When we speak, Toro y Moi (AKA Chaz Bundick) is in a van speeding down the highway towards Los Angeles, where he and his band will be performing on Jimmy Kimmel Live! the following night. Bundick is at the tail end of a long run of shows, and this is one of his last stops before taking a break over the holidays ahead of the Big Day Out. He’s a man in demand and is clearly feeling the strain of life on the road. His last album, Anything In Return, was his biggest yet, taking the woozy melodies and hazy electronics of Toro y Moi to an all-new level. A higher profile, however, means lots of touring, and lots of touring makes for a tired Toro.
I try to get the conversation started with a little light chat about video games – scratch the surface of most electronic musicians and you’re likely to find a nerdy suburban teen who spent the better part of the 2000s huddled over a PS2. I ask Bundick if he was much of a gamer in that era, and if perhaps any key elements of video game soundtracks might perhaps have worked their way into the music he makes now. “Was I a gamer?” he asks. “No, not really. I mean, I had a PlayStation growing up, but that’s about it. If anything, I’d say I was more into sports; football and things like that. I didn’t really start listening to electronic music until college, though.”
Fair enough. We’re probably not going to be trading any anecdotes about Final Fantasy X, so I press on in a different direction. Anything In Return has way more of a loose, R&B and hip hop sound than anything Bundick has recorded before, and I wonder if he was listening to a lot of that music when he started work on the record. “I was, yeah,” he replies. “I was listening to a lot of The-Dream, and a lot of Kanye, and a lot of older stuff too, stuff from the ’90s.” Would he one day be interested in producing for a Kanye or a Kendrick Lamar? “Yeah, that’s never really been proposed, but I’m down for working with anybody as long as I’m into their stuff.”
Anything In Return is that little bit bolder, that little bit louder than the music that Bundick has made in the past. “I was really just thinking about finding groovy beats and making fun songs,” he says. One particular thing on his mind, however, was the need to play the songs live. “Whenever I’m making music in the studio, I’m always thinking about how it’s going to be performed. I mostly focus on sonics, so it’s sort of fun to think of ways to make the music sound good live, the way it does on the record.”
In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Bundick said he was starting to feel a little bit bored of electronic music – that it was beginning to feel more like work than the hobby it has always been, and that he was contemplating making a different kind of record altogether. It’s a new direction that Bundick expects to embark on soon. “I think there are always lots of sounds that I still want to experiment with. It’s hard to say right now, but I am always open to trying new things in different genres.” So is he working on anything right now? “Nothing in particular,” he says, “I’m just working on relaxing right now – that’s definitely in the works.”
BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN
Photo: Andrew Paynter.
Toro Y Moi plays Big Day Out with Pearl Jam, Arcade Fire, Beady Eye, Snoop Dogg AKA Snoop Lion, Major Lazer, Flume, Tame Impala, Bliss n Eso and more at Sydney Showgrounds on Sunday January 26. Toro Y Moi will be joined by Portugal. The Man for a sideshow at The Hi-Fi on Wednesday January 29.