Editors’ Notes After the painstaking process of completely reimagining and rerecording 2011’s Twin Fantasy in 2018, Will Toledo knew he needed to take Car Seat Headrest in a different direction: forward. “I really wanted to build stuff up from scratch this time,” he tells Apple Music of Making a Door Less Open, his project’s 12th LP in just ten years and first of all-new material since the 2016 breakthrough Teens of Denial. “If I had the musical pieces, if I had little demo ideas to work with, I wanted to build up organically from there rather than starting with an image of the whole and working downwards. I really wanted to get into this material and take advantage of the sounds that were there.” Those “sounds” are unlike anything we’ve heard from Toledo yet. Taking inspiration from David Bowie, Trent Reznor, and the satirical EDM of CSH side project 1 Trait Danger, Making a Door Less Open is a bold and beat-driven reinvention—one that blends Toledo’s natural lyricism with what he hears in the post-genre (and post-guitar) world of contemporary, chart-topping pop music. “I was trying to use minimalism as a way to reach different people, reach more than our immediate fanbase,” he says. “Trying to strip songs down into something simpler so that it could resonate with more people. But lyrically, this is a normal-life sort of record. It’s not talking about the glamor of celebrity life—it’s about daily life as I live it, which is pretty normal, I think. It’s a lot of anger on an individual level, on a social level. But it's tempered with a lot of different stuff—with love and compassion—and it tries to get at the heart of what it's like being the age I am now.” Here, he walks us through every song on the album.

“It was the first song that I'd specifically developed for this project. When it started, it was basically the synth and the drumbeat and this one line, ‘I should start lifting weights.’ And that just had this strange emotion to me that was not like anything else we had done. There is a little bit of Nine Inch Nails, a little bit of David Bowie to it. And it was kind of uncomfortable, but in a way that I thought was interesting and evocative, but I didn't know of what, so I had to build up the rest of the song around that. It really feels like some sort of buried trauma in there. The basic irony of the song is it’s projecting this idea of a fresh start, but the person in it is just buffeted by these winds that come from the past and they come from everybody else. He’s kind of helpless—even though there's sort of this ironic expression of taking charge of your body, of your mind, and really most the song is just saying it's not that simple and you've got all this shit that's already going on in your mind and your body and you're fighting that when you want to take control, basically.”

Can’t Cool Me Down
“That song came from me being sick last year, just getting hit again and again with different viruses. Maybe that's relevant in a good way, maybe it's relevant in a bad way, but it’s a portrait of that way of being. There's this old Christian text: This woman was on her deathbed with fever and had all these hallucinations or what she called ‘designed visions’ of Jesus. It starts with her saying, ‘I had nothing in my life, and my only desire was to die and be with Jesus, and I was so grateful to finally be on my deathbed and to experience the divine love of Jesus Christ.’ And that was just so nuts to me, the idea of this level of extreme emotion in this person who says that they have nothing. And it was inspiring: When you get in this sort of ancient past, there's this sense of distance and this sense that they didn't have much so there wasn't much going on. I think it's the opposite. The less you're given, the more intense your inner world is. And I think that that relates right back to the idea of sickness, where you feel completely drained, but at the same time, your body's in this very intense, stormy state and you don't really have access to that, but you know that that's what is going on. It’s totally extreme, because it's life and death.”

Deadlines (Hostile)
“Both versions of ‘Deadlines’ that are on the streaming version are still fresh enough that I'm still excited about them. It was a weird thing where I was in a good place mentally and excited about this final run for the album, creating this new material and putting something fresh on at the end of it. But it's also tapping into this darker energy, this almost sort of Edgar Allan Poe morbidity. It’s about forbidden attraction, wanting to go somewhere that you're not supposed to go or be with someone that you're not supposed to be with. That pull, that temptation, but tempering it with being repulsed, feeling anxious or unsure. Structurally, it doesn't repeat a lot of parts. It's kind of always moving forward, and so it's also got this inexorable pull towards some sort of resolution or conclusion. But maybe, it ultimately never really does resolve.”

“The first thing that came was the riff, and it was just this big, fat rock riff. To me, that's sort of timeless in a way that is both ‘Oh, come on,’ but also genuinely fun. When you come up with something like that, you have to just roll with it, I think. And so really, the whole song was built around trying to follow that feeling, where the emotional read is just kind of off the charts. You're either having fun with it or you're really not having fun with it. But if you can hang on until the next time that riff comes back in, then it's a fun song. It's not about being in Hollywood at all. It's about how the rest of the world has encounters with Hollywood, just seeing this stuff come seemingly out of nowhere, whether it's through your phone or on these giant ads on the sides of buses. It’s not something you can escape from, and I think for a lot of people it's extremely alienating, especially when it's supposed to be representing some sort of ideal that isn't there in daily life. The song is putting all that in a bag and shaking it around and coming out with this paranoid monologue.”

Hymn (Remix)
“I had a song called ‘Hymn’—that went on the vinyl version—and that was a sort of mood piece that was really barely a song. It was just sort of a drone on organ and these vocals over it that were almost stream-of-consciousness. I scribbled stuff out right before I sang it, and it just came from a real place of desperation, at sort of a low point in the cycle of making this record where I really couldn't see my way through to an ending. We knew what it was going to be, and I just didn't know what the rest of it was going to be, so I was kind of freaking out, had a panic attack and went to the hospital to make sure it wasn't a heart attack, and skipped a day in the studio and made this song instead. It went on the vinyl because it just seems like on a vinyl you can make people sit through songs easier. But then when it came time for the other versions, I felt like it sort of went on a little too long in a different mode from the rest of the record. So I remixed it into something that was a lot more driving and had a different, cinematic feel to it.”

