Car Seat Headrest is 23-year-old Will Toledo, a prolific singer songwriter with a lengthy back catalogue of music recorded in the backseat of his car.
Next week, Toledo releases his first album created in a studio with a full band and producer. We got on the horn with the guy to talk about his upcoming release, his previous lack of privacy, and dying without a hope. Hope you like uplifting conversation.
You recorded 11 albums worth of tracks in the backseat of your car for privacy. What was your living situation at the time?
Well I was in High School, so I was still living with my parents at the time. I grew up in a family of five. I had a room to myself but it was still wasn’t very private as far as making music went—everyone could pretty much hear what I was doing in there, so I didn’t really feel comfortable singing too much, especially the more intense stuff.
Did your parents ever walk in in the middle of a song while you were recording?
Yeah, there’s an early track where you can actually hear that happen, I’m having a huge conversation with my mom. So, yeah, it wasn’t really an ideal place to be recording.
What’s the longest you’ve ever spent in a car, moving or stationary?
When I moved from Virginia to Seattle, I drove there. At least one of those days I drove about 14 hours straight.
Teens of Denial is the first album you’ve ever recorded in a traditional studio with a full band. What did you like and dislike about that process?
Recording-wise, there wasn’t really much I disliked. It was more the mixing process where I felt a little stifled. What I did like about it is that it’s a lot easier to go to the studio and just start banging everything out in a short amount of time, rather than linger on stuff for a while.
Your lyrics tell great stories. What percentage is factual vs. fantasy?
It’s a mix, you know. I try to write from a personal standpoint based on real experiences. I don’t experience everything that I write about, but usually it’s pretty clear when it’s metaphorical. Or it’s just slightly twisted from an actual experience.
Can you fill in the blanks of the following sentences and then we’ll put it all together in a lyric?
It’s fair to say that most days are__________ and __________
Long and Empty
Great. Uplifting start. But that doesn’t mean you can’t __________
Find some fulfillment
Or __________ without a __________
Die without a hope.
Great. Just to read that back, “It’s fair to say that most days are long and empty, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find some fulfillment or die without a hope.”
That’s a good quote.
I really like the line “You have no right to be depressed, you haven’t tried hard enough to like it” in your song ‘Fill in the Blank’. How long would you say is sufficient to try before you can become depressed?
There’s no amount of time to give into that. I think you always have to fight it to an extent.
What’s a book you’d give to a person you’d only met once but who made a great impression?
I guess I’d give them Denial of Death, which is a psychology book I have been reading for a while now. It’s basically a break down of modern man; in a way it universalizes the experience of life and neuroses. It would be either that or a biography of Frank Sinatra by James Kaplan, which also ended up being influential on the album. It’s one of the best biographies I’ve ever read.
Are you a big Sinatra fan?
I really wasn’t before I started reading the book. Even now I don’t really listen to his music that much, but I learned a lot about the guy and he’s a very interesting figure.
Teens of Denial drops Friday May 20 via Matador / Remote Control.