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Car Seat Headrest - The Masked Main Man

by Dana Andersen. Published Sat 02 May 2020 08:21

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Starting out on BandCamp, it took five years for the lo-fi, pop-rock band Car Seat Headrest to be signed. Four years on from their first album with Matador Records, Tears of Denial, the band are back yet again with a new found way to collaborate, one thats even obtainable during lockdown.

Front man, and driving force of the band, Will Toledo, set up a side project together with Car Seat Headrest’s drummer, Andrew Katz. Together they developed the project they called ‘1 Trait Danger’. The project turned out to be more than just music though, creating the alter ego ‘Trait’, who Toledo is now portraying.

In a Bowie style twist, Toledo has donned a gas mask, personalised with fabric ears sewn on top, and LED eyes, which can show anything from anime style eyes to the lyrics of songs. Due to this new development, the bands new album ‘Making a Door Less Open’, is more a collaboration between ‘Trait’ and Car Seat Headrest, than it is an album by either the band or the character.

Considering Toledo is the main creative force behind Car Seat Headrest, and he is portraying the character of Trait himself, this album is a collaboration of Toledo and Toledo with band. A collaboration of two sides of the same man perhaps, maybe more abstract depending on how deep the character of Trait goes.

Toledo has more reason than just characterisation for wearing the mask though. Making their stage shows a ‘more memorable experience’ and ensuring he is more comfortable on stage also fall into Toledo’s reasoning.

With the development of Covid-19 around the globe, he has started to cut a much more normalised, if still attention grabbing figure. Toledo told The New York Times “It was supposed to be sort of an exotic alternative reality”, which it likely would have been just a four or five months ago.

He does recognise that the pandemic has changed the way in which this artistic endeavour is perceived though, adding “It just feels a lot more pointed in a way I wasn’t planning on and don’t really take any pleasure in”. Although PPE currently is certainly not something that should be used for art, or as dress up for a character, it must be appreciated that Toledo both started the character and project long before he, or anyone, knew that wearing a gas mask would become something that could be found offensive or insensitive, and the modified gas mask being worn by the musician is certainly not any attempt to monetise the pandemic, or indeed relate to it at all.

It was unfortunate timing for Toledo’s project with Trait to involve a gas mask at these times, but what going on in the outside world should not change the artistic intention put into the project, nor the enjoyment fans can gain from the character and new album during these difficult times.


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