“I had some sort of false starts and different ways of writing, but really kind of snapped into place when I decided to strip back again and try to work with less. I was inspired by these doo-wop tracks that I was listening to because I had a CD of Dion & The Belmonts in my car that was in constant rotation for basically most of last year. I was listening for the umpteenth time, and it finally occurred to me that a lot of these songs had something in common with ‘Martin.’ At first I wasn't even thinking it would have a chorus, I don't think. But we were playing at Red Rocks, and I remember being in the dining room and just getting an idea for it. It’s about having this person or this image of a person that you care deeply about, and it's not so much a day-to-day relationship. It's something that you keep in your heart that you keep coming back to in times of stress or in times of just not being able to access any deep emotions. Then suddenly something surprises you or you have a dream or you just get reminded of this deeper level of connection. And they don't even have to be real—they might not have ever existed, but they're real to you, and remembering the way that you felt is what matters in the end. The chorus is getting at that.”

Deadlines (Thoughtful)
“The line ‘Oh, compassion is transforming me into’—it’s an unfinished thought because I think that the ellipsis is the end of the thought. In a way, it kind of ties back to ‘Martin’ and ‘Just when I think I'm gone, you change the track I'm on.’ You have a slightly different idea here of compassion taking you off that track, whatever track you go down where you just kind of get narrower and hollower as you get older and it just turns you into something vaguer, you know? And I think that it seems like when people get older, they either get sort of ground down to the basics of their personality and they can't change out of that or they kind of just drift and they get weirder and they just don't define themselves and that allows them some sort of freedom. That line is sort of pointing at keeping compassion alive as a way of allowing yourself to drift and become something different, someone different, or possibly nothing at all, but just resisting definition for one more night.”

What’s With You Lately
“This was always intended for [guitarist] Ethan [Ives]. We had most of the record written and I realized one thing that was blocking me was feeling like I didn't want my voice running the whole way through it. I wanted at least one short one that could provide that extra breath where something different is going on, the lighting is changing and shifting through a different scene. So I gave Ethan this short piece and he's providing this different perspective, a different take on aging and splitting apart, drifting apart. The song is more about losing compassion, feeling like everyone else is changing and getting more distant when maybe that's your own perspective as you're changing and getting more distant. But it's kind of a cold song because of what it's talking about. I was reading poetry and reading about writing poetry when I was making this, and I was really attracted towards a blank page with few words on it. You weigh all those words more seriously. You read each one with a deeper meaning, and I like those short songs where you do have to weigh it more heavily and really consult what is going on in it. That’s the purpose that it serves.”

Life Worth Missing
“That was one that put me in a really good mood, because it just came out quickly and was sort of instantly one of my favorites. I had the demo for a long time and I wasn't considering it for this record because it seemed warmer to me. I had a lot of colder music—minor-key or ambiguous drone music. But then I had this piece in a major key that was a little more on the poppy, Brian Wilson-y side, and I wasn't intending to use it, but it kind of got towards the end of the album process and a friend said, ‘I really liked that and I think it fits better than some of the stuff that's on there now.’ I guess it's sort of a classic Car Seat Headrest song maybe—it hits that sort of melancholy niche. I was listening a lot to sort of older rock material, stuff that was very simplistic lyrically—like Sam Cooke, ‘Stand by Me’ by Ben E. King, The Drifters—and just seeing those are songs that have been with me since youth and just have this immense emotional weight to them. And it's like, ‘How does that work? How did those lyrics work when they're so simple, and on paper they don't seem to add up that way?’ I really tried to write in that vein where all the words were simple and the lines are simple, but it just adds up to something that is really beautiful.”

There Must Be More Than Blood
“You can't have the universal on its own—it comes into existence from personal experience. I think a lot of folk music is kind of written in that way. I was going through Florida—because we were touring there for the first time—and it's just a totally different environment there. The heat and the humidity lasts all year round. And through Florida into New Orleans, you're driving through all of this heat and humidity, and it just feels like a place where people get lost. It feels like if you come out of that environment, or if you come up in that environment, it can be hard to escape the same way it's hard to escape rural small towns. The song became about this perspective of a small town in the South, or in that climate, where you're out, you've been rejected for whatever reason by the familial unit, and you're just struggling to get by. And it's mundane, day-to-day stuff, but then it's also struggling to look at the larger picture, struggling to find greater meaning in things. It's a character piece, rather than as a conclusive strain of thought. It just plays off of this person. I have personal investment in this idea as well, but to me it's tied in with geography in some way—there must be something, but it's inconclusive. I don't know the answer. I mean, that's the sort of personal connection as a song to me is—it's a statement that is both optimistic and anxious at the same time. Ending with 'There must be more than fear.' It's not a certainty, but it's trying to state that until it becomes the truth. I think that the song is the truest representation of what I feel.”

“It felt like the ideas on the record got expressed on ‘Famous’ where it's organic in a way that a synth record just wouldn't be. It’s got this sort of inhuman element to it, this discomfort to it. I was a fan of Jandek growing up and really based Car Seat Headrest at the start off of his output. But he would just make these really alien acoustic records where everything was in a really strange tuning, sounded just like a cacophony, and it invoked a sense of dread. I thought that was interesting for a musician to be doing and in a way seemed more genuine than going for just the generic, reassuring music that everyone else is playing. ‘Famous’ fulfills that idea in a different way. It's got all these pieces going back and forth and just feels like a very stream-of-consciousness thing—it's a mind beating against itself, and the whole record kind of encapsulates that feeling. So it always just made sense for me to end it with ‘Famous,’ to end on this note that feels unresolved, like there's something missing.”


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