• About A Band: Toro Y Moi

    You may know him as Toro y Moi, or Les Sins, but in real life he goes by Chaz Bundick. The modern day singer/songwriter grew up in South Carolina, but now calls Berkeley, California home. His upcoming album, What For?, marked a change in his creative process, with guitar-based writing rather than keys, a creative challenge that forced him to write a different type of music while still keeping the original Toro y Moi sound.

    We spent the day with Chaz to stroll around Berkeley, talk to him more about the new album, and learn why he says touring is less like a month-long party and more like summer camp. 
    Photos by Daniel Dent

    What can we expect from your new album, What For? How is it the similar and different from your last album?
    I guess it’s just more guitar-based songwriting. I feel like a lot of the stuff before was written on keys. I found myself writing songs a certain way whenever I would approach the piano. I wanted to make my music drastically different and still have it be me, so I tried a different approach. I felt like it turned out to be something I was happy with.

    What is your creative process like? 
    I started on guitar completely. I would write a song all the way through without thinking about production. As opposed to before I would always have production in mind immediately from the get-go about what kind of style it would be. This way was fun because I didn’t know what kind of song it would be until it was time to add the next instrument outside of guitar and vocals. 

    When you’re creating material for both Toro y Moi and Les Sins, how does that work? Do you have an idea in mind, and automatically know which it should fall under?
    The whole purpose of having different monikers is so I can have that freedom to make whatever I want and have it live under the appropriate name just so that no one is being alienated. I won’t feel like I’m being pigeonholed, and the listener doesn’t have to feel like the music is so different that they don’t like it. The listener is always going to have expectations, they always put something under a genre, so you might as well do it for them and help them out. So like, "This is going to be my more dance stuff, and this is going to be more pop-oriented stuff." It’s sort of just making it obvious for them.

    You've done a fair amount of remixes in the past. Where are you at with that now?
    I’ve slowed down on doing remixes. The only main reason for doing a remix is for some sort of financial gain or publicity, so I don’t want to put my artistic integrity on the line just to make some extra cash. From the get-go I always want to put out something I’m proud of with nothing dangling from the strings. I’ve learned to say no more to opportunities like that because in the long run it’s better for me. People don’t want someone who’s just doing remixes. There’s a reason James Blake isn’t doing a bunch of remixes. It’s because he respects his music and he knows listeners do the same. If you want to be the next blog buzz remix guy, by all means that’s very possible. I feel like it’s something you have to start saying no to—it’s more of a newcomer right-of-passage thing. 

    It's interesting to hear about musicians having pre-fame friends and collaborators that also rose to notoriety around the same time, as with you and Ernest Greene (Washed Out). Is it random, and just because the two happened to be super successful, or is it more about having that peer to learn from and grow with?
    It’s funny how that works. It’s kind of both. Surrounding yourself with the right people, and also the people you surround yourself with will just grow with you. I kind of feel like I’m always trying to meet as many people as possible and find as many people to grow with as possible. When I was growing up in South Carolina, the scene was so small. Whenever you encountered another musician, you immediately would want to hang out and make music with them. But now that I’m surrounded by so many musicians, I sort of find myself trying to meet as many non-musicians as possible. 

    To try and grow in new ways?
    Yeah, to try and find balance. Once you start surrounding yourself with people who are exactly the same as you, there’s not as much that you can take from it aside from different stories you can tell to each other. I find myself sitting around more non-entertainment related people so I can learn something new and gain more insight. I think that’s more of a challenge: finding people that I can relate to that aren’t in the same field as me. It’s something a lot of people forget about. Even though the person isn’t in the same occupation as you, they still have a lot of great ideas they can bring to the table.

    Talk to us about Berkeley. What’s the creative community like there?
    I’m not really too involved in a lot of the artistic community here, but it’s definitely got specific sections. The older folk-art crowd, where all the older hippies are. And then the younger student-type thing going on. I sort of just do my thing at home and then leave for tour. But from what I’ve seen it’s really strong. No one in Berkeley tries to have the hippest restaurant in town. There aren’t even that many art galleries here. The ones that are here are mainly owned and operated by the older demographic. But it’s definitely still healthy. I appreciate it because there is one—I just don’t really participate in it.

    You have a big tour coming up, with a number of international stops. What are your favorite aspects of playing for a foreign audience? 
    My favorite thing is just that. Playing in front of them is my favorite thing—it’s my job. I’m super fortunate to be able to do that and make a living off of it. So there’s no real favorite part, it’s all good. I really just try to take it in all at the same time and try to appreciate it.

    Do you have any memorable tour stories?
    Tour is like the time where we all sort of get to go back to summer camp. We all live in the same city—my band—and we’ve all been friends since high school. So when we go on tour we actually get to know each other again and talk to each other. When we’re home, I’m pretty much in solitary and locked away. Kind of just hauling ass and not talking to anybody. So tour is nice. But none of us really party, so there’s nothing crazy going on. It’s just a good time to catch up.

    Do you have a favorite city to play?
    Our favorite cities to play are mainly the ones that have our friends there. We really like Atlanta and San Francisco. The bigger cities tend to have more critics there, which makes the show a little uncomfortable. But the shows out in nowhere, like El Paso, with just a bunch of students that are ready to dance, those ones are great.

    What hobbies do you have that your fans might not know about?
    I try to exploit my hobbies as much as possible [laughs]. So everything I do you probably know about. I like to do photography, draw, play music, and jam with other bands. I have a dog too that I like to go on hikes with. It’s nice to explore and take in nature. It’s something I think a lot of people don’t get a chance to do. I didn’t really get a chance to until I moved out to California. And that’s when I was 24 or 25. I think it’s something everyone should try.

    If you could re-score any film ever, which would it be?
    I don’t know. I feel like I have to say just the crappiest movie so I can make it good. Probably just Gigli or something.

    Is that your final answer?
    Yeah, Gigli. If you saw it but then people are like "Yeah, but the soundtrack is so good!" you’d still go see it, right?

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