Music News & Reviews

Car Seat Headrest is sick of being sick of it all

Will Toledo, 24, is the mastermind behind indie band Car Seat Headrest, which is slated to perform Aug. 30 at Neurolux.
Will Toledo, 24, is the mastermind behind indie band Car Seat Headrest, which is slated to perform Aug. 30 at Neurolux.

Will Toledo is sick of a lot of things. He’s sick of being asked about the name of his band, Car Seat Headrest (he used to record vocals in the back seat of his car, for privacy). He’s sick of being compared to bands he’s not influenced by. And, perhaps most important, he’s sick of being a negative guy who’s sick of everything.

That said, he has reasons to be positive. His new album, “Teens of Denial,” was released in May to critical acclaim, with Rolling Stone giving it four stars and Pitchfork Media awarding it a Best New Music seal.

“Teens of Denial” is Car Seat Headrest’s 13th album. From 2010 to 2014, Toledo self-released 11 albums on Bandcamp, amassing an online following. After graduating from college in Virginia in 2014, he moved to Seattle, where he caught the ear of indie label Matador Records, which signed him the following year.

In a telephone interview, Toledo said “Teens of Denial,” which took two years to write and record, is primarily colored by his desire to emulate the “straightforward rock ’n’ roll songwriting” he grew up listening to.

“I think this was the first Car Seat Headrest album where I was really getting back to my roots and pursuing these songs that were largely traditional rock structures,” he said.

Toledo named the Beatles, the Beach Boys and The Who as influences. His sound takes elements from each — Lennon-McCartney’s studio experimentation, Brian Wilson’s lyrical introspection, Pete Townshend’s power-pop guitar riffs — and combines them into something wholly original.

His songwriting on the album was also heavily influenced by the feelings of negativity he was grappling with at the time. The recording addresses themes of depression and substance abuse through the eyes of Joe, a character Toledo admitted is partially autobiographical.

“I didn’t want to be the character of Joe, but that’s just where my head was at the time,” he said.

But “Teens of Denial” is more than a monochromatic, jaded affair. Toledo’s lyrics are both funny and relatable, speaking to the concerns of young adults who are figuring out their place in the world, sometimes with a little chemical assistance.

The album affirms that it’s OK to be depressed, it’s OK to be hung over and it’s OK to be sick of it all — Will Toledo has been there.

Car Seat Headrest

7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30, Neurolux, 111 N. 11th St., Boise. $10. TicketWeb. $12 at the door. Opening: Stef Chura.