Up until 2015, Car Seat Headrest wasn’t even a “real” band. It was just a moniker for Will Toledo’s solo project. The 24-year-old native Virginian, who began writing and recording his own material in the back seat of his car, released 12 albums during an inspired, half-decade span. But on his most recent album Teens of Denial, which is arguably his strongest one yet, Toledo relies on something he hasn’t tried before: collaboration. With a full band, a Matador contract and a full US tour, Car Seat Headrest is now a legitimate entity.
“With Teens of Denial, I knew I wanted to do it as a band thing,” Toledo nonchalantly spoke from his home in Kirkland, Washington, as if he was reclining in a chair, cigar in hand. “I taught the guys all the songs and then we went into the studio and did it together. They filled out their parts and wrote some new stuff for it. I was engineering the overall shape of it.”
Car Seat Headrest is a flashback to ’90s slacker rock. The band’s unique and dynamic sound is difficult to put a comparing finger to, but the quirky song structures and unpolished production suggests Beck’s Mellow Gold and/or Odelay. Reminiscing a levelheaded Julian Casablancas, Toledo’s vocal mood swings — from apathetic singing to spirited shouting — add a bit of that New York garage-rock swagger.
The band’s latest album is a 70-minute novel that pulls the skeletons out of your dorm room closet. The overall theme of the album remarks on the transitional period between college and the working world, where the party scene has run its course and adulthood is on the horizon.
“My last year of college, I was writing it [Teens of Denial],” Toledo reflected on his senior year at College of William & Mary in Virginia. “I was waiting to move on to the next step, which I wasn’t sure what that was. I was just kind of burnt out on the culture there. There is definitely a lot of college flavor in the album.”
Listening through Car Seat Headrest’s discography of lo-fi, indie-rock bliss, you can hear the maturity and growth in both production and songwriting. Toledo explained his music as if it’s a journal:
“Writing styles should change as a person’s life changes,” he said. “And I would say my life has changed in a good way in the past two years and I think it reflects that.”
Car Seat Headrest, who performed at last August’s MAHA festival, make their Omaha return Nov. 2 at The Waiting Room.
“We always wanted to step things up from what we’ve been doing. We have been playing for a year and a half now, it feels like more of a legit thing.”
Car Seat Headrest performs Wednesday, Nov. 2, at The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. Tickets are $15. Showtime is 9 p.m. For more information, go to waitingroomlounge.com