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Upfront: Toro Y Moi

The evolution of Chaz Bundick

Words by Kish Lal

When I asked Chaz Bundick how much money he’d have if for every time he was asked about chillwave he got a dollar, he laughed and said, “Oh man, I’d be a millionaire I guess”. He’s lighthearted and far from resentful though, simply happy that he got to be part of a wave. For the most part, Bundick’s music has morphed into something of a hybrid of ’70s funk, psychedelic rock, and sometimes house, neatly packaged away under different monikers – Les Sins, Plum, and most famously Toro Y Moi.

We spoke on the phone at the beginning of his Australian tour, the first time he’s been here since 2013. A few days after we spoke, Bundick unleashed his now infamous tweets, in which he wrote, “We’re all a lil racist” and that “Racism isn’t the issue, violence is”. The tweets have now been deleted and he’s made a lengthy apology, which remains pinned to his profile. For many of his fans it was a sure relief that he saw the error of his ways, while the rest of the internet grapples with whether Toro Y Moi is cancelled. My conversation with Bundick didn’t stray far from his expectations of the tour, his love for house music, and his affinity with nature but it’ll be interesting to see what he does next.

Hey Chaz! Excited to have you back down under. I was looking at your schedule and you’re playing at a zoo in Brisbane!?

Yeah, at first I wasn’t sure if that was the name of the venue or an actual zoo?

Honestly, me too. I double checked and it’s definitely a zoo.

I’ve always wanted to play at a zoo [laughs]. It’s officially my first zoo gig.

I’m actually most excited about this late night DJ set you’re going to play in Melbourne after you fly in from Sydney right before you head off to Pitch. Do you hate taking time off?

[Laughs] I do like time off but it just panned out that way. I wanted to DJ while I was down here but there weren’t many free slots so we had to pack it in. But I like to [DJ] because I get to see a different side to the culture of whichever city I’m in. Usually when I just play a venue it’s kind of cut and dry – you see the hotel and the venue. If I do a DJ set I can go mingle with people and see the nightlife in a different perspective. And I just like house music. I’ll mostly be playing house, techno, deep house, anything 4/4 pretty much.

Your musical output changes and grows a lot like a music fan’s tastes and preferences grow. Usually if a musician changes their sound they can come up against a lot of flak but it seems like you’ve found a loophole and people don’t seem to question you too much.

[Laughs] I feel like my music stems from the same places no matter what genre it ends up as. Usually I don’t stray too far from R&B, psychedelic, or even just black music in general, whether it is house, Detroit house, techno, or old ’70s funk. It’s kind of always been based around black music really. That’s the most underlying cohesiveness that I’m doing for Toro.

Has the process from making chillwave to psychedelic rock to house stayed the same?

No, actually. I like to change up every song almost, or every project. Whether it be changing the recording style, changing the instruments, or changing the cadence of my voice – I just try to go somewhere new that will keep it interesting for me too.

If you had a dollar for every time you were asked about chillwave do you think you’d be a millionaire, billionaire, or a trillionaire?

[Laughs] Oh man, I think I’d be a millionaire, I guess. But being part of a wave is good. I’m glad I caught that wave.

Speaking of waves, you filmed Live From Trona in a desert without an audience and your good friend Nosaj Thing just recorded a Boiler Room set in the Dubai desert without an audience. Is he catching the same wave you’ve been on?

[Laughs] If anything, I may have subconsciously influenced that but he’s my homie. It’s awesome to see that people are going in that direction with content in general because it’s just going to keep pushing the boundaries [away] from that normal click-bait shit.

Next thing you know you’re going to start being called the Godfather of Desert-wave.

Or Godfather of Content? [Laughs]

Do you think you’ll ever recreate Live From Trona for an audience?

In a sense, you know, even when we’re here in Australia it’s the same six-piece lineup so that’s exactly what we’re playin. That exact set and some other funky stuff. That’s the whole goal of that movie; to showcase the band aspect and now we’re touring it.

So I want to talk about your involvement with the Our First 100 Days campaign. How did that happen? Did you make Omaha specifically for the project?

They just reached out and I submitted that track. It was one of those songs I had laying around that I didn’t think I would really finish an album of that style, so it was a single I just wanted to get off my chest and it was very topical as well.

It’s a great campaign and the money from it is going to really great causes.

I’m not much of an activist so I don’t have too much to say outside of what’s expected of my opinions of what’s going on in the States right now. It’s my way of showing I do care. I do think that awareness needs to be brought to people’s attention.

On March 31st you’re releasing the record, Chaz Bundick Meets The Mattson 2 Star Stuff. After your Australian tour you’re heading back to the US tour for that. Do you ever stop touring?

It’s not that bad compared to what I used to [laughs]. It’s just a two week thing.

Is touring something you still enjoy?

I think my limit is just… shorter [laughs]. I can still tour, I just can’t go away for three months at a time anymore. My time is getting split up different ways and it’s a bit hectic to have a personal life these days so I’m just trying to balance that out. I do love playing shows and that’s the best perk of this whole job – sharing that experience with people and I get paid to go all over the world, so why not?

I had a look at the venues you’re playing and one of them is Duke’s Coffeehouse. That’s the type of venue most people start off playing in.

I guess you could say that’s a pretty historic venue. It’s not really a coffeehouse, it’s definitely a venue that serves coffee but it’s one of those spots I used to play in during high school and it’s just a nice little college town that always has a good music scene. People still buy tickets there, so I told them I wanted to play there.

Do you like intimate shows?

That tour, because it’s such a smaller project, I’m not sure how big this is going to be but I still wanted to play without the giant logistics of a Toro tour, so it’s a middle ground.

You’re always talking about how music is just a hobby for you and that’s something you tell yourself to keep it fresh and fun. It’s 2017, is music still a hobby for you?

Hell yeah [laughs].

 

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Kish Lal is a contributor for ACCLAIM. She’s a lady on the streets and lacks impulse control in the tweets. Don’t @ her – @kish_lal

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