“That’s what keeps me coming back. The fans and the community are just a major draw for me.”
October 12, 2016
When I last spoke on the phone with Spencer Petersen, he had just narrowly avoided a car accident in California on his way to grab some tacos for Taco Tuesday. Since that time he and his band, Sego, have been preparing for a week long tour of Utah. Starting tomorrow, they’ll hit up St. George, Logan, and Provo before heading down to Las Vegas for a final show. See what he had to say about the culture of the Provo music scene, the secret show Sego played at Velour, and what happened that fateful Taco Tuesday.
So what happened?!
I hit this big, steel square beam in the middle of the road when I changed lanes. It was just there. It wrecked my car.
It wrecked the whole car or just your tires?
It cracked the rims and exploded the tires, so I had to veer off onto the shoulder and climb up onto the retaining wall and await rescue. [Laughter]
Dang, man. One flat tire you can handle because most people carry a spare, but if you get two? You’re done.
Seriously. I was like, wow, I literally can’t do anything here. I watched car after car either veer around it or hit it as well. It was an eventful afternoon, to say the least. I was on my way to get tacos for Taco Tuesday, but the universe decided otherwise. [Laughter]
Well, I’m glad you’re safe, man. That’s not fun. Taco Tuesday: when that gets shot, the whole week’s done. I mean, what do you even have to live for?
I know! Seriously. I was looking forward to it all day. I hadn’t eaten food because I was saving up for it. [Laughter] I was just going to gorge myself on dollar tacos.
Where do you like to go for Taco Tuesday?
Well, I feel like everyone in America has just based [a day] on alliteration. A full marketing plan was conceived, you know? So every Mexican joint has, like, half off Taco Tuesday just because of the T’s. I go to this place just up the tube from where I am. In this little neighborhood. They have the closest that I can get to Cafe Rio barbacoa pork. So I frequent this place every week, if I can. But that being said, I’m in the Mecca for donut and taco consumers. So there’s a taco truck down the street from us downtown. There’s ample selection of amazing tacos anywhere you want to go, as well as donuts. That’s what I’ve chosen to subsist on for the last several years.
[Laughter] That’s awesome, man. No better place for it.
So how are things up there?
It’s Provo, man. People move in and they move out, so there’s always new things happening.
It’s a revolving door! Obviously you guys cover this stuff, but I’m always going to my trusted sources when I come to town trying to get a feel for what the scene is doing at the current moment. But it’s always something different. Like as much as I want it to just hit cruise and stay in just one particular setup of bands or whatever, it never does. It’s always a set of revolving styles and bands and trends and all that jazz.
Well it’s been pretty cool lately, because I feel like you’ve got bands like yours – Sego – and The Moth & The Flame, The Strike, Mimi Knowles, acts that have kind of been the local staple for the last couple years, there are a lot of acts that are really starting to branch out of Provo and move on. Trying to hit the big time, going on national tours. The National Parks have been touring like crazy. So now there’s kind of this void where it’s like, “Okay, out of all of the younger bands, who’s actually going to take their places as the local heavy hitters?”
Right! Who’s gonna carry the torch? What do you think? What’s up and coming?
I dunno, man. There’s kind of this group that likes to record together. Dee Kei Waddell and Jordan and Laurelin Ottesen recently bought Eric Thayne’s studio and renamed it Cold House. Dee Kei has recorded bands like The Solarists and has done his own stuff as the lead singer of Motion Coaster. Motion Coaster, The Solarists, and Grey Glass have played together a bunch, and I think that group is going to gain some popularity. Motion Coaster hit the finals at Velour this last go round and have won a couple other battle of the bands competitions locally. So they’ve got a draw. I think if they keep on it, it’ll be fun to see. Foreign Figures has also been blowing up.
It’s kind of both what the locals decide but also it’s funny how much is up to the bands to actually be the band. There are a lot of talented, popular bands that just aren’t that interested in really doing it, you know?
It kills me when I hear bands that seriously could be big but then they’re all like, “No, man, it’s just a hobby. I’m going to go be a dentist or work at Qualtrics.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m just like, “Ah! The talent, though! People need to hear it!”
Yeah, man. Were you ever familiar with SHAKE YOUR PEACE back in the day? They were kind of legendary back in the day. This guy, Gabe Dominguez, wasn’t even in the Provo scene. He was his own scene. He conducted these bicycle tours. He was like a hardcore vegan, sustainable energy, Green Peace kind of guy. He lived this very principled life, where he had a bicycle-powered PA and he travelled around. He also happened to be one of the best songwriters around and had this insane voice. That, paired with one of the more charismatic personalities, he’s one of those guys where he would play half of his set and he would talk the other half, and it was just as interesting. He was just very compelling. Consequently he got these die-hard followers. Like people would follow him around the state. Then he moved to San Francisco. Blah, blah, blah, just kind of continued on. But every time he was approached by someone who saw the vision and wanted to take him into the next echelon and strata of success, his beliefs and his principles prohibited it. First of all, he refused to travel in any vehicle or have a cell phone. He just couldn’t be a part of the capitalist structure. [Laughter] So he just couldn’t get big. It was always so frustrating. I was just like, “Gabe, just freaking do it! The people need to know!” But, of course, he did it. And now he just kind of lives in the hearts of those who remember, you know? It’s funny how many of those come and go through the years that would otherwise have success if they would only allow for it. As much as success is totally out of anyone’s control, especially in music, there is also a decision and a choice to be made on behalf of the artist. And a lot of them turn it down. It’s kind of wild.
