The new face of the car seat headrest

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Will Toledo, the founder and lead songwriter of Car Seat Headrest, was sitting in his Seattle apartment, looking into his iPhone camera through the eyes of a modified gas mask.

His face was not visible, but somehow he still looked a little sheepish. A few months ago, Toledo decided to wear a costume, including the mask, while promoting the first album of his new indie rock band since 2016, a collection of songs atypically concise and rhythm-oriented entitled ” Making a Door Less Open ”. ”

He was thinking of David Bowie, whose changing alter ego demarcated new phases of his creative life. About ways to improve some of the self-awareness he still feels on stage. About taking live shows in a more deliberate and theatrical direction, and encouraging your audience to have fun.

He hadn’t thought of the possibility that a global pandemic could make protective masks both a mundane sight and a powerful symbol of ubiquitous and amorphous terror.

“It’s certainly not an ideal environment for presenting art,” said Toledo, putting it down gently.

The Darth Vaderish quality of the mask is relieved by a pair of bright, somewhat googly LED eyes custom fitted by an accessory manufacturing studio in Los Angeles, and two flexible ears sewn by a friend from Toledo. Upon request, Toledo wore it for the first half of the interview, which was conducted via FaceTime. But he recognized that sticking to this particular conceptual cascade seemed a little embarrassing, given the state of affairs.

“It was meant to be some sort of exotic alternative to reality – as a challenge, I suppose, to normal life,” said Toledo. “And now I feel much sharper in a way that I never expected and I really take no pleasure in. “

He had thought of “Making a Door Less Open” as an “album of everyday life” whose mask would recontextualize the songs; rather, the everyday aspect of the lyrics now seems strange. The half-rapper “Hollywood”, an inner dyspeptic monologue about getting on the bus and watching posters of bad movies, plays like a snapshot of a bygone era of social proximity. The metaphors of fever in the single “It can’t get me cold” could have played better, said Toledo, “outside the context of constant thinking about the disease.”

When asked if he wore a mask when making media appearances to create a harder line between him and the version of Toledo that appears in Car Seat Headrest songs, he replied, “It could make it part. But I think it’s an attempt to get people to look at me differently, especially on stage. ”

“I am not trying to take anything away from people,” he said. “It’s a connection to music – I don’t want to snap their fingers in the door, no matter how they have that connection. But I want to offer something new, and I think the mask is a way to do it. “



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