Brooklyn band TOLEDO dive headfirst into childhood trauma on their cathartic debut album ‘How It Ends,’ a soul-stirring, breathtaking wash of tender, soothing, and ultimately uplifting indie rock.
Stream: “How It Ends” – TOLEDO
Too late to take your way and change it now; you learned to keep it down…
TOLEDO have mastered the art of the soft.
In fact, the Brooklyn band’s music is so light and tender that their hushed brand of indie rock is often mistaken for some kind of folk music. Their long-awaited debut album is something out of an ASMR lover’s fantasy: An achingly intimate record of warm, dusty sounds and heart-on-sleeve confessions, How It Ends is soul-stirring, breathtaking, and utterly immersive. Channeling their trauma and troubles into a soothing sonic hug, TOLEDO have created the ultimate cathartic release of 2022.
i’m slow but you’re patiently walking me through
when we talk in the dark of your room
i try to be in it, and cry, but i can’t
you just cut me open, saying that’s what i am
i’m betting my fate on a line in your hand
it finally feels like a good place to land
but i’ve grown up on the feeling
of falling to my knees again
so i don’t understand
why we do it to ourselves
when we know how it ends
– “How It Ends,” TOLEDO
Released September 23, 2022 via Grand Jury Music, TOLEDO’s debut album sees Dan Álvarez de Toledo and Jordan Dunn-Pilz dwelling more than ever before in their own visceral depths – reflecting on their respective childhoods, unpacking family histories and traumas, and exploring their decades-long friendship through a lens of unfiltered vulnerability, raw honesty, and heartfelt self-expression.
“We have been making music together since we were in middle school, but we never had the guts or the attention span for a full album,” the pair tells Atwood Magazine. “When it came time to put this record together, we just did what we normally do and we wrote about what was going on in our personal lives at that moment. Themes of family and home were coming up more often than usual because Jordan was in talk therapy. We’ve written a lot about relationships and break ups and it felt like it was time to peek under the hood and see where these personal issues stemmed from. More specifically, it is an album that’s unabashedly about divorce and the rippling effects that can have on a kid’s development.”
Collaborating together with Jay Som’s Melina Duterte on production and recording work, TOLEDO have fine-tuned the musical identity they’ve been cultivating for the past five years. How It Ends arrives on the heels of 2021’s sophomore EP Jockeys of Love, which Atwood praised as a refreshingly evocative, full-bodied release: “Tapping into that raw strain of visceral, vulnerable emotion we’ve been feeling all year long, Jockeys of Love radiates hope as TOLEDO guide us through six spellbinding songs… The result is nothing short of a wondrous delicate daydream.”
The daydream feels both dreamier and livelier than ever on How It Ends as the band gently expand their sonic footprint while diving deep into themselves and their psyches.
“We’re looking back to see how events in our past have affected who we are today,” TOLEDO explain. “Our relationships with others, the way we view ourselves, etc… What do we inherit from our parents? Feelings of resentment, avoidant tendencies, fear of abandonment… but maybe also a capacity for great love.”
“Sonically, we look to the soundscapes that shaped our upbringing: Nirvana, Barenaked Ladies, Indigo Girls, Guster, Fleetwood Mac, Oasis, The Weepies… We end up in an adult contemporary world… Guster meets Duster. I’m sure we thought the album was going to be more sprawling in scope. We grew up listening to Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear where these albums created vast sonic worlds you could inhabit. Our world ended up pretty small and focused on the story and the lyrics. The hope is that we can find a way to marry the two.”
wanted to feel around in your head
but when i stole a scalpel up to your bed
i found nothing from the good old days
just a duct taped box with my name
if you did what you wanted, i’d be gone
i know it makes no difference
to sit here in silence, staring
waiting on the phone to ring
i am not gonna feel resolved
i am not gonna feel it
– “Boxcutter,” TOLEDO
The album begins with a canvas of haunting, nostalgia-laced memories: “Split framed stick and a rubber band, driveway rocks at the soda can, plastic dustbin, glass on the carpet,” Dunn-Pilz sings on “Soda Can.” “it was cool, the way that they would let it slide, gave me a pass and i spent those nights, with you and your family, like i was your cousin.” Literally, Dunn-Pilz is sharing his experience being in de Toledo’s home and spending time with his family. “Growing up with divorced parents, you get the feeling that something is missing, and it can be hard to shake,” he says. “There’s still the desire for a picture perfect family.”
it’s hard to see what you want
sitting at the table
arm in arm
a mirror up to everything that you’re not
i know i wont forget that
cuz it’s all i remember
“‘Soda Can’ was always the opener and ‘FUTBR’ was always the closer,” TOLEDO say of the album as a a whole. “We didn’t want to get to ‘concept album,’ but having those bookends helps to frame the narrative of anger/confusion/denial to love/understanding/acceptance. Having a large format helped us feel like we could present that journey without hitting you over the head with a theme.”
