Car Seat Headrest Shares an In-Progress Song in Their New Doc
Car Seat Headrest frontman Will Toledo was offended when a friend pointed out the weak chorus in an early version of “Overexposed.” He had kind of asked for it, though; back in CSH’s fledgling days, Toledo would often post songs online as soon as they were done, asking for feedback — back then, he was testing out tracks for what would become 2013’s Monomania.
“I ended up really liking the final chorus that I came up with; I think it’s probably the best part of the song now,” Toledo tells TIDAL of “Overexposed.” He swallowed his pride and returned to the song after that friend told him that the chorus dragged down the momentum of the track. “That’s the sort of thing that never would have happened if there hadn’t been that sort of interplay between myself and others — working it out,” he says.
Six years later and Toledo is returning to his more collaborative roots; today (July 8), TIDAL is premiering the third and final episode of Car Seat Headrest’s documentary, I Haven’t Done Shit This Year — and it features an in-progress song titled “Stop Lying to Me,” likely slated for the band’s next album.
“I’m interested in showing the pieces that aren’t fully formed yet, because that’s interesting to me — when other artists have a work in progress,” Toledo says. And, today, the singer-songwriter has far more fans invested in how he spins words and chords into lo-fi magic.
Like many modern indie musicians, Toledo started out making music in his childhood bedroom (and car, hence the band name) in Leesburg, Virginia, releasing more than 10 albums to Bandcamp in various stages of polishing. He started gaining steam — and a bigger audience — around 2015 when he signed with Matador, subsequently releasing critically acclaimed records like Teens of Style (2015), Teens of Denial (2016) and Twin Fantasy, a 2018 rerecording of a 2011 fan favorite.
Over the last few years, Toledo has been more reticent to release unfinished music online, perhaps for obvious reasons. “It gets harder to do that the more fans that you have, or the bigger your audience is, just because I guess people expect finished work, which makes sense,” he says. Still, he missed that sense of collaboration, the give and take with listeners.
“You have to find people who you can trust who you are going to be on the same page with about most things,” he says. “Ones that are also going to push and challenge you and put you in a different direction than you might go on your own.”
Around the time of Twin Fantasy’s release, Toledo jumped at the chance to show fans that he’s still a work in progress. In 2018, he teamed up with TIDAL to create a behind-the-scenes documentary to capture in-studio moments, rehearsal jams and tours with his new lineup, including Andrew Katz (drums, vocals), Seth Dalby (bass), Ethan Ives (guitar, vocals).
“It just seemed like a good opportunity to show that whole process,” Toledo says. “I was super involved in the making of the documentary from start to finish, and spent a lot of time just sitting in the editing room, learning the ins and outs.”
Previous episodes have been packed with taco grease, dingy practice spaces, charged performances and jokey camaraderie between band members. The final episode is a bit more cohesive; it traces the evolution of “Stop Lying to Me” from a rehearsal jam to a first live outing to the studio — a rare look at how a song is born.
“I think the plan is for it to be on the next record, but it really is still a work in progress,” Toledo says. “It’s stitched together in a video from various sessions; I’m still really not sure what the final piece is going to look like. I’ve really been thinking it over and changing stuff that could be better.”
As for when that new song might hit streaming and/or stores? “That’s a slow process for me,” Toledo says. “I can’t really force it if I’m not feeling inspired, so I just kind of have to wait for something to strike. It is kind of more of a jam song and more unhinged in a sense, but we’ll see what happens in the next couple of months.
Toledo’s band has always been in flux: from early solo days as a recent high school grad, to playing with college classmates, to this current lineup, cobbled together in Seattle via Craigslist posts and chance meetings — and patched over when members peeled away.
Working on the doc has given Toledo a front row seat to his band’s genesis — and his own. “Every time we went in to edit it, it changed my perspective on things,” he says. In particular, he never really gets the chance to see himself on stage, and watching hours of performance videos forced him to focus on his presentation as well as the music itself.
“That changed my approach the next time I went out on tour,” he says. “I started [engaging more with] the audience when we went back out. I don’t know if that would have happened if I hadn’t spent hours watching this earlier performance in episode two.”
Bolstered by those hours of footage and the seeds of new music, CSH is heading toward another album and a new phase of the project. Perhaps now that the sketch of a new song is out in the world, the next evolution of Car Seat Headrest is just a friendly critique away.
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