Will Toledo is a furry. He came out onstage in Brooklyn, dressed as Mortis Jackrabbit, a gasmasked mammal with a coat like an old fox. His eyes glowed, plucked from a Fallout dream. Limbering up to ‘Bodys’, one of the best songs by his quite good band, Car Seat Headrest – and we can only assume with a smirk beneath the mask – he looked as if he was just getting used to himself at last. “Do you realise,” he sang, “that our bodies could fall apart at any second?” With giant black paws, and rabbit ears hanging like a pair of tights trapped in a dumpster lid, he wiggled for the crowd, shook his tail, let a kick fly. “Those are you got some nice shoulders! I’d like to put my hands around them! I’d like to put my hands around them!” In the throes of a hymn to death and desire, he was undergoing a rebirth of sorts, proudly displaying his new body. Could we love it? Why shouldn’t we? They’re all the same, whether or not you would actually like to fuck a rabbit, claiming you took the wrong turn at Alberquerque.
It wasn’t the first time, though. Toledo debuted a prosaic version of Mortis at a show on 31st March: again in Brooklyn, somewhat less monstrously. Neither event should surprise you. The Car Seat fandom has been ahead of him forever. ‘Is Will Toledo a furry?’ has probably annoyed more hacks like me than we can comprehend; the backroom scribblers at Stereogum, Consequence of Sound, the Line of Best Fit, all tapping vapes in their pockets as the next SEO meeting comes around and they’re given topics to write about – the gunk to go with what they really want to write about – and ‘Will Toledo furry explain’ comes rolling out of the search-engine lottery that month, and they go, Jesus Christ, I don’t know, maybe? All while bands such as Squid and Spirit of the Beehive do better things like exist. So writers like me, they look at those keywords and the deep, ongoing speculation about whether a man wears a fur suit, draws the suit, and maybe finds it attractive, in fact likes it quite a bit, yet goes to great lengths to avoid the call of others like him – other furries – to just come out and admit it already because it’s good for them, it’ll dispel the nasty sex stuff, you know, all that mania about furries conked on nitrous oxide wandering the hall of a conference centre in nappies and waving to children who darkly and inevitably can’t eat Animal Crackers ever again – we look at the abiding interest in whether Will Toledo is a furry, and we go, Alright I’m going to move onto other material like 12 Reasons Why The Island Boys Are The Logical Conclusion Of Dada.
But no, I chose this topic. And Will Toledo’s furriness is almost beside the point. People have been calling for him to talk about it for years, granted; there’s thin satisfaction amongst sleuths that first noticed he commented on a few furry videos, likes to sketch animals for albums, and sang about casually scrolling through “the fetish-based forums / Of which I am an active member.” For years he has been memed to infinity with furry art and photos, one of which bafflingly brings in former Blur member, Graham Coxson, to lead a rival fur brigade. He had a page on Fur Affinity, the site where Spiro and Tony The Tiger might share a duplex overlooking the ocean (probably full of hair). Two of his favourite seven albums on BandCamp are by furry musicians. In two minutes you’ll find fan fic like this, where an anonymous author swoons, “Ugh this fucking gay furry. I love him. The man of my dreams. I’m McLovin him.” There is little ambiguity here. You might as well ask whether Keith Richards has ever seen a formaldehyde bottle, or Mariah Carey has considered drop kicking a Christmas cake.
So it’s barely a surprise that Will’s Mortis Jackrabbit is on stage, aglow and awkwardly prancing to a song about bodies. Good for him. Despite my joshing, everyone should be who they are whenever they’re able to, and that means some of us can return to more journalistic endeavours. Those listicles aren’t going to list themselves. Don’t you dare try and list the best listicle software. You’ll owe me a house.
But then again, isn’t there something here? A more interesting assumption. One that dusts the question of what music made for certain people is meant to sound like.
In the ‘all-out’ interview with Brooklyn Magazine, Will says that he wants more furries in his audiences. “The theme of the tour was Masquerade,” he tells writer Joshua Encenias. “It’s about putting on a mask and coming to have fun. We encourage people to come in their fursuits.” Then Car Seat Headrest’s drummer, Andrew Katz, leans in helpfully. “A lot of Car Seat’s music is furry adjacent, because when Will started, it was for that community of people. So obviously a lot of fans are furries and the rest know he’s a furry.”
‘Furry adjacent.’ I see. I mean, I do now, but I couldn’t have told you that a week ago. Is this a subcultural breakthrough? It never occurred to me that music for men and women in fluffy costumes might sound all that different.
The duo’s comments sent me on a whistlestop tour of furriedom. And most of it is simply there for a good time. We’re talking EDM. Nightcore. The jig of a Lambrini boy. You might call it invigorating or a haunting reminder of teenage bus stops. Fellow Brits, unite. Furry music is the music tough kids practised left hooks to in the mid 2000s.
Playlists made by the likes of Buckley Flufftail clearly want you to party like a twat – to get up and move your fursuit, maybe until you’re able to mix a cocktail without crushing the glass. Rave mixes pile drive you for hours. Basshunter shares the floor with Dam Dadi Doo and venerables from the reign of happy hardcore. In 2021, these throwbacks went virtual. DJ Vulp, a white canine, took dozens of furries to Furry Fiesta, where they danced via headsets for 59 minutes, the highlights of which include scintillating elbow rubs between a cat and archeopteryx. Discord is a lifeline for these invitations. They are like virtual gay clubs: safe spaces to mingle and mash, tucked away from mainstream nightlife.
Aside from plucky acoustic and metal instrumentals from Corey Coyote, in fact, the furry scene seems to be entirely based around rave and glitter cheese. In other words: camp. Shameless joy. Knowing something might be crappy, but embracing it; loving it all the more for how little it cares about status. Queer classics have a lot in common with this style of furry expression. I’ve often suspected gay pop hits the spot because it's not bothered about what you’re thinking – just surrender your body while Bacardi invades your muscles. Choruses detonate like confetti bombs. Hooks pull you apart. Shania Twain, The Venga Boys and The Scissor Sisters can melt the hardest of hips, voicing a theatrical ebullience that makes everything feel okay, even when you’re still figuring yourself out.
However, part of me wonders that if I was gay, and wanted a gay night out, would that get on my nerves? The fact that camp is the default. I have no idea. Probably not. But what about gay folk music? Queer jazz? Punk is often the only other genre that appears to command LGBTQ+ events. You either dance or pogo. Obviously, communities swarm around certain styles for a reason – the junking of judgement, the howl of catharsis – but it sucks to presume that music should sound one way or another just because the people listening to it identify as X, Y or (in our case) F.
Which is why Car Seat Headrest is such a cool candidate for furry adjacency – they’re more generally misanthropic. Will Toledo makes gawky, lyrical music about being a kid lost for words, nervous on webcam, terrified of his mates’ smoking habit. He writes songs that kick some arse for five minutes out of 17. Teens Of Denial and Twin Fantasy are modern touchstones of being too smart to know what to do next. I never thought of Car Seat as a band for anyone aside from the ever-present mess of late teenagers and twenty-somethings, or the people who feel shiftless when idle as they’re looking at another hike in rent.
On such classic ground, we may stand closer. Will Toledo’s furriness is incidental; what he represents to fans who are not is the real story. Car Seat Headrest is made for outsiders. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a mouse, raccoon or fleshy somnambulant. With their sheer indieness, Will and the band can open gateways between kind, cool, hilarious furries and the rest of us. Then it won’t be about what music you’re meant to like. It’ll be about leaving all identities at the door, and barely caring who’s in the crowd beside you, cheering a rabbit who’s getting better at staying on his feet.