Jun 14, 2022
Car Seat Headrest returns with a furrier fanbase
The indie rockers, led by frontman Will Toledo, are bringing a bit more individuality to the Brooklyn Magazine Festival Friday
“I wanted more furries in the crowd,” says Will Toledo.
It was with that in mind that the Car Seat Headrest frontman performed live in a new fursuit at Brooklyn Steel for the first time during their “Masquerade Tour” earlier this year.
“It was very impromptu. My friend tried finding someone else to wear the suit but he couldn’t find anybody,” says Toledo. “So at the last minute, I asked him to bring it and I wore as much of it as I could.”
“A lot of Car Seat’s music is furry adjacent because, when Will started, it was for that community of people,” says dummer Andrew Katz. “So obviously a lot of the fans are furries and the rest know he’s a furry.”
Furries are commonly misunderstood fetishists who enjoy wearing animal costumes—the more elaborate, the better. While sex is obviously part of the community, it’s not the primary driver. Non-erotic interests include furry conventions, creating art, and making friends. In fact, most people who identify as furries don’t even own fursuits because they’re so expensive.
And yet, you may never see Mortis Jackrabbit on stage again. Toledo says it’s simply too hot to wear the fursuit for an entire show. The curious will find out exactly how far he wants to go in that direction at the Brooklyn Magazine Festival, which they’ll be headlining this Friday in Prospect Park. (Will he or won’t he get furry? There’s one way to find out: Tickets and details here.)
“[Brooklyn Steel] was a good show because it was the only time I wore Mortis,” says Toledo. “The costume has been sitting with a friend since I went to a furry convention in February. I haven’t been able to transport the suit back because I’ve been traveling all over.”
I said ‘fuck it’
This is Car Seat Headrest in 2022: Playing better than ever, they say, and freer to express themselves as individuals. All four of them have been exploring new territory, in real time and on stage. Bassist Seth Dalby got into the masquerade spirit along with Toledo, for example. “I had a balaclava on for most of the shows to join Will,” he says. “In the south it wasn’t very breathable so after a few songs I was sweating pretty heavily.”
Musically speaking, they’re also trying new things. Guitarist Ethan Ives played one of his songs during the tour, “It’s My Child (I’ll Do What I Like),” that he recorded under the name Toy Bastard.
“I really like playing it with Car Seat,” he says. “We’ve been doing it at the recent shows and it’s fun for me because I get to jump around and act like an idiot.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Katz made “Art with Andrew” on stage. At a few gigs, members of the band opened for Car Seat Headrests in which Ethan and Will did a singer-songwriter showcase as Andrew painted.
“I said, ‘fuck it.’ Just give me a paintbrush and canvas, I’ll go for it,” says Katz. “It added good energy to the show and people were buying the paintings. I’ve never done it before but it turns out I’m actually not so bad at painting.”
If their most recent album 2020’s “Making a Door Less Open” saw the band expanding their style, they took the “Madquerade Tour” as a chance to push the boundaries of what a Car Seat Headrest show is.
‘Our crowd seems younger’
“I’m not sure where the older people went,” says Toledo. “Maybe they’re not so hot on going to concerts anymore.”When the music industry shuttered during Covid lockdowns, Car Seat Headrest put their plans for MADLO (their acronym for their 2020 album “Making a Door Less Open”) on hold and the band members went their separate ways to wait it out.
In the two years the band took off, Car Seat’s material started to blow up with a younger audience on TikTok. When the band was technically a Toledo solo act back in 2011, his music circulated on the music section of 4chan, even though he wasn’t active on the site. “We’ve always had a good constituent of fans that find us online,” he says. “That picked up even more in the past two years because everyone’s been cooped up and checking stuff out online.”
Before Covid, the audience at their live shows was a mix of older and younger people. When people began fainting in comparatively high numbers at last spring’s “Masquerade Tour,” it tipped off the band that something changed in their fanbase.
