On Feb. 14 of last year, Car Seat Headrest (CSH) debuted “Can’t Cool Me Down” at their Boston show during their Twin Fantasy tour. A little over a year later, ‘Can’t Cool Me Down” was released as the lead single for their newest album “Making a Door Less Open,” the first (purely) original song in the nearly five years since the release of Teens of Denial.
On Feb. 22 of this year, 1 Trait Danger (1TD) concluded their first tour at Anthro New England. The duo consists of CSH frontman Will Toledo and creative force/drummer Andrew Katz. 1 Trait Danger are a genre-blending comedy-rap-EDM group that started with a few silly phrases and evolved into a two albums, a video game and an East Coast tour.
Along with the release of the single, there was also a surprising announcement of a change in live performances with Toledo, who will be performing as Trait, a bunny who “spent a lot of time in classified government facilities” with a gasmask, inquisitive LED eyes and a neon orange hazmat suit, bridging the two groups together. Not too many people have listened to 1 Trait Danger, which is truly a tragedy. 1TD has a genre bending sound with impressive songwriting and concepts to match. If Car Seat’s new live shows will be anything like 1TD’s concert, then it will be like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
What is “1 Trait Danger?”
“1 Trait Danger” is a comedy-rap-EDM group composed of two members of Car Seat Headrest (CSH) — Car Seat merely serving as a vehicle to promote 1 Trait as 1 Trait exceeds them in nearly every quality. Andrew Katz, the mastermind of 1 Trait Danger and support from Will Toledo. Whilst performing as 1 Trait, Andrew raps as the character Stoney “Stoney” Bologne with Toledo supporting as 1 Trait. To date, 1 Trait Danger has released two albums, 1 Trait High and 1 Trait World Tour, which are also loose concept albums involving different characters from the 1 Trait musical universe. Nearly every song features hilarious skits with the entire “Stoney Crew”which give insights to the characters and their world. For us — and other CSH fans, I’m sure — 1 Trait serves as an immediate mood picker-upper. Instead of turning to my “Sad Songs That Will Make Me Sadder” playlist, 1 Trait has been queued up more and more to put a smile on my face.
1 Trait Danger is a musical endeavor that is made with lots of love from both Katz and Toledo. It is exciting to see that in Car Seat Headrest’s newest album, “Making a Door Less Open,” 1 Trait will be an influence. “Can’t Cool Me Down” was simultaneously a shift in sound from the indie rock sound that most CSH listeners are familiar with while also a return to a form within EP “How to Leave Town,” lead singer Toledo’s last solo album and one of his more experimental and electronic. In a recent press release, Toledo describes 1 Trait Danger as a “great outlet for weird and untenable musical experiments” and that “A lot of the ideas for 1 Trait bled over to the Car Seat tracks.” If 1 Trait World Tour is any indication of how MADLO will sound, it will definitely be on heavy rotation. While exciting for long-time 1TD fans, newer fans may be waiting to be introduced to 1 Trait danger so, without further adieu…
A 1 Trait Danger Crash Course
1 Trait High explores the high school antics of Bologne in the near future; a world where bitcoin replaces common currency and the social order has been flipped where nerds rule by hacking the jocks. The album focuses specifically on Stoney’s life in high school where he is faced with seemingly never ending conflicts, including but not limited to, his troubled homelife, and several bullies including, Cossett — no apparent connection to the one of “Les Miserables” fame — who drives a pickup truck and threatens to run Stoney over if he does not relinquish bitcoin and a mathlete team member’s dad, who will not stop looking at him in the eyes. While Stoney is the face of 1 Trait and makes a strong and unmistakable debut in this album, there is another character who leaves their mark. Tim Schetectady, formerly of Pitchfork and currently of DirtPlug.TV, is an amalgamation/caricature of music journalists and represents the state of music journalism altogether. A critique on, the click equals profits, clickbait-y, sloppy, vapid journalism that is saturating the music journalism at the moment.
While 1 Trait High chronicled Bologne’s high school misadventures, 1 Trait World Tour explores Bologne’s future as a rapper performing at various musical festivals across the world. World Tour is a much more sonically ambitious successor to their debut with each track of the tracks produced is in the style of a different EDM subgenre, including dance-pop, house, techno, trance and, dubstep. Despite its humorous front, 1 Trait World Tour speaks some (exaggerated) truths about the life and issues of being a rock star. The album’s opening track Softmore (sic) Slump speaks about the pressure to match a debut album’s reception with an equally, if not better, followup— Stoney concedes that they probably “couldn’t do it again” and says “Fuck this album.” “Clap When I’m Dead (Evening Set),” seemingly derides those who judge people while listening to musical shows. In World Tour, Bologne unsuccessfully attempts to network at various musical festivals to boost his musical career, he turns to hacking (with the help of Multiple Computer Mark), to land the opportunity to open for Ed Sheeran. The album concludes on an ominous note, with Bologne speaking for his disdain for the tour life and quitting 1 Trait. Crying out “1 Trait’s dead, 1 Trait’s gone and we’re gone forever.”
