By: Ariella Markowitz
Touring MASS MoCA with Andrew Katz of 1 Trait Danger (and also Car Seat Headrest, i guess)
(Andrew Katz talks to WCFM about his satirical side project “1 Trait Danger” and the weird triumvirate of high art, EDM, & Musical Satire for 10 minutes straight. 😮😮😮)
Honestly my first question is you are opening at MSG tomorrow. Are excited to open in Madison Square Garden?
AK: Well, not as 1 Trait Danger. We were going to, but then Interpol shut us down. That was a joke. Oh look, our tour guide.
We’re bantering with Andrew Katz, the drummer of Car Seat Headrest. Car Seat is performing their critical tour-de-force Twin Fantasy here in North Adams tonight, but we’re here to take a weirder dive into Andrew’s side project, 1 Trait Danger.
ITD is the accumulation of Andrew’s interests in EDM, dad comedy, a hatred for pitchfork, and probably smoking weed and screwing around on garageband while on tour. His most recent album, 1 Trait High, is set in a high school, where the bully is a computer nerd who torments the school jock and takes all of his bitcoin.
Clip: Running From Cossett
AK: The millennial bully comes from an idea in my head that I thought would be really funny of, like, a school in the future where being good at sports means nothing, it’s all about who’s best on the computer. So I’ve had that idea in my head for a long time. I mean Tim Schenekdaky is obviously a hatred for Pitchfork – a journalist that doesn’t know how to read.
Clip: Interlude 1
Do you have any idea of what is good music writing? What are you looking for?
I stopped consuming music criticism. I mean, who reads Pitchfork anymore. You give people an article that gives someone extra insight into something. Now, it’s just opinion pieces, and it’s usually just bad opinions. They’re not offering anything. Music journalism should be investigative journalism. So the reader can be like “oh yeah, I do remember that. Now I see the connection.” That to me is good journalism, as opposed to “this album sucked. -Pitchfork”
V/O: In hindsight, it was probably super appropriate that we were having this conversation while touring a modern art museum.
TG: This is the Cold hole
AK: Snow? is it real?
TG: it is.
So you people jumping in and out of there, and i just have to watch them?
The cold hole might be the visual art equivalent of ITD: something so shockingly minimalistic, the human absurdity can really shine.
Clip: Interlude 1
Whenever I try to create, it always ends up being comedy, because that’s just personally what I do. I did improv in college and I try to write stand up. Do you find yourself gravitating towards comedy or is this truly just a side outlet [to CSH]?
Yeah, absolutely. The comedy stems from me, one loving comedy. Tenacious D and weird Al Yankovic were both huge influences of mine growing up. But also, when the music isn’t quite good enough to stand on its own, i.e. One Trait Danger, you need to make a side element to it. The comedy is a necessity because the music is so poorly worked on, it needs to be funny. But that plays into what makes it so great. Is that the music sucks. It adds to the comedic factor.
So you were essentially saying, the music is shitty and that’s why you need comedic lyrics, and I think that’s a part of comedy music of any form.
Sure but the thing about Weird Al, Flight of the Conchords, Tenacious D – those guys are all so famous because not only is it comedic but it’s also good music. They transcend the necessity for comedy, because the songs could stand alone. Like, Tribute by Tenacious D is just a good song, even outside of the comedic factor. That’s why those guys are famous, and that’s why 1TD kind of sucks. But, 1TD is pretty funny.
The genre will stay the same in that it’s comedy-EDM, but we’re always changing subject matter. The next album is called “1 Trait world tour’ which is going to be about a traveling band. It still has the same aura about it, it’s comedy-EDM, terrible rapping, but the subject matter is totally changing.
Even though Andrew admits the musical elements of 1TD could be stronger, there is something super appropriate about the pairing of comedy & EDM.
The simple beats and dynamic builds of Electronic Dance music are on one level shallow and ridiculous, but that’s also what makes it so powerful. EDM blends with Andrew’s absurd stories in such a satisfying, reckless way.
Andrew’s characters and storylines also extend beyond EDM. Andrew started making 1TD tracks while on tour with CSH, posting funny videos and characters on instagram, and working out from there, even performing at 1TD. Currently, he’s working on expanding the universe with video games and hacker puzzles.
AK: For the last album I released a physical flashdrive and on that physical flashdrive was a puzzle folder that you could sift through to find hidden stuff. So i decided to take that to the next level for this album. So, when this album comes out there’s going to be a video game with it. And so i spent the last month and a half developing my own video game from scratch, and I’d never done that before. I had to teach myself how to program using youtube tutorials and stuff like that. I created a 1TD video game, it’s called Cosset’s world. It will be out with the album.
ITD is also definitely more than just Andrew’s side-hustle. ITD and CSH have a long, interconnected history. First of all, 1TH was released the same day as Twin Fantasy.
[(For a better explanation of the connection between 1TD and all the amazing CSH lore, check out, Katie Ingegneri’s amazing article on Medium.)]
But the birth of ITD can be traced back to 2017. Sam Ray, an indie musician, wrote a hilarious but deeply critical article called “Punching Upward at a Particularly Bland Windmill.” My favorite one-liner from it is: “If you walk into any house show in America with a handful of rocks, by the second or third throw you’ll have hit a boy with a Bandcamp that sounds exactly like (CHS).”
Riffing off the shocking fact that people on the internet call each other’s art bad all the time, CSH released a fake “diss track” called “Stoney Bologna.” Sam Ray is “featured” (big air quotes) and Andrew raps about a bully named Sam…
Clip: Stoney Bologna
Stoney made made Stereogum’s 40 Worst Songs of 2017 list, (which andrew tweeted was the greatest honor of his life).
Andrew trolling the music critics fleshes out the mythos of CSH. He’s taking us back to CSH’s low-fi roots. Critics love CSH now, but it all started with Will Toledo, in his car, recording raw-sounding poetic monologues to scratchy guitar chords on garageband, (not so different from Andrew’s comedic rapping.)
Clip: (2011 Beach Life and Death)
ITD reminds me that CSH’s creative mythos stems from a essential Do-It-Yourself ethic. Music isn’t awesome because of production value. It’s poetry, it’s humour and feeling.
This might seem really obvious, but it’s why trolling Pitchfork is such a huge part of ITD’s identity. Because bad music criticism disregards the primordial connection between fans and music: it’s about policing artists with highbrow aesthetic standards.
I went to the CSH concert that night. And as much as I would love to write the perfect fluff piece about how awesome it was, I think I might just sign off with a better appreciation for how funny Car Seat Headrest is. Lyrically, the line between serious and silly dissolves in moments of total surrender. I’m happy art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. An album like Twin Fantasy is just as good, if not greater, with a companion like 1 Trait High, maybe just as a reminder that the two aren’t so different.
// Ariella Markowitz