Q&A: Toro Y Moi's Chaz Bundick on Eating at Sonic's, What Women Want, and His Forthcoming Second Album
Chaz Bundick--aka Toro Y Moi--is the 23-year-old Columbia, South Carolina resident whose basement project of airy R&B grooves and iced-over keyboards emerged on the blogosphere at the end of '09. Prior to this month's release of his debut album, Causers of This, praise for Bundick's celebratory single, "Blessa," was so consensual that even alt-skeptic Carles of Hipster Runoff wondered: did Toro Y Moi write the "the official anthem of 2k10.1?" Bundick's craft is oft described as "chillwave," and he accepts that, but the term is misleading. His lyricism, in contrast with that of his peers, skips the lazy detachment of Neon Indian's "Terminally Chill" and the beach chair-reclining bliss of Washed Out's "Feel It All Around." Instead, Bundick yields himself to the subject of womenfolk - more specifically, as he puts it, the melancholic "post breakup lifestyle." Already in the process of tracking his "not so chillwave" follow-up, Bundick chatted with us about his love life, instrument vs. sample ratios, and female polygamists.
I was curious about the title of the album: Causers of This. Who are the causers and what are they causing?
Girls. Girls are the causers.
And they cause the music?
Yeah. There's one girl that mainly caused that album, I guess you could say. It ended up being like a concept, but I wasn't going for that at all, that's the only thing I could write about at the time.
Is "Freak Love" about her too?
No, the whole album's kind of about this post breakup lifestyle of mine. I dated this girl for four years and some of the songs are about me meeting other girls and it's just not working out. I'm trying to get over it and I'm still obsessing over the previous girlfriend. So "Freak Love " is about this one girl I met, she said that she's into polygamy. Totally freaked me out, I was like what? She wasn't joking.
In an interview from a while back, you spoke about a theory you had on how artists digress in their songwriting when they get too comfortable--that you may need to put yourself through a little hell to write. Has any self-induced hell served as inspiration for your new album?
I'm starting to work on the second album, I'm tracking a lot of the songs right now. I usually do the lyrics and vocals last, and the idea popped into my head -what am I going to write about? Because the previous girlfriend of mine, which the first album was about, we're kind of talking about getting together. I've had ideas of what to write about and I'm not as comfortable right now as a lot of people hope to be one day. I'm not as comfortable as I know I'm going to be. I'm sure there's a lot of things that can make me wander and finally get to the good stuff.
Though your current work has consciously written lyrics, I heard you'll be free-style singing on the second album. What kind of thoughts do your mind drift to first?
I think that I'd rather transmit the dirty thoughts into the tone of my voice as opposed to the lyrics. Like in "Talamak," the tone of my voice for that song was relatively different than the rest of the album. It's a more sensual sounding song, so I just sang softer.
Does it bother you when people label your music as chillwave?
Well I don't think it's a bad thing, but it's going to catch people off guard when I release the next one and it's not going to be electronic, it's not going to be so....chillwave, I guess. So people might be disappointed when the next album comes out and it's not sounding like they're expecting, but I guess that's good to do. That's what I want to do, catch people off guard. Yeah, I'm fine with chillwave, it doesn't really bother me.
How much of the album is you playing and how much of it is samples?
90% is me, but 10% is samples. If I took the samples off the album, the album sound almost exactly the same. A lot of the samples I have, they're what's creating that pumping sound. I would fill the samples with reverb and then make them give texture and it would help the song become more dynamic. Like on "Talamak," I'm playing those notes, but the only thing that's sampled is that ee e dat.
Back to the album, in the "Blessa" video, you're singing into a mic wound with Christmas lights, while the camera fades in and out of cuts between you and folks at a party drinking beer from a measuring cup. How did you create the concept for that?
Well it was actually last minute. I was playing a house show and it was over Christmas break so a lot of my friends were home. [pauses for two seconds] Yeah...sorry I'm eating at a Sonic. It was the first show I played in Columbia since all of this started happening and so one of the friends that came home happened to be a film student. We weren't even thinking of a music video that night, we were just thinking of filming the show so I could show people what my live setup is like. It ended up just being a music video because I use my computer live, so it lines up perfectly with the song, it's the same file. It turned out to be a lucky mistake.
That really goes together with the beginning lyrics of the song, too, "come home in the summer / live a life that you miss."
Yeah when I saw the video I kind of teared up because there was one part where my ex-girlfriend was in there, I give her a hug in the beginning.
And now you're at a Sonic's.
Yeah, here I am, eating at Sonic's.
Toro Y Moi plays Brooklyn Bowl on March 26 with the Ruby Suns.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.