Thankfully, we were able to sit with Andrew Katz and Will Toledo, 100 percent of 1 Trait Danger to get the story straight and find out what is gonna happen to 1 Trait crew.
Interview With 1 Trait Danger
On Saturday Feb.22, 1 Trait Danger was scheduled to be the closing act for “Animal Music,” Anthro New England’s 2020 all day music line up. Prior to their first Boston performance, we had the opportunity to interview Trait and Stoney themselves.
First things you need to know is that Katz has an intense stare that will go straight to your soul. Will is taller than he seems; he thanked us for letting him know.
The second, perhaps more important thing, is that 1 Trait Danger is a passion project that has a lot of care and attention surrounding it, from the stories, humor, and the performances, and Katz is very much into EDM.
“If you turn on the radio, nearly every song is made by computer, it is the future of music”
Katz sees EDM as a connection to technology which explains the interest and the running theme in the music. Inspired by EDM music producers and wanting to make “sick dubstep beats,” Katz uses Ableton to produce 1 Trait Danger. Katz has been using Ableton for a number of years and picked up the basics through Youtube tutorials.
Hacking, coding, and internet culture play a big part in the 1TD’s discography, but it also extends to outside of the music. Many of the 1TD’s characters— or at the least their archetypes— appear in Instagram videos released by Katz. Katz has no plans to pivot to Tik Tok even as he was just learning the functionality of it, calling himself “a huge Vine guy.” 1 Trait has never created a music video either. “We don’t have time, it’s so much work.” Katz relents that “music videos are huge” with a caveat “if you do it right. Maybe someday.” The group has not released either album in a traditional physical medium but rather via flash drive. Even then, fans had to comb through files to find the tracks but on the way were able to discover secret files and easter eggs. For the promotion of 1 Trait World Tour, Katz took it a step further and created an entire video game called Cossett’s World. Elements like this were created to emphasize the future setting of the 1 Trait universe and its connection to EDM because as Katz explains “the music is electronic and everything from that universe is gonna be weird and future[y].” In previous interviews, 1 Trait explained that a lot of the new album will be focusing on and keeping in mind the live performances. Similarly, in June, Car Seat Headrest released a live album which plucked songs from shows where there was “some of the most fun we’ve had on stage” instead of “the best possible version of each track.” This makes sense for a band with a higher reach and more regular and longer tours, but may seem unnecessary for a smaller group. “If you’re gonna do it, you gotta do it right. When we are recording, we focus on the album, but we want to be the band that people come away pleasantly surprised if they came by the show.” With only a few shows so far, the reception has been “really positive”, Katz adds.
1TD has sampled audio from the Pacer test and Google Maps “because its funny” and specifically with the Google Maps sample its relatable experience when listening there is google maps interrupting the song. 1TD’s sample was playing to that universal experience with Katz boasting “it gets everybody, I love it.”
In the current musical landscape, music with more comedic lyrics or even comedic artists are gaining greater prominence, especially in rap. In 2018, Lil Dicky’s “Freaky Friday” peaked at number eight on the Billboard charts and “Lalala” by Y2K and bbno$ generated nearly half a billion streams. For Katz, he pays the competition no mind and remains unaware of potential threats although he does suggest to Toledo that he has to “hire a hit on this [Y2K]” and that they’ll “make a track about this guy.” More generally, Toledo remarks “There is always an undercurrent of people doing it with a sense of humor” and “hip hop lends itself to that especially”. Comedic inspirations for 1 Trait include Weird Al, My First Album. Tenacious D, huge influence,” and the movie “Superbad,” which “really hit close to home.” It is easy to see “Superbad’s” influence, especially as both the movie and the album subvert the typical high school social hierarchy.
In the wake of online streaming, artists can chart incredibly high without radio airplay and some artists have taken advantage of that and even game the system. For example Lil Nas X tweeted that he made “Panini” short so it could be streamed more. However, for 1 Trait Danger, these tactics were not even considered with their main priority being, as Katz puts it, “to make dope shit.”
Toledo agrees that the quality of the music should make the music better on repeated listening. “We just have to hope people want to stream our songs.”