So, speaking of going for it, you guys are currently based out of LA. When did you initially move there and what was the reason for the move?
We came down a few years ago with our old band Eyes Lips Eyes. We felt we had hit that threshold where you feel like, “Well, I could keep playing once every couple months here in Provo, or I could really take the challenge and go to a bigger market and try to tour and do the band thing.” So we took that – and a lot of pressure from our manager at the time, since he was based down here – and we went for it. We had a lot of really interesting adventures and success, actually. But, as the way things often go, it ran its course and life took us all in different directions. Tom and I were kind of left in a perplexing state of what to do. I was just kind of writing songs by myself at the time that were kind of born out of that confusion and loss of purpose. Sego kind of naturally took the reins and ended up driving itself in a lot of ways. So we remained here. We still cherish Provo as a true home base. But we’ve been down here long enough for it to be a second home.
How does LA compare to Provo? Obviously a lot bigger.
It’s a LOT bigger. And a lot less community based. That being said, I’m not exactly sure because I’m not in the thick of it and going to shows every week, so I don’t know exactly what the community is currently doing in Provo. I have my ideas of what I’ve seen it do. I always felt like it was a tight-knit community. Bands going to each others’ shows and a healthy competition. A friendly pushing of the envelope. Anyway, it’s a little more cohesive and tight-knit. In LA, that doesn’t really exist on that level. There’s a lot more bands pushing a lot harder because everyone has taken a substantial risk coming here. There’s a little less of that friendly competition and more legit competition going on. Which is kind of interesting. My first experiences here, I still have these vivid memories of my first handful of concerts I went to while I was down here. They were some of the most inspiring and intimidating shows I’ve been to. I was like, “I have to do this if I want to survive down here because these guys are doing it. How can I convince someone to come to my show if I’m not living up to the standard?” So it pushes you really hard to up your standard. That being said, we’ve been trying to create our own niche down here. We throw a lot of shows and have a community situation in our warehouse downtown. We throw our own shows here and have developed a community around it. If you can’t take over a particular scene, you start your own. We’ve kind of adopted that approach down here. Long story short, it doesn’t have the friendly feeling. At least at large. In small pockets it does. In turn, though, it engages you on a more intense, “take it serious” level.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started playing music?
To be honest, if I could hit rewind and look at myself when I first moved down here, I was just very, very naive. Not naive in like a condescending way. There were just things that seem so simple now that were just a complete mystery. Something as simple as like, oh, you can hire a publicist! [Laughter] I didn’t know that getting a booking agent was an option. I was just like, “Oh, I gotta go out and book shows. What does that mean?” Things you take for granted now come slowly, even if they sound simple. It’s hard to sum it up. I remember hearing some really good advice early on that always stuck with me, but it took me years to actually understand. But music is just like any job. You learn it little by little until you figure out the tricks. But it’s all about the music. If I wanted to be in business, I’d be in business. But with music, you have to actually enjoy yourself because otherwise it makes no sense. So on an artistic level, the things that I’ve learned later on are just setting the bar higher and look at people you admire the most and see if your work stacks up. If it doesn’t, don’t create excuses for yourself and try to reach that level. At least your own perceived level of excellence. That’s one of the major points I’ve developed over the years.
That’s great advice.
Yeah, man. It’s easy to try to make shortcuts. You write X amount of songs and you’re like, “I wrote these, and they’re done, so I should put them out because people obviously will want to hear them.” Sometimes, that’s totally true and some people totally hit the jackpot with this X factor. For the most part, your first five songs aren’t your best songs, and if you were to really stack them up to your heroes on a real level, there’s still a lot to be learned. Whether it’s pop songs or composition, or even a visual art level. Try to be honest with yourself and make sure you’re not being lazy with your craft.
You guys have kept a really healthy relationship with Provo. You recently performed at Timpanogos Music Festival. What was your experience like at the festival and why do you keep coming back to Provo?
Like I said, we still consider it our legitimate hometown. There’s just something special there. After that TimpFest, which was a good time. Met up with a lot of good friends, had good food, had a good time. We ended up going back to play a secret show that we announced after the concert. That was just kind of a reminder of why we come back to Provo. Because we didn’t go on until about 1:20 AM. It was pretty late. But there was the most engaged audience there and they were interested in being a part of the music and paying attention at a time where it’s really difficult to gain people’s attention. A lot of shows that bands play are at these venues where you’re like the second tier of entertainment. They’re there for other reasons. Any band that I suggest go to Provo instead of hitting a bar in Salt Lake or something (and Salt Lake has a ton of options and I love it up there), I just tell them that there’s this interesting feel about coming down and playing an all age spot in Provo where everyone has saved up their energy. It’s very much the concert experience that people want, whether they realize it or not. Anyways, that’s what keeps me coming back. The fans and the community are just a major draw for me.
