Melodies and Metaphors with Car Seat Headrest

Dec 4, 2015

Seattle-based musician Will Toledo — of the indie band Car Seat Headrest — got his start in Leesburg, Virginia recording music in his car, hence the band’s name. He just signed to Matador Records, and he’s got a new album called “Teens of Style.” Here he is with a laid-back playlist.

Will Toledo: This is Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest, and you’re listening to my dinner party soundtrack.

John Lennon – “Cold Turkey”

So when we start out, when we first get to this party, the song that’s going to be playing is “Cold Turkey” by John Lennon.

I chose this track to be a little witty, add a little food humor to the mix, and then also I want to keep my guests educated on the perils of food storage.

The typical interpretation of this song is that it’s about heroin withdrawal, but I’ve heard that it is actually inspired by a time when John Lennon got food poisoning from actual cold turkey, and he intentionally wrote it so that it could be interpreted as heroin withdrawal instead.

That’s unconfirmed, but as a musician, that’s kind of your job. To take the indignities of life and make it sound kind of cool.

William Onyeabor – “Body and Soul”

Maybe you’re a little paranoid about the turkey you’re cooking. You want to take a little longer before you serve dinner. So what I would recommend is you put on anything by William Onyeabor, but I would start with the song “Body and Soul.”

William Onyeabor is, I believe, a Nigerian musician from the ’70s, and there’s a lot of mystery surrounding him. He didn’t really release much personal information, it was just these albums that came out, and they had all this synth stuff on it, which was very new in that region at the time. But there was also a lot of great classic funk going on in his music.

He was sort of my conduit into more funky music. From him, I went on to James Brown and Fela Kuti and more mainstream stuff like that. But I still like William Onyeabor’s grooves.

He wrote long songs, they don’t get in the way of their own groove. I think that a dinner party can coast like that for hours if you just let it happen.

Naked Days – “Road Lines (Parts 1 & 2)”

So finally dinner is ready, and the song that comes on in my playlist is “Road Lines, Parts 1 and 2” by Naked Days. And at my ideal dinner party, Naked Days himself would be probably sitting in a chair somewhere playing this song, as I have seen him do multiple times.

Naked Days is a solo act. His name is Degnan Smith, he’s been my friend for a very long time. We met in first grade. “Road Lines” is about travelling in the car somewhere, to get to someone important. That relationship is breaking down a little, and that’s expressed entirely through these road metaphors.

Car Seat Headrest – “Bad Role Models, Old Idols Exhumed”

If I was gonna play one of Degnan’s tracks, he’d probably make me play one of mine, so in that case I think I would choose “Bad Role Models, Old Idols Exhumed” from my latest album “Teens of Style.”

Lyrically it’s about sort of being tired of the past and wanting to move on. I think in a dinner party that would basically translate to, “You’ve eaten my food, now get out of my house.”