By Marcie Garcia
The lo-fi, ambient stutters of one-man show, Chaz Bundick, of the Franish dubbed Toro y Moi (bull and me), is proving that he’s not just a one show pony. Currently touring Toro, with a new band in tow, under the February release of “chillwave” debut LP, Causers of This (Car Park Records), Bundick finds himself re-adjusting the many hats he wears. While definitely qualifying as chillwave with the genre’s vibe of sunny bleariness and warped serpentine samples, the album also incorporates a handful of other musical reference points, and for the most part, his songs are songs.
Bundick, who was busy creating a more traditional record consisting of bass, drums, and guitar, that leaned on indie-folk more than electronic anything, put the record on hold when Car Park entered the picture. Digging deep into his pocket of hip-hop childhood influences, and spilling just enough shoe gaze and French house into the runaway record, straight shot Bundick into the same company as pal Ernest Greene of Washed Out, and Neon Indian. And though tripping into the genre by accident, due to his wizardry of samples and melody, he doesn’t mind the comparisons because Bundick knows he has more to offer than just beachside grooves.
Causers offers a diverse blend of tracks, such as the lushly produced lead single “Blessa” that pulsates with shimmering strings, while “Minors” full-on sampled strings section shines like Panda Bear singing over a Jens Lekman track. And as Causers progresses, so does its sound and versatility, as spacier instrumentals on “Lissoms” (a better Neon Indian) and profound bass on the trippy treat “Freak Love”, shake you enough to make you queasy. But Bundick is best at what he knows best – and that’s hip hop and funk - in tracks “Thanks Vision” and “Talamak”. And by incorporating instrumentation, as in the piano-driven “Imprint Affair” or “Low Shoulder”, Bundick’s feel-it-all-around sound proves Toro y Moi will outlast the chillwave fad.
Catch Toro y Moi at the Empty Bottle Saturday, June 5. Read more for my exclusive interview with Chaz Bundick, below.
Marcie Garcia: Tell me about the more traditional record that you were making before Causers of This. Can we expect a release soon?
Chaz Bundick: I was doing a more traditional sounding instrumentation type record, all guitar and bass and drums, before Causers, yes. It should come out on Car Park and I’ll try to get it out this year, but time is running out, so I don’t know. I’m still touring, and expected to do like maybe a month of touring, but it’s turned out to be like six months.
Are you concerned that your fans, who are accustomed to a certain Toro y Moi sound, will be disappointed with a completely different record?
Well, I try to maintain a good balance between both sides of it so I think people are already familiar with the idea that I like to make traditional music, too. Hopefully when it comes out it’s not that big of a shock. In the end, if it’s good, it’s good. Hopefully.
Causes incorporates many levels of influences for you – how did you manage to blend them all together and make it work?
I’ve always liked those genres and take my favorite parts of them, like French house, the way of its repetition and stutterness of it, with hip hop. I love the idea of the swing beats and the tempos used, so I combine those two things and go from there.
Was it difficult branching out into so many different genres?
Not at all. When I first started using the computer to make music, my music and song writing sounded a lot different because the stuff you use can definitely change the way you write music and how you approach it. When I started writing for Causes, the first song I recorded was “Freak Love” and that was hip hop driven, so it was a little different than sounds you can incorporate on computers. It came from more the sounds in my head, than anywhere else. I was really into making a hip hop beat then and incorporating elements of shoe gaze, but I was just really experimenting. Once I found that tempo and the direction the album should go, it came together much easier.
With so many elements involved in each song, which song best represents Chaz?
Off the whole album, I guess they'd be “You Hid” and “Talamak”. Both are probably my top favorites. I remember when I finished “Talamak” it really made me happy to hear it because the first version I had of it was very muddy and sloppy sounding, so when I cleaned it up and made things fall into place, I really liked the way it turned out. “Talamak” is definitely one of the songs where I can see the progression because I have a lot of different versions of the song and that’s really cool to see.
How do you feel being grouped into the chillwave category and with your pal Washed Out?
Well, I wasn’t trying to do anything that different, but I can definitely see the comparisons and similarities. With Earnest’s style (Greene of Washed Out), we have this unwritten word that we can’t influence each other, but we would sit and make songs together and give each other ideas, and that was okay. There should be obvious similarities because we learned from each other, so I can see how that can be. Chillwave doesn’t bother me, it’s totally fine. I can see if someone doesn’t want to be categorized, but its fine with me.
What’s the song writing process like – how long before you’re satisfied and done?
It takes about a day or two, but one song that gave me the most problems was “Talamak” because it had so many different steps and different progressions. Then there’s also “Fax Shadow” – it was one of my favorite ones to make - working with that sample, and telling my head that I was going to make a hip hop sort of beat was pretty fun. In all it took about 2 months to finish Causers.
You went from playing solo to having a band for your live shows. What has that adjustment been like for you?
When I played solo, depending on the venue or who I was playing with, I could just pick a song a little more upbeat than the rest, or finish with a house song, but now I have a full band. We have a drummer and bassist and I’m still doing keyboards, samples and singing so, it gives it a very live feeling, which is what I want. I was used to being solo with the lap-toppers just back in August, but I wasn’t really comfortable with it. Ever since I was 15 I’ve been playing shows and never thought I’d be playing a laptop on stage, so it’s nice to be on stage with real instruments again and trying to recreate your songs live and procreate them.
There are pros and cons to it. Being solo I would have these long ten-minute improves, sort of like jam sessions. I would do whatever I felt. Now it’s sort of hard because you can’t read everybody’s mind at the same time and you have to practice it. We’ve only been together for a few weeks, but as a band, we want to get to the point where we can start reading each other’s eyes and knowing where to stop and where to end.. We’ll get it down.