Tell me a little more about the secret show. That kind of came out of nowhere with Corey Fox and The Moth & The Flame.
At the TimpFest I was just hanging around with Corey and Brandon and we were catching up. It was Corey’s idea. He was like, “Hey, what if we threw a party tonight? Announce it after TimpFest is wrapped up so we don’t step on any toes?” This was something we used to do back in the day. We felt like, why not? We’re all here. [Laughter] I’d be happy to play for fifteen of our friends. It’s not as if I had any other plans that night, you know what I mean? We drove from LA the night before. We drove through the night. So I decided that two shows is better than one for all that travel. So last second, we put it together. Brandon and Mark did an acoustic rearrangement of a lot of their stuff. Half their band flew out that afternoon. It was really beautiful. It was cool to see them like that. I dunno how far back you go with them but that was their origin. They were this two-piece: soft, dark, with introspective lyrics. It was fun to see them at their roots even though they’re much larger than life, as far as their stage show goes, now. I fully expected it to be really small. But then, like, 300 people showed up. It was a blast.
It was packed. I was all the way in the back of the room last night. I thought for sure I was going to get there early. I came right from the festival and thought I’d be up at the stage no problem. But I was all the way in the back.
[Laughter] It was a great night. There’s something different in the energy there than in a lot of places you go. Part of it has to be because it’s late and kind of fun to go to a midnight show. Especially in Provo where those aren’t the norm. But I really had a good time. That’s kind of where we exist the best is in those areas. In LA we do these late shows at our spot and it just feels like the underground secret show. It’s one of my favorite kinds of events. It was fun to put it together in Provo.
If I remember right, you had one crutch during the festival and the secret show.
What happened there?
I was still on my crutches! I had gone to Lake Powell, actually, and I tore my hamstring doing silliness on the skis.
Yeah, I just barely got off crutches. I’ve been doing rehab. It put me out of commission for a little while. It was one of those things where I was between using a wheelchair or something, but I figured out that if I put all my weight on my left side I could balance and bolster myself up to use my pedals. Pedals were the real issue. I could’ve gone up and just stood still, but I had to reach the pedals. Anyway, it was my handicap show.
[Laughter] It was pretty awesome. I was very impressed at how you were able to get around, play guitar, balance. You guys put on a great show. I was very impressed. I was wondering if every show was done on crutches. Like if it was a stage thing.
No, it was VERY legitimate. But perhaps I should bring back the crutches and really lean into the pity. But it was real. And the pain was very real. [Laughter] But adrenaline is a heck of a thing. I was able to make it through with relatively low discomfort.
Last question. You’ve got a show on October 15 at Velour. Why should people come out to the show?
There’s a funny thing that happens when you’re an opening band instead of a headlining band. I never really thought it through. We’re relatively new as a band, all in all. We got a lot of buzz right out of the gate, which is great, but we immediately got thrown on a lot of support tours. So we found ourselves on the front end of much bigger bands’ bills. Which is great because you find yourself in front of a lot of fans that you don’t ultimately deserve. They’re certainly not your fans. But it’s an amazing position to go out on these tours with really incredible bands. That being said, going back to our Provo roots, Corey has always developed this thing where you start out as an opener but you quickly work your way up and start headlining your own shows in the middle of the week, and then they push you to the weekend. But for whatever reason we kept going on these tours and we thought, “Wow, it’s been a long time since we’ve headlined.” The psychology of headlining is just much different because you can create your own experience. The show is very much in your universe. Anyway, we did our first headliner in Provo last summer. But it was in June when a lot of kids were gone. So we are taking this as an opportunity to go above and beyond and do something special. We’ve played in Provo a bunch of times, but it’s always been with the constraint of getting off the stage as fast as possible so the next band could get up. This is built to be more of a Sego show in every way possible. It’ll be the best representation of what we’re all about.
Well, thank you for the interview. It’s been great. Do you have any shameless plugs you’d like to throw in?
We are actually putting out a remix EP. Somewhere in between an EP and an album. It’s a remix record. It’s coming out later this month but we have a single coming out on Friday. But it’s songs from the record that we’ve had friends of ours and contemporaries and people we admire remix. Some are dance remixes, others are more avant-garde reinterpretations, kind of cinematic. For me, I’m probably more excited about it because I’ve heard our songs ad nauseum so it’s good to see someone else’s angle on it. So this is us putting out some new love into the world.
Right on, man. Thanks again for the chat. Now go get some tacos. You deserve them.
Make sure to like Sego on Facebook. Don’t miss their show this Saturday, October 15th at Velour Live Music Gallery in Provo. They’ll be headlining, with Robert Loud and Conquer Monster in support. Tickets are $8 online here. Doors open at 8PM. You can watch the music video for their song “Wicket Youth” below.