Interview by Julian Vu (a re-run to preview his BLACK CAT SHOW this Sunday)
You probably already know that Toro y Moi, one of Columbia, South Carolina-based Chaz Bundick’s musical projects rides those chill waves pretty hard. As of recent, his band has taken a departure from the washy, filtered electronic sounds, and translated these songs into a live setting more reminiscent of Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters, Grant Green, Gil-Scott Heron or any handful of the great 70’s jazz musicians. Don’t believe me? Try listening to his latest release, “Underneath the Pine”, which is soaked in 70’s jazz-funk elements like the Rhodes-work on “Still Sound”, or the syncopated basslines or snare-work of “New Beat”. We sat down and spoke with Chaz about touring with his new band and the writing process.
BYT: So you guys are out on your how’s that been going so far?
CHAZ: Very busy, but fun.
BYT: You guys played SXSW, how was that? Most of the bands I know who play either really love it, or really hate it because of bad soundchecks and other logistical problems. Was it fun for you?
CHAZ: Yeah, we sort of it enjoy it actually. I guess we hate it too. A bit of both.
BYT: So you guys are playing DC this thursday. Did you have a good time last time you were in town?
CHAZ: Yeah I think that was one of our first shows as a full band, so it was varied in a way, but yeah we got through it.
BYT: Tell us about your recording process. I know you’re from Columbia, South Carolina. I’d like to believe that you have this cabin in the woods for recording but you probably just do it in your bedroom or so. Tell us how the songs come about.
CHAZ: Yeah, I’ve just got this little gear setup at my house. When it comes to writing songs, I usually start with piano or guitar. Sometimes I’ll have a beat and mess around with stuff on top of that. Lyrics are usually the last thing that I do.
BYT: Do you hate the term chillwave?
CHAZ: No, I’m just tired of being asked about it, that’s all.
BYT: Could you maybe talk about some of the non-musical influences in your songs? Like, do you watch a lot of 80’s movies or infomercials from the 80’s? Or even art? I know you’re a graphic designer.
CHAZ: Yeah, I’m into that. We just recently went to a comic book store and I’m really into the Heavy Metal comic magazines. The stuff doesn’t really influence my sound, I don’t think, it’s just that it’s pretty. [Musically] Somewhat insatiable, but to me, more 70’s stuff for sound. I’m really into a lot of music from the 70’s.
BYT: When you’re playing live, you’ve got the whole band setup. Would you say that response is good compared to the one-man thing that you used to do. I realize that the songs are different from Underneath the Pine and Causers of This, but even the older songs have been reinterpreted. Have people told you that they miss the old (solo-electronic) way of you doing your songs?
CHAZ: Yeah, I’ve been getting really good response. It’s going over really well, that was one of the concerns we had with how to make a better live show.
BYT: Do you prefer one to another?
CHAZ: Oh yeah, I prefer the band. It’s 100 times better.
BYT: You’re pretty awesome at genre-hopping. The two albums have a distinctively different sound, and they’re unified by your trademark voice. And your Les Sins project is dancy, but different too. Do you plan on exploring a completely new genre, or do you want to explore the ones you’ve already explored even deeper?
CHAZ: I might try to explore some things that I’ve already touched on. Really, I like where I am right now, but I don’t know yet.
BYT: At one point in your life, were you ever a DJ? Or have you always been a straightforward musician?
CHAZ: I started out on the instrument side of music. I actually just started DJing in the past couple of years.
BYT: Do you do all vinyl? Or do you just rip your tracks into the computer?
CHAZ: Yeah sure. I use Serato sometimes, or Traktor. I’m not really a DJ, so I don’t have a preference.
BYT: What I was trying to get at was, the amount of vinyl you collect. Do you deliberately look for music when you’re out on tour?
CHAZ: Yeah, I haven’t really messed around with vinyl I guess. At some point, music started to come out on vinyl. I didn’t get it at first. I always understood the sound quality was better, but I didn’t really buy into it. I thought it was almost too kitschy for some reason. But I understand vinyl has always sounded better. I think that once my record came out, I started to understand that it’s really valuable and a lot more tangible than a CD. The sound of wax is just awesome.
BYT: A lot of your influences pull from earlier stuff. Do you dig for old stuff when you’re out on tour?
CHAZ: Yeah, I look for that stuff all the time. I think the sound quality is what I like the most about music. When I listen to 80’s music, I listen to how the drums sound, or how the reverb sound. Or with 70’s music, I listen to how dry the drums can be, or how something is panned. I listen more for production than for the actual song.
BYT: Do you have a favorite piece of equipment for recording/songwriting?
CHAZ: I like the [Electro-Harmonix] Memory Man with Hazerai. It’s a pretty cool pedal.
BYT: Cool. Thanks for chatting with us.