“Our crowd ages seem to be much younger than they normally are,” says Katz. “We’re talking 15- to 20-year-olds and those kinds of crowds tend to go a little bit more wild. “
Ives, the guitarist, chalks the incidents up to younger fans still figuring out you have to drink lots of water and conserve your energy at concerts.
“It’s just made me a lot more hyper vigilant about scanning crowds to read what’s going on as I’m playing to make sure that everything’s cool,” says Ives.
The band learned early in the tour that their setlist didn’t jibe with the audience’s expectations. Instead, the new fans wanted to hear songs from their 2011 album “Twin Fantasy” and its 2018 rerecorded version “Twin Fantasy (Face to Face).”
In each city of the “Masquerade” tour, fans could add a song to the setlist by voting online. The overwhelming pick was “Sober to Death” from “Twin Fantasy.”
“‘Twin Fantasy’ is one of those albums that’s good all the way through and resonates with a lot of people,” says Dalby. “‘Sober to Death’ is a quieter song so it makes sense that people want a break in the set to just listen and not necessarily jump around the entire show.”
That the members of Car Seat Headrest don’t take themselves too seriously appeals to the younger fans who grew up watching comedy on Vine and TikTok.
“Particularly in rock music, you should take the music seriously and you should take the work seriously, but it’s important not to confuse yourself with the work,” says Ives. “A lot of my favorite bands, like The Dead Kennedys, they were very serious about the shit they were saying but within their own personas, there was a strong sense of play and goofiness.”
That newfound confidence empowered Car Seat to change how they structured their shows before the break.
At their recent concerts, Toledo performed in a personalized gas mask with LED eyes (more on that later), and the light show was vastly expanded, “which entails a whole bunch of technical mumbo jumbo that was very new to us,” says Ives.
Ives adds that he was nervous before the tour about the band returning in a different form, but their new fans loved the shows.
“When you’re gone for that long there’s always that little fear in the back of your mind that everyone will just forget who you are and not care anymore,” says Ives. “It was very comforting that people still want to see us.”
The band will debut their new show when they headline the Brooklyn Magazine Musical Festival this week. Katz is adamant they put together the best set they’ve ever had in terms of both musical performance and light show.
“It’s a more intricate production than we’ve ever done and our most musically sound show,” says Katz. Toledo added, “People have been saying good things—so listen to people.”
Will Toledo wears a gas mask on stage that gives off the vibe of Goofy if he got really into indie music and S&M. Toledo says the mask helps him battle his stage fright. He accessorizes with an orange jumpsuit with silver reflecting stripes; Andrew Katz says it’s a “costume that you could say is a fursuit.”
Fursuit or not, all the signals are there. Toledo has left plenty of breadcrumbs about his outré interest in his songs if you listen close enough.
For example, the track “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Fag” on Toledo’s 2010 album “3” include the lyrics:
“I casually scroll through.
The fetish-based forum.
Of which I am an active member.”
Some fans understood the lyrics as a clue and discovered the username “carseatheadrest” on the site Fur Affinity.
In the past, the press haven’t touched on the singer being a furry, but his “coming out,” so to speak, during the “Masquerade Tour” makes it fair game. Plus, their fans are clearly obsessed with it. After Toledo donned the fursuit in Brooklyn on March 31, it inspired some fans to wear theirs to Car Seat shows.
“The theme of the tour was Masquerade. It’s about putting on a mask and coming to have fun. We encourage people to come in their fursuits,” says Katz. “It was great seeing someone at the Brooklyn Steel show crowd surfing in a full, multi-thousand dollar fursuit.”
This summer, Toledo has been chipping away at demos for a new album, including a song titled “False Life Lived.” He has a decent amount of songs already written, according to Katz. Later this summer, the band will begin recording their album. They plan to finish it sometime next year.
“Everything comes together slowly, one little piece at a time until it’s done,” says Toledo. ”I’m not someone who writes a full song in one sitting.”
And when Car Seat Headrest’s new album does drop, you can expect to see even more furries at their shows.They probably won’t be sitting either.
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