Teens of Denial: The Overnight Fame of Car Seat Headrest


Staff Writer: Hannah Johnson

Car Seat Headrest is an American indie rock band originally from Leesburg, Virginia, and currently located in Seattle, Washington. The band consists of Will Toledo (vocals, guitar, piano), Ethan Ives (guitar, bass, backing vocals), Seth Dalby (bass) and Andrew Katz (drums, percussion). Beginning as a solo recording project by Toledo in 2010, Car Seat Headrest self-released 12 albums on the music platform Bandcamp, before signing to Matador Records in 2015.

car seat 2

Here, we have the legendary Will Toledo jamming away on his guitar. Obviously having the time of his life, making music he loves so dearly.

Car Seat Headrest began touring in 2016 as a full band, presenting material from their latest album, Teens of Denial. Toledo’s work is notable for its large online cult following, and the group has received attention from publications including Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker and Paste.

The band began as the solo project of Toledo shortly after stalling with his original project, Nervous Young Men, soon after graduating high school. The original aim of the project was to release more experimental songs anonymously, to see if it would catch anyone’s attention. Toledo chose the name “Car Seat Headrest” as he would often record the vocals to his early albums in the back seat of his car for privacy. While his production has gradually become less lo-fi, Toledo remains an effective example of the DIY type.

As a lyricist, Toledo is just as versatile, freely co-mingling bracing confessionals with literary flourishes and trenchant record-geek references. A Car Seat Headrest song often reads like a short story on the page, though on record it comes off more like a series of intimate, conversational asides, due in part to Toledo’s detached, sardonic vocals.

“Car Seat Headrest is the type of band that you can feel yourself get lost in. Their music is so dreamy and calming which gives a sense of complete euphoria with every listen”. – Ryan McCall, a sophomore at Kennesaw State University.

Throughout the summer of 2010, Toledo released his first four albums under the Car Seat Headrest name: 1, 2, 3 and 4. 1 and 2 would incorporate less traditional song structures, with stream-of-consciousness lyrics, whereas 3 and 4 would begin to cement his lo-fi indie rock style. Following the numbered albums, Toledo began attending classes at Virginia Commonwealth University and released the Sunburned Shirts EP during his first semester.

car seat 1

Here is the band giving a beautiful performance along with dark lighting, ambient hues, and dreamy lyrics.

The Sunburned Shirts EP was then combined with his fifth LP, 5, to create his first titled album, My Back Is Killing Me Baby, released in March 2011.

Songs pulled from 5 would later appear on the B-sides compilation album Little Pieces of Paper with “No” Written on them.

In Sept. 2015, Car Seat Headrest announced on Facebook that he had signed an album deal with Matador Records. Toledo, who had recently graduated and moved to Seattle, recruited bassist Jacob Bloom and drummer Andrew Katz through Craigslist to record and tour his next album.

In Oct. 2015, Car Seat Headrest released the compilation album Teens of Style, the first to not be self-released exclusively via Bandcamp. Shortly after the album’s release, Bloom left the group to attend medical school and was replaced by bassist Ethan Ives.

Ives would later switch to guitar and other instruments, such as synthesizer, with Seth Dalby taking over on bass in 2016. A new album created with traditional studio processes, Teens of Denial, was released on May 20, 2016. The album received universal acclaim and brought the band a new wave of popularity.

“I feel so proud of the band and their success, I always have memories of happy times with friends while listening to their music. Seeing them blow up like they have makes me feel like a parent watching their kids graduate.” – Adrian Parada, a sophomore at Kennesaw State University.

On Dec. 13, 2017, the band released a re-recorded version of “Beach Life-In-Death”, the second track on Twin Fantasy on Spotify. This sparked fan rumors that the album would be re-recorded and released the following year.

On Dec. 27, 2017, an Amazon listing detailing a re-recorded version of Twin Fantasy was found by fans and subsequently uploaded to the Car Seat Headrest subreddit This was followed up by a listing on SRCVinyl.com with the date Feb. 16, 2018.

On Jan. 9, 2018, Matador Records formally announced the release of the re-recording, entitled Twin Fantasy (Face to Face), alongside a re-release of the original recording. Twin Fantasy (Face to Face) was released via Matador on Feb. 16.

The original, which has been re-titled Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror), was released on vinyl as a part of Record Store Day on April 21. This re-recording’s announcement coincided with a tour announcement and a music video for the single “Nervous Young Inhumans”. On Feb. 15, 2018, the band covered “Fallen Horses” by Smash Mouth, with Smash Mouth returning the favor with a cover of “Something Soon”. “Twin Fantasy totally changed the game for the indie music scene.

twin fantasy

The cover for Car Seat’s most infamous album, Twin Fantasy. This has gained much love and respect by many music enthusiasts over the last year.

It is unlike any album out there and the lyrics never cease to bring a tear to my eye”. – Chris Mathis, junior at Kennesaw State University.

All photos are from creative commons


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