Will Toledo isn’t one for wasting time.
At only 24, the Virginia-born musician, who performs under the name Car Seat Headrest, has already released 13 albums, played at major events like Austin’s SXSW and Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival, and become a reluctant poster child for the future of indie rock. Now, as he gears up for the last leg of the tour behind his studio debut, Teens of Denial, he’s added one more thing to he’d like to accomplish before the end of the year: releasing another record.
“I’m sort of determined,” he says. “I’m not going to get much of a break for the foreseeable future. But it’s important to me.”
Toledo hasn’t taken a break since he started uploading albums to Bandcamp in 2010. With a focus on smart, emotive lyrics and guitar-driven melodies that tell stories of disappointing drug trips, crushing bouts of self-consciousness, and the existential malaise of being a teenager, Toledo’s work as Car Seat Headrest shares much in common with his labelmates at Matador Records, like Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices, and Stephen Malkmus.
Despite his hectic schedule, Toledo still finds time to share his thoughts on the music industry, often posting his musings to Twitter and his growing throng of 14,200 followers. One thing he says he’s especially tired of is reading articles that reference Car Seat Headrest and fellow rising acts like Alex G. and Marin’s Day Wave as proof that indie rock isn’t dead.
“The idea of thinking of the life and death of genres is just alien to me because it’s not like a genre ever really dies,” he says. “It just gets recontextualized.”
Genre labels aside, there is one undeniable aspect of Car Seat Headrest’s music: angst.
Toldeo says he always tries to make sure he writes songs that won’t embarrass him, but that his work thus far does reflect a time of turmoil. He doesn’t want Car Seat Headrest to be defined solely by the low-fi records he uploaded to Bandcamp, and points to another artist who successfully reinvented himself time and time again.
“I think that an artist can definitely go through phases,” he says. “I think that an artist like David Bowie was getting accolades for Ziggy Stardust, but he didn’t let himself get defined by that.”
While comparing oneself to Bowie might in most cases be seen as hubris, in Toledo’s case, it makes sense. When you’ve released what amounts to a “greatest hits” album at the age of 23, you’re allowed to dream big.