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Exclusive 1st Listen

Toro y Moi

Chaz Bundick's second release as Toro Y Moi, Underneath the Pine, comes out in two weeks. In honor of this exclusive preview of the album, we caught up the 24-year-old South Carolina native to talk inspirational Tupac napkins and why he let us make his video.

Interview
Underneath the Pine comes out in two weeks. What do you think is the best way for people to listen to the album?
I always like to listen to music while driving, especially at night, but I think all music sounds good that way. It's good "walking around" music, with more traditional songs than Causers [of This] because there are live instruments this time.

When did you start working on this album?
I pretty much started writing it right when Causers [of This] came out. I feel like I always go to the same place lyrically; it's about those same people: friends, family, girlfriends. I'm trying to change my approach to lyrics, because people change, but I still don't know where I'm going just yet. When I recorded "Good Hold"—it was the first song I recorded for the album— it was a good icebreaker for the whole thing, because I hadn't recorded on regular instruments for so long.

You were influenced by film scores, so which are your favorites?
I ended up finding this crazy old Italian film online, called La Ragazza or something, with a soundtrack by Piero Umiliani. Once I found out who he was, I started looking up his stuff and it's just all amazing. The Italian guys have amazing, moving stuff. There's also a French composer whose stuff is so hard it almost sounds like hip-hop—he takes the liberty of looping himself by playing something repetitively, not by using electronics. I got into composers, and then I'd get in deeper to find out what else they've done, and suddenly they were influences.

This month you're headed for Australia. What are you most excited about this tour?
I think I'm getting used to touring, so I'm just excited for the possibility of visiting all seven continents. There are seven, right? Aside from Antarctica, I guess. We're going to Australia, then we're going to South America this year, so it would be awesome to do Asia and even Africa.

What do you miss about South Carolina when you're on the road?
The weather—though it gets pretty hot and sticky in the summer—the food, the people. All of those things, for sure.

Do you like to bring anything with you from home when you head out?
I have some Gamecock memorabilia from my school and some T-shirts that say South Carolina University. I'm a light packer.

You were pretty young when you started writing music. Was learning to play instruments your idea or your parents'?
A combination of both. My mom made me take piano lessons at age eight and I really hated it. I ended up not practicing and just writing and making stuff up, but that led me to want to record the things I would make up.

What albums were you into back then?
Back then, the main ones were probably Weezer, I think I had an Everclear album, the Godzilla soundtrack from the Matthew Broderick remake. They didn't really influence my writing, but they got me started. My earlier stuff definitely wanted to be Weezer songs.

What about now?
I really like the electronic group called Motor City Drum Ensemble and another group called Soul Clap and another called Ozone that's pretty cool. I still listen to Michael Jackson as well.

What's the most embarrassing song on your iPod?
I think I have some Thursday on there—I've been trying to get that off for the longest time.

When we talked to you in Austin last year, you told us Toro Y Moi was a name you made up during a car ride with your parents. Was that just a really boring car ride or did something spark the name?
That whole weekend I was trying to think of something. I don't know exactly what I saw, but something sparked it. I liked to doodle band names and logos—I would draw the Weezer "W" all over everything—and the letters in Toro Y Moi looked cool as a drawing.

Speaking of drawing, you have a graphic design degree. Does being a visual person influence how you write music?
Last night I was recording this '80s funk song, and I think that being a visual person helps me decide what I want to happen—what colors I want to use, where the placement will be. It helps when it comes to recording, because I've already starting thinking about what's going to go where, what reverbs I'll use—there's definitely a connection there.

What made you decide to let Urban Outfitters make your video?
What appealed to me about deciding to work with Urban for the video was knowing the amount of exposure it would get, and the fact that we had a decent budget to fit our needs. I talked to the videographer about several ideas, and we ended up with something that was both cinematic and fun.

What can you tell us about the video?
Well, I can tell you we'll be performing in it. As for a narrative, it kind of just has an '80s dance movie vibe.

What is one of your favorite music videos?
I can see it now, it's one of the Michael Jackson videos. He's dancing in front a smoke machine and laser lights in an all-sequin jumpsuit.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?
The drummer of our band has a signed napkin by Tupac, so I'll say Tupac once told my friend to "keep his head up." So I keep my head up.