“Soda Can” indeed sets the stage for a record of inner and outer reckoning; of shouts that come out as whispered cries; of long-held questions we feel to guilty to verbalize, because we know they will hurt someone we care for – or even ourselves; sometimes hiding our emotions away feels better than acknowledging, and therefore experiencing, them. “Wanted to be enough to make you stay,” we hear on “Boxcutter.” “I took my pride and tore it, but you looked away. it’s not bad luck, and it’s not my fault, it’s obvious and a fact that it just f***s me up… i am not gonna feel resolved…“
This is some heavy shit.
But it’s some heavy, relatable shit. TOLEDO affectionately refer to the album as “divorce kid complains,” and while that description is all too apt and equally funny, it’s also rings true. With the divorce rate as high as it is, we shouldn’t feel so damn alone in our pain; we shouldn’t feel so isolated by familial fracture.
Journeying through songs like “Hideout” and “Keep It Down!”, the fervent title track and the hauntingly bittersweet “Climber,” the slow-burning “Leopard Skin” and the ethereal “Ghosty,” and ultimately arriving at “Fixing up the Back Room,” we feel the heavy weight lifted off TOLEDO’s metaphorical shoulders. As they indulge in a captivating, rich, and dreamy indie rock template, they also pour their souls out in song. “The album gave us an opportunity to do a lot of things that we’ve been waiting to do for years,” the pair note. “There are (too many?) key changes, feel changes, 180 shifts. This stuff keeps making music fun and interesting for us. Hopefully it doesn’t distract the audience from the actual song part.”
The band highlight the lyrics of “Ghosty” as a personal favorite:
I don’t think about things that I’d rather not think about
Cover my ears with my fingers and drown it out
That’s what I did as a kid and it helped me out
I see him again
There’s a ghost in the attic now
“It’s such a short song and a simple lyric, but I think it does a lot to drive home the themes of the album. These old habits you developed as a kid, to survive in what you perceived to be an unsafe environment, don’t just go away on their own. They linger like a ghost.”
They linger like a ghost. What a poetic way to capture the past we carry with us, and what a powerful way to describe this album as well. How It Ends is TOLEDO’s beginning, and they’ve ostensibly kicked off this new chapter of their career by unburdening themselves of the past.
The beauty of TOLEDO’s music is that, while their lyrics may reflect the trauma and emotional baggage, the songs themselves are each an oasis of peace and tranquility:
How It Ends is, as a whole, a cool and calming vessel ready to soundtrack our very own moments of cathartic release, quiet meditation, and repose.
“It is very hard for us not to self critique, and there are for sure things we would do differently, but we are really proud of the honesty in this album,” TOLEDO share. “A lot of these songs were difficult to write, and even more difficult to talk about. It brought a lot of things into the light on a personal level. That’s matched with the fact that it is really just the two of us in an Airbnb tracking these songs on guitars and drums. Hopefully you can hear the love that we have for recording.”
“The album almost feels like a weight off the chest,” they add. “The themes here have been caught in our collective throat for years. A song like ‘Soda Can’ that addresses the extent to how much we care for and love each other as friends… We don’t necessarily take the time to express that kind of gratitude to each other in our day to day. If people listen to this album and feel like they too can be comfortable taking on their more heavy emotions, that would be a huge win for us. On a personal level, facing those inner demons was so worth it and we are so much better for it.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside TOLEDO’s How It Ends with Atwood Magazine as the band goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their debut album!
:: stream/purchase How It Ends here ::
Stream: ‘How It Ends’ – TOLEDO
:: Inside How It Ends ::
– Growing up with divorced parents, you get the feeling that something is missing, and it can be hard to shake. There’s still the desire for a picture perfect family. This song is about spending time with Daniel and his family, and the feelings of gratitude mingling with resentment. We know where these lingering feelings come from, but what do we do with them now? Sets the stage for what the rest of the album wants to talk about. This is one of those songs where one band member writes about the other.