In regards to music journalism, Katz and Toledo admit frustration at the lack of interest and investment from industry professionals.
“I have very low standards…My standards are extremely high, I misspoke. I have low expectations.”
Toledo added “We usually prefer college interviews more than anything. I usually prefer those to the industry interviewing techniques because I think people who are doing it on their own time are more interested in it and have more fun with it.”
Given CSH’s reputation for their great live shows, we expected the 1TD performance to be just as great. Despite the smaller tour leg, Katz emphasizes that “if you’re gonna do it, you gotta do it right.”
Toledo mentioned that there is intentionality behind their performances saying “there is a difference between someone who just shows up and plays his set and someone who thinks about it beforehand and plans it,” with the goal being “the band people walk away pleasantly surprised with.” Andrew added a caution that the “production value is incredibly low…but people have loved it”.
1 Trait had humble beginnings. Katz had created “Stoney Bologne” and wanted to release it immediately; it was Toledo who saw greater potential in the project and suggested making it into an album. This is a pattern in the creative process for the duo. Katz comes up with the majority of the ideas and the direction for the album while Toledo acts as “quality control,” rejecting unfunny ideas and pushing the album creatively. It must be known that “almost none” of Katz’s ideas are rejected but as Toledo puts it “they have all been refined.” Their most collaborative effort is within creating the song’s structure as Katz adds “[Will is] a great songwriter; he knows how to meander a song into someone’s head.” Refinement is definitely a constant element in their work. “I have tons of tracks on my computer that are never gonna see the light of day. But, when I record something stupid, I always figured out a way to put it out.” Katz does hint that their “standards are getting higher and higher.”
Toledo agreed, adding “that’s a problem.”
From the first to second album, there was an improvement in overall structure that comes from mapping out the “basics of the project” as Toledo says. Fun is also an important factor in their production. As Toledo simply puts it “If you aren’t having fun with the song, then something is wrong with it.” Katz agreed.
“I could count on one hand how many times I didn’t have fun.” If you even listen carefully, you can hear Katz and Toledo laughing in some of the tracks.
For fans of 1 Trait, the duo were able to give some hints into what is next for Stoney: “We’re not gonna leave that hanging.”With enthusiasm, Katz revealed that Stoney will join the Double Barrel Boys.” But who are the “Double Barrel Boys?” With a laugh, Andrew says “We’re still working on that.”
For fans hoping that the duo will re-release 1 Trait High in seven years, please know that would be as Toledo calls it “very anti 1 Trait” but Andrew hints “2040 we will upload it straight to your head.”
While the genre may be hard to place, the music itself filled the audience at Anthro New England with excitement and an irresistible urge to dance. 1TD’s particular brand of not taking themselves too seriously helped to immerse the audience in Andrew and Will’s world of hijinks and trope subversion.
The set began with Andrew dressed in plain clothes with a Macbook and microphone, while Toledo — in character as Trait wearing a neon orange air traffic controller/hazmat suit with long bunny ears— was standing in the back waiting for his cue. As the beats of the first song began, Will rushed to Andrew’s side and provided vocal backup and comedic relief throughout the show.
The show featured some of 1 Trait’s hits including “Melbourne, Australia,” “Oh Actually”and “Saturday’s For The Boys.” Katz, as Stoney, bantered with the crowd that immediately set the tone of the show as one of high energy and lots of laughs. During their second song “Clap When I’m Dead,”Andrew made a point of getting every single person in the room to clap along while specifically pleading with and calling out an individual in the back to clap, even holding up the show until they joined in. Stoney then concluded the song with a prolonged middle finger to the audience.
While on paper this may seem off putting, it was done in such a way that was really hilarious and satirizing overly macho “badass” stage personas. The energy of the first songs continued throughout the show, as Will and Andrew emphasized audience participation at every available opportunity, which was unexpected but great fun. Stoney and Trait commanded the audience to run in place and then subjected them to prolonged squats during the section of “On the Run from Cossett” during the sample of the Pacer Test audio. Despite many of the audience members — including 50 percent of the authors — loudly lamenting their lack of athletic prowess, the interactivity was a nice change in pace from the typical show where you are expected to stand with your arms crossed and quietly bop to yourself or be pushed around in a mosh pit. Often at shows there is pressure to dress and act a certain way, with an ambiguous but all important right” and “wrong,” but, the small audience of passionate fans and chill furries made the show feel more like hanging out with your goofiest, least judgemental friends. Overall, we had a blast and would recommend attending a 1TD show if they ever drive through your city.
Correction: A previous version of the article misspelled Bologne