Musician Spencer Petersen has lived in Los Angeles for the last few years, but he’s a Utah guy by heart — and by phone.
Petersen’s cellphone number still includes an 801 area code. “I’m a creature of habit,” Petersen said in a recent phone interview. “I’ve had this number for so long. How’s my family going to reach me if I change my number?”
Petersen, a singer-songwriter, and drummer Thomas Carroll created their band on a foundation of the tension between Utah, where both men grew up, and Los Angeles, where they met.
The result is Sego, an indie-pop band that is about to release its second album, “Sego Sucks,” and embark on its first nationwide headlining tour. The album’s April 5 release will be celebrated with a concert at 8 p.m. that night at Velour Live Music Gallery in Provo.
The tour, which starts April 26 in Austin, Texas, will come back through Utah for a May 22 show at Kilby Court in Salt Lake City.
When describing Sego, Petersen said, “There’s this annoying conversation: Do we call ourselves an L.A. band, because we’ve been in L.A. a long time? But I still identify as a Utahn. It’s the ever-long tug-of-war. ... Obviously, if you travel at all, you’ll find no shortage of trash talk about both Utah and Los Angeles — which is ironic, because I find both places charming and cool.”
The Utah identity is reflected in the band’s name, a reference to the state flower, the sego lily.
Corey Fox, Velour’s owner, heaped praise on Sego, via email.
“Their music is technical, yet accessible. It will ignite the party but at the same time is lyrically full of deep, relevant social commentary,” Fox said. “Also, their unique branding is as dialed in as any band I’ve ever seen. From their music videos, to their poster and album art, to their very fashionable non-fashion.”
Fox credited much of Sego’s uniqueness — including some unusual live staging, from playing on a Mylar-covered set to performing from the four corners of the venue — to Petersen’s and Carroll’s Utah roots.
“Any time you have a very conservative culture, you also generally have a thriving subculture,” Fox said. “The tension between those two contrasting worlds are bound to inspire creativity. I think that tension was amplified even more when the band members relocated from Utah to L.A.”
Petersen grew up in Mapleton, and Carroll grew up in Springville, and they spent time together in Eyes Lips Eyes, a band in Provo’s music scene — including shows at Velour, following in the footsteps of Imagine Dragons, Neon Trees and The Moth & The Flame. Eyes Lips Eyes relocated to L.A. and, “as every band does, we broke up,” Petersen said.
Petersen and Carroll ended up in a warehouse in downtown L.A., writing songs together. “It unintentionally developed into what it is now,” Petersen said. Their first album, “Once Was Lost Now Just Hanging Around,” was released in 2016.
For the second album, “Sego Sucks,” the band expanded to include two new members: Guitarist/keyboardist Brandon McBride, who’s from Salt Lake City, and bassist Alyssa Davey, a native Californian.
Petersen and Carroll used to hire extra musicians for concerts, so having more bandmates permanently “has totally altered our live show,” Petersen said. “It’s amazing what some practice will do.”
Expanding the band, he said, “kind of pushed us into a more rock-ish territory. With more hands on deck, it’s easier to execute bigger sounds.”
The change has been noticed. In the website Consequence of Sound, writer Dan Kaye commented that “the atmospheric art rock of ‘Once Was Lost’ has been solidified into something far more immediate with the additions of Davey and McBride. Angles are more jagged, hooks more raucous, and Petersen’s lyrics are more windingly opinionated and insightful than ever.”
Petersen has played guitar and bass in past bands, but Sego is the first band where he is the lead singer. His style is a sort of speak-singing, and sometimes is compared to Beck, Cake’s John McCrea and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy.
“I kind of stumbled into it,” Petersen said. “My vocal style has been developing. I’ve leaned toward the lackadaisical. ... There’s a bit of a stay-in-your-lane element to it. I’m not out to blow anybody away with my vocal prowess.”
The band rolled out those big sounds and Petersen’s voice on a national stage: SXSW, the annual music, film and tech extravaganza held every March in Austin. Sego played nine shows in four days, and “we kind of made out like bandits,” Petersen said. “Every show seemed to get a little bit bigger.”
The new album is opening up some big ideas. For example, the opening track, “Neon Me Out,” dives into the notion of the culture of “hot takes,” where people on social media seem pressed to have an opinion on everything, all the time.
“When I was growing up, words like ‘brand’ and ‘content’ weren’t in the vernacular of the common man,” Petersen said. “Now it’s household terminology. ... I end up feeling overwhelmed by the whole thing. Moving forward, [there are things] that are more complex than I’m qualified to weigh in on. … I think it’s OK that you don’t have to have a strong opinion about everything.”
That opinion-heavy zone is where a band like Sego is forced to live, Petersen said, with artists frequently being harshly critiqued on social media. In fact, it was a mean tweet that produced the name of the new album, “Sego Sucks.”
“It became, at our live shows, a little bit of a battle cry,” Petersen said. “If I say it first, it gets that out of the way. It’s saying, ‘You don’t have to love this. I hope you do, but maybe you don’t.’ And maybe it’s OK not to be loved all the time.”
The original “Sego Sucks” tweet, Petersen said, “was kind of twisted, but it kind of encapsulated everything we were.”
Sego goes national
The indie-rock band Sego, led by Utahns Spencer Petersen and Thomas Carroll, will release its second album, “Sego Sucks,” on April 5, before going on its first headlining tour. Two of the shows are in Utah:
- Friday, April 5, 8 p.m., at Velour Live Music Gallery, 135 N. University Ave., Provo. Tickets for the show and record release party are $10, at 24Tix.com.
- Wednesday, May 22, 7 p.m., at Kilby Court, 741 S. Kilby Court (330 West), Salt Lake City. Opening act: Uncle Reno. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 on the day of the show, at Ticketfly.com.