– Production wise, Dan looked to 90’s influences like The Sundays
– Dan’s violin debut
– A lot of the album was recorded in a church in downtown Newburyport, our hometown where the album is set, so the first sound you hear is the church organ opening up into a chord
– You go digging for answers, and you might not like what you find.
– Working on the same relationship over and over again and feeling like you’re not getting anywhere
– We were on our last week of writing in the church, I had just gotten lunch with my dad, and came back and immediately wrote this on the stage in the church
– When we feel stuck in a song, we often look to unfinished material to see what we can use. The “first chorus” of this song was pulled from an early demo. The “second chorus” is us posturing as a grunge band
– Song about wanting someone to better themselves, but if you sucked out all of the empathy. music is a good place to try out ideas and figure out: is this really how i feel? sometimes you end up with half truths and false perspectives.
– Where family is concerned, you want this person to make the most of their life, maybe even more intensely because of that relation, but you’ve also watched them drag their feet for years.
– This song went through a lot of different iterations. it was originally an all half time, dragged, drugged out Mac DeMarco track. One night during our first cabin trip we got baked to the point of delirium and accidentally turned it into a country jaunt.
KEEP IT DOWN!
– I hate the sound of my own voice. It’s hard to embark on a career path that involves selling something you don’t believe in. How do we get to a place where it feels more comfortable to make ourselves small? My partner is also soft spoken and feels like a kindred spirit in that regard, so it ended up being a song exploring that relationship.
– First song we started recording, last song finished for the album
HOW IT ENDS
– Watching my mother struggle in love, it planted a seed deep down that keeps me afraid of love and hesitant about marriage. Even when things are going so well, there’s a looming tension in the back of my brain that suggests everything is going to fall apart eventually. How do you navigate love and relationships when you don’t have a clear example to follow? Is this the curse your parents leave you with?
– Working with Melina of Jay Som, we tried to energize this song with piano, natural percussion, and cowbells. There happened to be two cowbells that were tuned (almost) perfectly in our airbnb we were using as a makeshift recording studio.
– An uneven love song. when you’re so infatuated that you’re willing to let someone call the shots and step on yours. We look to our parents to give us an idea of what a relationship might be like, and for daniel, he saw his dad pining after someone whose mind was elsewhere.
– we wanted it to sound like a “love song” a la Michelle branch or sixpence none the richer
– we had produced a larger version, but ended up going with a darker more hushed tone
– wrote this while drinking heavily in Daniel’s parked car with the instrumental blasting
– it’s one step forward, two steps back. Sometimes when you feel like you’re heading in the right direction, you slip up and fall back into old habits. You only have yourself to blame, but aren’t your parents to blame for how you end up? It’s really a fuck you to myself and my dad. our legacy of shit.
– That’s twitch live streamer Dakotaz in the opening of the song! accidentally caught in the recording crossfire
– Barenaked Ladies meets Fleetwood Mac
– The world’s worst hangover. the good got bad and the bad gets worse. a binge.
– written at a low point for the both of us.
– we had just moved to bushwick and started playing shows every week. we were drinking and partying and losing sight of ourselves
– Song about a hickey
– this is an instrumental..listening to a lot of duster..
– the title is taken verbatim from a text we got from a friend who was going through a breakup, and somehow we were caught in the menorah crossfire.
– we both grew up in split religion households so the name just stuck.
– one take
– Death of innocence. Where do these avoidant tendencies come from? doing things now because they were survival tactics 20 years ago..your past self is just a ghost haunting the attic
– we wrote this in a cabin, jordan refused to sleep in the attic because it felt haunted
– Jay Som Singing on the track
FIXING UP THE BACK ROOM
– What do we inherit from our parents? When you come from something you view as a broken home, you’re predisposed to focus on the negative. Much of the album does that. We were in the middle of our first cabin-writing trip, when my mother sent an email to my brothers and I. I knew we wanted to focus on the family dynamic, but the weight of her words shifted the album into gear. A lot of the lyrics are taken verbatim from that email. I tried to put myself in her shoes as a single mother, for the first seven years before I was born, when she was raising my brother Billy. There is a lot of loss that comes from the splitting of a family. It doesn’t negate the intense love and care it takes to raise a child on your own. That capacity for love is something i’m proud to have inherited.
– You can hear Melina playing her sample synth and laughing at the end of the track. It paints a nice picture of a woman smiling: the last image of the album
– We almost redrafted the lyrics as they felt too personal
:: stream/purchase How It Ends here ::
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