Will Toledo, the Seattle-based musician known as Car Seat Headrest, used to be so self-conscious about recording vocals for his lo-fi bedroom project that he’d drive to a quiet car park and sing into his mic there. Sat in the divey Pianos venue on New York’s Lower East Side, Toledo’s just finished his first experience of recording in a proper studio with a proper producer and, in a rare calm moment midway through CMJ festival, he laughs at the reminder of his former ways.
“I was intimidated at times,” says Will of having to play and sing in front of other people during the recording process. “But it was easier than I expected.”
Toledo has released 11 albums over the past five years, rife with teenage angst but also big, ambitious ideas. ‘How To Leave Town’, for instance, is full of spacey epics, while ‘Nervous Young Man’ is his “conceptual double album”.
His Bandcamp page is a veritable treasure trove with heaps of free songs to trawl through, but Toledo has made it easier for newcomers by re-recording a clutch of his best songs with a full band for his Matador debut, ‘Teens Of Style’. Is that a cop out? Not in his eyes: “You can never do a song the same way twice, even if you try,” he reasons.
Besides, he’s already got his 13th LP in the bag. The “simpler, poppier” ‘Teens Of Denial’ is due next year and boasts an eight-minute song called ‘Vincent’, which Toledo describes with a grin as “definitely the funkiest thing Car Seat Headrest have ever done”. With his prolific nature, he’ll have eclipsed it with something else soon enough.
BEST TRACK ‘Something Soon’ – Depressive lyrics masked by rousing melodies, rattling drums and church organ synths
LISTEN ‘Teens Of Style’ is released on October 30
FACT Car Seat Headrest’s sets at CMJ were so buzzy that even Ed Sheeran turned up to watch him play
LIVE London Servant Jazz Quarters (November 17)