Anatomy of a Song: Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest on "The Ending of Dramamine" | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, May 31st, 2020  

Anatomy of a Song: Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest on “The Ending of Dramamine”

Car Seat Headrest Are Performing at Under the Radar's Official Nighttime SXSW Showcase Wednesday at 10 PM

Mar 15, 2016 Photography by Ray Lego Bookmark and Share

A song is a chance overlapping of countless variables in an artist's life. Anatomy of a Song is a place where those variables can be dissected and examined. In this edition, Car Seat Headrest frontman/main creative force Will Toledo writes about "The Ending of Dramamine." The sprawling 14-minute long song was found on Car Seat Headrest's self-released 2014 EP How to Leave Town. Car Seat Headrest released their proper debut full-length, Teens of Style, last year on Matador and have a new one, Teens of Denial, due out soon.

Car Seat Headrest are performing at Under the Radar's official nighttime SXSW showcase next Wednesday night from 7:30 PM to 1:40 AM at Central Presbyterian Church (200 E. 8th Street, Austin, TX 78701, which is at the corner of 8th and Brazos). SXSW badges and wristbands get priority admission to this event. Walk-ups on the night hoping to buy single tickets to the event might be let in, capacity permitting. The event is all-ages. You cannot RSVP for this event. Car Seat Headrest go on at 10:00 PM. The rest of the lineup features England's Still Corners, Julien Baker, Eleanor Friedberger, TEEN, England's Younghusband, and Mass Gothic (former Hooray for Earth frontman Noel Heroux). The full set-times are below and all the info on our SXSW events can be found here.

Read on as Toledo examines what went into "The Ending of Dramamine":

The first part of this song to surface was the five-minute intro. I had this idea for releasing an EP of long songs that progressed very gradually through loops and textural changes, and this intro was the only thing I made for it before giving up. I dismissed it as a failed experiment, and it sat as a song-less intro for half a year, until I was working on gathering material for a new release of more oddball songs. I listened to the piece again, and it struck me as sounding pretty much completeall it needed was a song. For the next few weeks, I struggled to compose something for it to lead into; I recorded one entirely different track in a major key, and then rejected it. I was on a Frank Sinatra kick at the time, and considered having it lead into a cover of "I'm a Fool to Want You." I decided that that would be silly, but I did draw inspiration from Sinatra's early catalogue to write the moody, keyboard-based chord progression that became the final song.

The lyrics didn't take long to assemble; a lot of lines were drawn from various early drafts of Teens of Denial songs, so the somber cast that they took on when they fell into this song was new to me. One of those lines"and other fears too stupid to mention/the ending of Dramamine scared Degnan"seemed like a useful overview of the song as a sort of odds-and-ends collection of anxieties. The song was built more than written, taking shape more or less entirely on the computer; the only live elements on the recording are the vocals and the feedback howls at the end. The ending was supposed to look a bit like a nightmare version of the ending of Modest Mouse's "Dramamine," with distorted acoustic loops taken from Degnan's own project, Naked Days.

The live version of this is so different in approach that it's really its own song. The only reason we started playing it live was so that we could annoy KEXP listeners if we ever got to do a live performance on air. I was originally envisioning a lot of synth drone and improvisation around the opening drum beat, but we didn't have any synths, so instead we stripped it down to this very minimal, Neil-Young-type guitar intro, which then goes into the "Station to Station" riff for a while, before going back into the actual song for the final burst of energy before the first verse. It's very much in the spirit of "Careful With That Axe, Eugene," which is one of the greatest jams in rock history. Having written the chord progression on a hand organ, I was surprised to find it translated so well to guitar, once shifted from F minor to E minor. When we finally played it on KEXP, I was very nervous and did a terrible job on the intro; however, we killed it when we took it to the BBC, possibly because Ethan had taken the lead part by that point.




Under the Radar's Official SXSW Nighttime Showcase at Central Presbyterian Church, Wednesday, March 16:

1:00 AM: Still Corners
12:00 AM: Julien Baker
11:00 PM: Eleanor Friedberger
10:00 PM: Car Seat Headrest
9:10 PM: TEEN
8:20 PM: Younghusband
7:30 PM: Mass Gothic


Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.