Interview: Toro Y Moi

Chazwick Bundick aka Toro Y Moi is possibly the trendiest and most-talked-about master of the chillwave movement at the moment. The South Carolina-born artist of Filipino descent initially pursued his musical whims in school as a member of indie rock bands The Heist and The Accomplice. He eventually made friends with chillwave hero Ernest Greene aka Washed Out, got signed to Carpark Records and proceeded to release his debut effort in January 2010. Toro’s amazing Causers Of This got critics from all over the world taking notice.

His range of eclectic compositions, which seems to work for both the dancefloor and the couch, sees Toro creating an amalgam of sounds that embraces pop, rnb, Stones Throw hip hop and (uncharacteristically) Brian Wilson. All ears are now on Toro Y Moi as we wait for his 2nd album Underneath The Pine to drop this month. Said to be a new phase for a talent who defines his own category, if it’s anything as good as Causers Of This, we’re in for a real treat. We spoke to the man himself…

Hi Chaz, greetings from Malaysia! How’s 2011 been so far?
Hey, so far so good. We’re just working on the new live setup…we’ve added a new member.

So what was it like growing up as Chazwick Bundick?
(Laughs) Well…fun, not fun, easy, hard and exciting. I started getting involved in music at 8-that’s when I began taking piano lessons. And I started writing music at 12.

Amazing. What were you listening to in school?
The 1st CD I bought in elementary school was The Best Of The Beach Boys, but the 1st CD I ever got was the Godzilla soundtrack.

Do you still remember the very 1st song you wrote? How did that sound like?
Yeah, it was a bad pop punk song about a party and seeing a girl there. I never recorded it, but I still have the lyrics somewhere.

So what does Toro Y Moi mean anyway, and how exactly do you pronounce it?
Well, it’s half French and half Spanish. People get confused all the time, but it’s alright. It’s pronounced “mwah”.

Uhm, do people call you Toro?
Hah! Yeah, but then I tell them my name.

Causers Of This is one of our personal favourite albums of 2010. How’s Underneath The Pine going to measure up?
I think it’s better in some ways. But as of now, it’s my favourite thing I’ve done.

If you were to paint with your music, what image would you see?
I guess like layers and textures in music. So if it’s a simple song arrangement, I make sure it has enough to keep me interested in the recording and final product.

Do you sit back and listen to your own music at home?
Yeah (laughs). All the time. I know it’s bad and probably not suggested, but I critique my recordings often.

Fair enough. What’s new with your dance music project Les Sins?
Not much. I’ve been working on some stuff to put out for that. I may try to focus a little more on that once the tour is over.

So how well can you dance?
I think I’m okay. I used to dance a lot when I was a little kid. I can get funky if I get in the mood.

Are you more of a solo player or a collaborator?
Depends with who and what style of music. I think it’s easier for me to collaborate with someone who’s interested in electronic as opposed to pop/rock stuff. If I was to do something with guitar, I’d want it to sound weird.

Which is a favourite show you’ve played by far?
When we played in Poland, it made us feel super-accomplished and there were about 2000 people dancing, singing along and cheering after everything. Usually, it’s just the front crowd getting down.

Do you feel like a different person when you’re onstage?
Yeah, I get a confidence boost. I told myself that I’ve got to start giving a good show for this to be a successful career.

If you could be anywhere in the world now, where would you be?
I guess I like anywhere my friends are-Chicago, San Francisco or South Carolina.

What were you doing 10 years ago?
Well, I would’ve been 14 and skateboarding somewhere or playing the guitar in my room.

You have a great sense of style and you’ve done a little modelling on the side. Do you have a fashion icon?
Huh. I guess my uncle, cos he’s always had cool clothes. He always wears bold earth tones and “darks” that go well together.

What’s your favourite food to have around while making music?
Hmm…when I’m making stuff I forget to eat. I only eat when I finish something or take a break. Work, work, work…

If you could have dinner with 3 other artists, who would they be?
Rivers Cuomo [Weezer], [designer] Geoff McFetridge and [actor and comedian] Tim Heidecker.

What’s your latest indulgence?
Probably that bacon, brie and avocado sandwich I ate for breakfast. And this 70s bass I found at the thrift store.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this interview?
Working on music (smiles).

In 140 characters (like on Twitter), describe the real Chaz.
I don’t really tell you anything unless you ask me about it. And I’m trying to become less passive-aggressive. I think I’m winning.

Besides being successful in music, what are your hopes and dreams for 2011?
To find somewhere new to live and start learning to have fun.

Oh yeah, we need you to update your blog more often too…
Yeah, I know (laughs).

Image: Patrick Jeffords

Get more “mwah” at toroymoi.blogspot.com and www.myspace.com/toroymoi.