Getting to Know Toro Y Moi

Getting to Know Toro Y Moi

A brief but candid chat with Chaz Bundick, aka pop songwriter Toro y Moi, reveals more than expected.
December 27, 2016, 4:22am

It's been six years since Chaz Bundick AKA Toro y Moi released his debut album Causers of This, and was then branded with Hipster Runoff's 'chillwave' before being quickly heralded as the scenes flag bearer. But he's come a long way since 2010's mellow, dreamy textures and mosaics of sampling, and Bundick has consistently proven his willingness to outgrow old sounds and shed outdated labels.

Every album that has followed — Underneath The Pine and its dip into broader instrumentation, Anything in Return and its confident R&B, hyper pop embellishments, What For? and its foray into indie rock, and earlier this year, a live concert film and its album counterpart, Live from Trona — has pushed what it means to be Toro y Moi.

Not to mention Bundick's other projects. There's Les Sins, a house music endeavour; PLUM, his ambient experiments; newly announced collaborations with The Mattson 2; ventures into designing shirts and logos; even his own record label, Company Records, for which he often lends a helping hand to his artists in the studio.

But underneath those layers of musician, producer, designer, and label owner, like all artists, Chaz Bundick is just a guy, a thirty year old guy from a small town who likes occasionally jamming to Justin Bieber. With an Australian tour ready to go in 2017, Noisey jumped on the phone to have a quick chat to Chaz about dance moves, merch design, and his dog Michael.

NOISEY: So first question: your favourite record during high school?
Toro y Moi: Oh, it might be The Blue Album by Weezer.

Niiice. Why is that? Did you have a Weezer phase?
Oh, man, it's still going. I'm still in the Weezer phase. If you left the Weezer phase, you're a loser! But yeah, that was my jam. That was in my indie rock period during high school. I was into like, At the Drive-In and Pixies and stuff. I just kinda started hanging out with all the skateboarders and that's how we got into that world.

What's your go-to dance move?
My dance moves… I guess you can't see them over the phone but I do this thing where I shake my hips a bunch.

**You've said you've struggled with lyrics in the past. What's your favourite lyrics of all time?**I think when I was a kid one of my favourite songs was "Red Red Wine" and that was pretty cool. And there was also "Bicycle" by Queen. I used to love singing "Bicycle". Biiicycle, Biiicycle… Yeah, it was just the repetition that got me.

What about if you had to choose your hometown South Carolina or California?
[Laughs] That's so wrong to ask, but… I don't know! [Laughs] Like, California is a lot different to South Carolina so it's just not a fair question.

Two different ball games?

Favourite song from 2016?
Probably "Nikes" from Frank Ocean. That's my summer jam.

Yeah! What did you think about the album?
I think it was amazing. I loved it. It was so good and progressive, and he really brought the imagery out. Did a really good job.

You have your Les Sins project and your new ambient one, Plum. So if you had to choose: house music or ambient music?
Man, if you haven't explored ambient music yet, it's something you're gonna regret. Hopefully you don't regret it but ambient music is… it just seems a lot easier. If you're driving in your car and listening to ambient music, or on a plane and listening to ambient music, any place pretty much in public, it's really nice because it just calms you down. But I play it a lot in my house, and yeah, it's just super relaxing and is a lot more enjoyable.

What's the worst thing that's happened to you on tour?
The worst thing that's happened to me on tour… I not sure! I'm sure there's something crazy that's happened. I'm pretty safe on tour. No gossip though…

**And you've toured Australia before. Which do you prefer, Melbourne or Sydney? ** [Laughs] I don't think I know either of them well enough. I need to hang out. Every time we're in Australia, I'm pretty anti-social. But I might try to find some functions somewhere to go crash.

Yeah, definitely do it. And where would you like to go tour that you haven't yet?
It's a hard question because… I feel like I do a lot of travelling, and I just don't know where I wanna go anymore. When you travel all the time, you get the gist, and the things you are attracted to sometimes just ends up being the same thing everywhere.

You come from a graphic design background. Who's your favourite artist or designer?
I like the classics. I like Saul Bass, Paul Rand… They're not the most abstract or obscure kind of designers, they're not "out there" but their stuff factors restraint in the best way to make it accessible, classic and timeless. That's what I appreciate the most.

And do you design all of the Toro y Moi merch?
Yeah, that's my passion project as well.

What's your favourite Toro y Moi merch that you've designed?
I guess I like just the classic logo one. I feel like it has the most resonance with people. I like that one a lot.

I like that one too. All your merch is really beautiful, by the way.
Yeah, I try to just keep it simple. I don't like it when you see a band's merch table and it's so much stuff, it's not really cohesive anymore. I feel like the best way to really have all the designs, no matter what you have and to make them all look good together too, you have to keep it simple.

Image: Jordan Blackmon

**You've also said you're a Big Star fan. #1 Record or Radio City? ** Oh, #1 Record for sure. Just the highs are so crisp and the drums are so widespread, panning. It's pretty cool. It's just one of my favourite audio recordings.

Your musical idol when you were a child?
When I was a child… I guess Michael Jackson. Pretty much every kid in the 80s and 90s was probably into Michael Jackson. [Laughs]

Probably. I feel like that's a good estimation.
Yeah, if you weren't, you were a loser!

Speaking of Michaels, your dog's name is Michael, right? What's the best thing about him?
I guess the best thing about him is his ability to communicate is really weird. He'll come and hit your elbow with his nose and tells you he needs to go outside, which is pretty cool. He's really good at walking off a leash sometimes, but for the most part he's chill. And he's like a really good guard dog too, like he's pretty ferocious when he wants to be.

Finally, what are you most excited for on your Australian tour next year?
Food. That's always what I look forward to when I travel. Just show me the best food.

Toro y Moi Australia 2017:
March 5 - Perth at Perth Festival
March 10 - Brisbane at the Zoo
March 11 - Sydney at Days Like This Festival
March 12 - Victoria at Pitch Music and Arts

Lead Image: Carpark records