Interview :: Chaz Bundick on Toro Y Moi, Les Sins and ‘What For?’
May 1st 2015
Loosely exploring the themes of love, beauty and nature, Toro Y Moi teaches us the importance of being a good human with his latest record, What For?
South Carolina artist Chaz Bundick has just dropped his fourth studio album, under his longstanding moniker, Toro Y Moi.
The first release since, Michael – his debut record as Les Sins – Bundick continues to captivate his audience by simultaneously venturing into new sonic territories, whilst showcasing his distinctive production style.
Opening the ten-track record with the velocity of a buzzing racecar engine, the title track follows with an alien assortment of guitars and drums, bound together by the adhesive of Bundick’s appropriated vocals and underlying synth arrangements. A composition that deviates from previous Toro Y Moi records, we as an audience agree to fill the invitational car spot, and trust that Bundick’s new creative avenue will see us partake in an excitingly bold journey.
Having recorded, What For? completely live over an eight month period in his Californian studio, Bundick constructed the LP with the help of his touring associates, as well as album collaborators Ruban Nielson (The Mint Chicks, Unknown Mortal Orchestra) and multi-instrumentalist Julian Lynch. Acknowledging the effort and versatility poured into What For?, Bundick has once again impressed us with his perpetual thirst for experimentation and exploration.
Shortly after its Australian release, Hannah Galvin had the pleasure of discussing What For? alongside other artistic projects with the man behind it all.
You’ve been working under the Toro Y Moi moniker consistently for five years. What inspired the Les Sins project?
Chaz: I was listening to a lot of house music at the time. There’s so many things that influenced that album, from house music now, to house music two years ago, to [laughs] stuff from the 80s, but really I was just focusing on production and actual sonics; and you know, how deep the bass can get, and how high the highs can get, so I was just messing with different frequencies in the realm of dance music. I kinda felt like I wanted to do a more accessible take on what I like right now.
Were any of the tracks on Michael originally to be released under Toro Y Moi?
No, they were all sort of written in the mindset of making dance music or in the mindset of just making electronic music. It wasn’t really like I was thinking, “Oh this isn’t a good Toro song, I’ll just give it to Les Sins.” I wasn’t thinking like that at all.
Your new record What For? is really guitar driven and has seen you working with a much different sound. Was this intentional or something that has happened organically?
A bit of both. I kind of wanted to take the music there and I’m also a fan of that kind of music. I’ve been listening to guitar stuff since I was a teenager, so either it was just a coincidence or it was just my luck that Toro blew up as a more electronic thing, as opposed to guitar based. I like all kinds of music so I felt like I was bound to make an album more guitar focused, eventually.
I know many artists don’t necessarily enjoy being tied to one genre. What is your stance on this?
I don’t feel pigeonholed, I just like music that I think is good, I guess. Like I don’t mind labelling, but it’s necessary you know? I don’t feel pigeonholed by it at all. I kind of know now what not to do again, because I think when artists repeat themselves it’s lazy and they’re probably just getting comfortable.
I feel like if you had to associate Toro Y Moi, it would be deemed “chillwave” or the like, but I feel as though the new record has taken you out of that completely. Would you agree?
Oh thanks! I guess, I mean I can’t really say, just cause whenever I was making a Toro album, I wasn’t thinking like I should be breaking out of some box. But I see what you’re saying, I guess this album is just very different considering it has guitars and it’s all live.
What is the story behind the title of, What For?
That was just a question that I would ask myself, especially since becoming more successful in music, like becoming more recognised. Something I think of often is longevity and/or just being aware of your work. Also knowing that there’s an honest motivation behind creating something; whether that be music or a building or just a random piece of pottery, it should be coming from an honest place. So I guess that’s a theme that I touched on for the whole record.
Would you say that’s the main focus that unfolds as you listen to the record?
Oh, somewhat. I mean all the songs are so different lyrically, but in a general sense, yes, it’s all about just having your priorities set and going with the flow of things and learning to choose your battles, learning to be a good human.
What For? also features collaborators, Julian Lynch and Ruban Nielson. As their own respective artistry shines through the album, were they chosen aesthetically or for more personal reasons?
Ruban I’ve known for a while, since we went on tour together in like 2011. We’d been talking about working on music together. When he came over to do ‘Half Dome’, that was like a one in a million sort of thing that happened, because he just happened to be in town and I happened to be working on the record, and he’d planned to come over. It worked out so perfectly, you know, we tried to meet up before our schedules were both so crazy.Ruban I admire hugely, because his taste is on point. I think he’s doing good stuff for music; and same for Julian Lynch.
Julian Lynch is one person I really want to work with in the future. We hung out just in his hometown of Madison in Wisconsin a couple of times. Every time we were in Madison we’d call up Julian, cause he’s an awesome person to be around, so yeah.
How did you craft those songs with them? Did you just jam together and they happened?
The lyrics of the songs that they played on were already pretty much done. When Ruban came over, I just played the song and was like, “So I’m thinking if you play a lead part here, and I’m hoping maybe you or someone else can sing on this part here,” so he pretty much did that. Same for Julian, I was like, “I’m looking for some horns right here, and maybe mess with them later,” so that’s what he did. So it was pretty straightforward, but also pretty different, because Ruban was in person and Julian was over email.
Can we expect an Australian visit sometime soon?
Possibly within a year. I think so, I’m not sure. Hopefully we get on that next festival round and we can be there in February.
Plans for the remainder of 2015?
Yeah! I’m just going to tour this record and see where it goes.
Toro Y Moi’s What For? is out now on Mistletone Records.
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