotees and anyone who seriously vibes with Pink Floyd’s 1967 debut. As his latest 11-track album is in stores now, we caught up with Tim to talk about the evolution of White Fence, recording techniques and how songs help him release a few inner demons.
Do you think you’d be able to make the same type of music if you weren’t based in California?
I’m not sure. I know that Los Angeles has the power of the Sun, which I didn’t know helped me mentally until I moved here. I’m very sensitive to weather. L.A. Weather helps with motivation, but I’m not sure if it influences the sound of my music.
A lot of artists are starting to become comfortable with their tendencies to create music on a daily basis. You yourself called it “a sickness”, but is it something that makes you a true artist?
I suppose… it is something that I’ll live and die for. It’s definitely a beautiful thing, but I do get a bit obsessive over it. I’m constantly trying to out-do myself. If you’re truthful to yourself, then your art will reflect that.
Have you still been able to make time for other endeavours such as visual art and poetry?
Yes, here and there. I’ve been focused on music for the last couple months. I’m strung out between those things. It’s like substituting one drug for another. I’m always writing lyrics, random thoughts or episodes of human interaction. I have an abstract and stubborn way of seeing poetry. I am ignorant to the rules and theories of it, and I’m not schooled in it, so I write whatever I feel. In a way, I feel lucky that I don’t technically know how to write.
Believe it or not, I actually work very hard on lyrics to make sure they are a million per cent perfect. They are very important to me, like even the most simple lyric. I didn’t always feel that way, but in the last five years they have been a top priority. I strive for a great line.
How many songs have you written since Is Growing Faith?
Not including the LP tracks? Up to now, I’m not exactly sure… maybe around 200. I know that sounds insane, but it’s around there. Every day I throw a dart at a balloon in hope that I win a neon green stuffed bird. Sometimes I do.
Do you consider your output an accomplishment as Cyclops Reap marks the fourth record you’ve released in the span of 12 months?
I think making even just one record is an accomplishment, so yes I do. But I don’t think about that too much. I don’t own any trophies, I just want to keep moving along.
How do you record material at home, and what influences the techniques you use?
It’s hard to even begin to explain. I labour over every recording, and I love doing it. I get into the smallest details too. Song songs are recorded fast, and I go back into others weeks later. To me, it really is like painting. Some details are like a small red dot of paint on a huge canvas that only you can see. The average person wouldn’t know it was there, but I do. I have a very basic idea of recording and I’m the only one who really knows what sounds I like. I am the opposite of “technical”, but “technically”, I’m trash.
Which song on Cyclops Reap was the most difficult one to finish?
“White Cat” was difficult because I wasn’t sure if I should have turned the last part into a bigger song idea. Plus, I had bounced everything down on tape so I couldn’t go back into it. That’s a song I almost gave up on, but I kept coming back to it over the span of a few months. It was much like the actual white demon cat that kept coming into my apartment at night and early in the morning. Once I finished the song, the cat stopped coming by. True story.
Have you ever felt restricted to what you can do inside of the boundaries you set for yourself?
Yes, but I don’t really care. If I wanted a bigger, cleaner sound, then I know where to get that. I will only do that if the concept calls for it.
From what I’ve seen, the younger generation seems to be more accepting of an artist who wants to release new material more often. Even though some are completely unaware that bands like Led Zeppelin released their first two records in just ten months.
I think it’s okay. I always thought the idea of doing one album a year was too long. I think if your material’s good, then put it out. But really, it’s all a matter of inspiration. You either have it or you don’t.
Having had a few separate conversations with other writers, discussions have led to the tandem of yourself, Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin being compared to the likes of Eric Clapton and Neil Young. How much of an effect do your friends have on your aspirations of being a songwriter?
I’ve always been a big fan of hearing what my friends are doing as that can be very inspiring. It’s like a tool that keeps you on your feet, not in a competitive way though. I’m genuinely happy for those people and I like hearing what my friends and others have to say creatively. On the other hand, I take a much darker approach to my music and I pull inspiration from things I hate. Being uncomfortable and angry is a good thing for inspiration because you can turn that energy into something beautiful. It’s like therapy; like a flower growing through a crack in the concrete.
At this point, have any of you given any thought to collaborating together for an album or even bringing in Charlie Mootheart and Emily Rose Epstein into the mix?
Yes, of course! I love Charlie and Emily so much, and I respect them as musicians and as people. I love their company. In fact, Emily actually played drums on a Flamin’ Groovies cover that didn’t make the Hair LP. She fucking nailed it though, and she is an amazing drummer. I’m sure once Ty and I get the ball rolling on a new record – and if they’re around – then we’ll ask them to join.
What’s the most comforting aspect of being considered a rock and roll songwriter?
Most comforting? I think maybe the process of making a song, recording it and then having it come out on a record. It’s also comforting to know I have a place to release the inner demons I have. I’m still a little weary on therapy, so this is my way of dealing with things and getting through this life. Music and art have always been there for that.