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Posted September 16, 2015 by Jeff in Tunes
 
 

Toro y Moi Spells it Out

Toro Y Moi
Toro Y Moi

Thanks to his acclaimed first few records, Toro y Moi became known as a pioneer of the chillwave genre. Toro y Moi’s newest album, What For?, with its vintage, ’70s rock feel represents a stylistic departure for singer-guitarist Chaz Bundick. Bundick, who’s now touring with a full band, has also just released “Pitch Black,” a noisy, off-kilter hip-hop tune with rapper Rome Fortune.

Can you talk about your background? When did you first start listening to music and what inspired you to want to play?
I grew up in South Carolina and it’s kind of what you expect. There’s a DIY scene. Columbia was a small college town so there’s lots of house shows. I rolled with the skater kids and sort of got into music through friends who skateboarded. I got interested in music that way. Growing up in South Carolina is pretty average. It’s like growing up in any other suburban city.

Were you listening to punk rock?
Yeah, sorta. I got into the Pixies and At the Drive-In — a lot of indie rock. I was obsessed with college radio. My first favorite bands were Weezer and Modest Mouse. It wasn’t until I went to college and got a laptop that I started making music on my laptop.

How exactly did the group come together?
Toro started early in my sophomore year in high school in 2002. I’ve had that name since then.

Your first few albums go through wild stylistic changes. Do you try to embrace different styles with each release?
I’ve always been into all types of music. I like how the Beatles and even Elliott Smith changed it up and did something different. Animal Collective does that too. Every record is different. That’s always been the motif — to not have the motif. I try to make sure I don’t do anything that sounds like the previous record. I don’t mind, as long as it’s a different sonic idea. The main goal is to try not to repeat myself.

When did you start writing the songs for What For? and what were you going for sonically?
I was going for a ’70s soft rock sound but not like yacht rock. I was really into Todd Rundgren. It’s got a groove but it’s not heavy rock. I’ve been into that music for a while. I started writing a few years prior to when the record came out.

Where did you go to record and what was that experience like?
We just recorded at my house. I recorded all my albums there. It’s just a regular bedroom. You’d be impressed by the quality you can get from a bedroom studio. The gear has changed. As a listener nowadays, there are things we let slip by that were faux pas in the ‘90s. We keep breaking the rules and the norm keeps changing. To the average listener it sounds great, but a mastering genius will know.

How’d you come up with the title of your new album?
It’s a nice question to ask when you’re doing anything. What is the point of it? A job is a job no matter what you’re doing. I’m not the only one who every once in a while gets jaded or feels like they’re stuck.

It’s one of those records that questions our actions and what exactly the goal is in order to be happy.

In the past, your songs have had to do with breakups. It doesn’t seem like too many songs on this record deal with that topic. Am I wrong about that?
You’re right. Usually, the best material comes from heartbreak or negative situations. That’s more relatable. This album I felt like I wanted more of an optimistic sound just because everything else had been Emo. It’s like trying to have some balance. The optimism in the music is the sad part. It’s hard to be optimistic all the time because that’s just life. So in a way, it’s kind of a sad album.

“Spell It Out” might be my favorite song on the album. It has a classic funk feel to it. Talk about its origins.
That song was influenced by Tim Maia. He has straight-up songs about world peace. I was stoned and I thought it would be so cool to write a song about world peace. If someone in the mainstream world would do it, I figured they would do it wrong because it’s mainstream music. I thought I would do my best attempt to write a pop song that’s about world peace without having to actually talk about world peace. It’s something that I really do wonder about. What the hell is wrong with people sometimes?

I think this was maybe the first album to debut on the charts. It must be satisfying to see the band’s popularity on the rise and your fans sticking with you.
It’s very gratifying. Acceptance is a weird thing. It’s what we’re striving for but once you get it, it’s like, “Now what?” I try to ignore it. It’ll either break down or build up my ego, which I’m trying to fight. With all of the most successful artists, they have an ego problem. The goal is to get the band as big as possible but still have some balance.

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Jeff

 
Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.