Toro Y Moi is Chaz Bundick, a pop musician from South Carolina.
You’ve been making some noise on year-end buzz lists, the Pitchfork guest list, “What to Watch For 2010” lists…Does it ever seem like it’s happening too fast?
It’s great how fast things like this can happen but, depending on how experienced you are, it could hurt you, definitely. It all depends on the artist, pretty much. For me, it’s been a dream of mine to try get to this status of an artist. It all depends on how experienced you are, and what your intentions are, really.
How would you define your own sound? What’s your perspective on the music that you’re making?
I started writing songs with a basic songwriting format, you know, chorus verse chorus verse. I slowly wanted to become more experimental and pretty much weird without being too weird, still accessible. I just tried to find and keep as many influences as possible and try to combine them to make something that I think people would find interesting. I make sure that it’s something I would listen to myself; I would never make something if I felt like I would never listen to it again. For this current album, a lot of the themes going on are kind of ambient, some funk and soul, and there’s a house influence in it, too. I just wanted to try to mix genres and see what I came out with.
I understand your parents have a diverse record collection, Do you think that’s responsible for your vast range of influences, or does the Internet play a part as well?
It’s definitely both of those. Without the Internet, I don’t think I would have found a lot of the bands I listen to nowadays, especially more current bands. They are even blogs out there dedicated to music from the past, you know? Finding those songs and having those influences it is definitely a big thing. For me, what really got me into effects on vocals were bands like Grouper and Animal Collective. When I first met Ernest, that’s what really influenced us, vocals. The kinds of things Noah Lennox was doing. Pretty cool.
What’s going to stick out about 2009 for you?
I definitely think what sticks out is the way music is found; 2009 might’ve been the year for finding music on the Internet. Finding it through blogs and radio shows and everything like that. The way that the music industry is finding bands itself, it’s not through demos anymore. It’s changed so much that it almost feels like you’re cheating or you’re doing it wrong because it’s so uncommon and different, the way things are going. That’s probably the biggest thing for me. A lot of my friends are like, “How did you get to where you are?” and I’m like, to be honest, it may be through the Internet. I try to send music to blogs. That’s a great way to get exposure.
I think those are always fun to do and great to have to introduce the artist. I’m a fan of vinyl myself now; I’ve recently discovered a true vinyl sound after hearing newer productions on vinyl. It’s really impressive how it actually does sound, so doing something on vinyl is always fun to do.
What was that process like, putting both records together?
That process was really, really fun. It’s the first time that I ever had to write an album as a full album beforehand. It was just a bunch of CD-Rs with a collection of songs on it. I pretty much decided to do two records because when Carpark came up to me…I usually like to work on two albums at a time because I didn’t want to get bored…so I was working on one and pretty much what Causers of This ended up being. Tom was like, “Do you want to put this one out?” And I was like, “Yeah sure, but would it be cool if I did a different one also?” which is kind of what I was trying to do too. And he was like, “Yeah, that would totally work.”
I don’t want people to think one’s less important or they’re going to both be two huge releases. I see them as both equal; they’re both kind of introductory albums. Hopefully later in my career I can put out more albums that are all over the place, genre-wise, and not have it be weird. I didn’t want to release one electronic album and have people think, oh, he’s an electronic artist, got it. And then come out with this guitar one, and people are like, what is he doing?
What’s it like functioning in this contemporary landscape where you don’t have to have some supplied superimposed notion of what defines you, you can just freewheel without having to worry about the genre qualification? Do you like that?
It’s really fun to do. It’d be great to see other artists do that too and catch people off guard. It’s really great. Ever since I was fifteen I was doing acoustic songs, and I had some weird electronic distorted drums songs, and it wasn’t until my freshman year when I started getting into true electronic programming. Before it was just drum machines and playing with tape decks.
You’ve dipped into the remix game some. Is that something you see yourself continuing to do?
I love to do that. It’s something I could totally see myself doing more in the future. Even on the Internet, there’s two—probably even more—different worlds, different realms of blogs. There’s your electronic music blogs and your indie blogs. To infiltrate more than one area is really interesting because their audience is so vast but they’re both separated. You don’t see Fred Falke on Gorilla vs. Bear that often. It’s cool to become a part of two worlds and see how they react to each other.
How do you know Ernest from Washed Out? I understand that you two are friends.
He went to grad school at USC in South Carolina and that’s where I’m from and where I live and went to school too. I met him at a birthday party once and we pretty much just started talking about music and by the end of the night we exchanged phone numbers he was like, yeah, we should jam! And I was, cool, how (laughs)? He was like bring your computer over. So we ended up bringing our stuff together, let the drum machine go, started sampling and playing, and jam out. That night we sort of found our own new sounds, influenced each other, and we still currently show each other tracks before everyone else and ask for feedback, what we can do to make this better. We work really well together. It’d be fun to really create an album with him and try to get some stuff put together, but we’re just so busy right now and a lot of this is overwhelming.
It’s really fun. We would jam out until like six in the morning in the summertime with the doors open and stuff. It’s really nice.
I like talking to people outside of the “NYC” scene because they’re not as concerned with posturing, or deliberately exuding this aura about themselves.
That’s so funny about how this whole “Chillwave” thing got started. It’s catching on. It’s so funny. It was created ironically, wasn’t it? Like a satirical joke?
It started as an inside joke.
And now people aren’t aware or they’re just going to go with it. A couple days ago I was playing with Neon Indian and they make these jokes about Chillwave and I was like “You guys make Chillwave jokes too?” And so Alan and I started talking about how funny it is, how this thing has caught on. But then we started talking about how different we actually are from each other, we have our own little things. We just got clumped in.
It’s getting to a point where people are trying to become the next big thing, with a genre, just by naming it. Some blog might try to make up their own genre name. I remember the first time I heard that. I thought it was so cheesy (laughs). The word “chill” is a bro kind of word.
I always hated when someone said like, a party or something was chill. What does that even mean?
(laughs) Yeah. I’m just rolling with what everyone’s going with.
I understand you have a BFA in Graphic Design. Is the visual aesthetic something you’re very concerned about?
It’s definitely connected and it’s definitely one of the main things I think about. It’s great that graphic design is so involved with music because I can have my cake and eat it too, you know? It’s unfortunate that I’m not having that awesome job with the halfway cubicles and the huge Mac screen in my face, but it’s cool to sit at my house and work on my own design work. I just got the Causers of This sample Digipack today. It looks great. It’s cool to see the real design that I made on my computer come to life. It’s great that I can still do this and do music too. I’m not getting paid for this, but it’s fun to have a tangible object of my creation. So it’s still a huge part of my life, definitely.
Any questions that you’ve always wanted to answer? For me, I’d just like to talk about rap records or jeans or sneakers, for example.
Yeah? That’s cool. We drove down to New York and listened to Drake for about an hour and a half. I love Drake. I have like two or three of the mixtapes. One time I was driving down to Georgia to see Ernest and we were driving through Macon, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Macon, but there’s nothing there. Minimals. So we’re at this gas station, and I go inside and they have this glass cabinet full of CD-Rs and I swear he must have printed the covers at the store. You could see the CMYK mess up every once a while in the print. I was like, “These are mixtapes right?” And he was like, “Yeah, yeah, five bucks.” These awesome dirty south crunk beats behind Drake.
Toro Y Moi Interview
Photo by Bryan Bush