Since 2010, Chaz Bundick has guided Toro y Moi through a constant state of metamorphosis, from the lo-fi chillwave summer of 2010 to his most fully-realised creation yet: this year’s esteemed, pop-infused third album Anything in Return. When Chaz picks up my call, he’s en route to LA. He’s also in the midst of brainstorming for the fourth record. Walking and talking, the softly spoken singer-writer-producer takes us through the evolution of his eclectic sounds, his relationship with pop music, and the direction he might launch off into next. At this point, it seems that the ever-morphing Toro y Moi could be going anywhere – and that’s an exciting prospect for fan and artist alike.
Hey Chaz, how’s your day going?
It’s alright. I just got off the train and I’m about to head into LA.
Because you’re playing Jimmy Kimmel tomorrow night, right? That’s huge.
Yeah, that’s right. These TV appearances are kind of new to me. [Laughs.]
Earlier this year you released your third LP, Anything in Return, which you envisioned as your take on a pop record. What made you take this direction?
Umm, I don’t know. Just trying to play something different – I like to change it up every record.
Your sound has changed and evolved so much since the chillwave era of circa 2010 with your debut album Causers of This.
You know, when it comes to that kind of music, I think everything gets maximised – like, ‘I’m going to need a bit more colour’ – and my influences are a little bit broader, I guess. I’m into different sorts of house music and R&B now, so that’s definitely a big influence.
Because you mash a whole spectrum of genres, eras and influences, you’ve always been difficult to pigeonhole. What’s the worst label you’ve seen someone describe you with?
Oh, I have no idea. [Laughs.] I don’t know.
Do you avoid the blogosphere?
I don’t avoid it, but I don’t really participate in that stuff. I’m sort of straight to the point – I listen to whatever’s on there and then listen to the next page. But it’s fun to read comments. I mean, I don’t like commenting on stuff, but it’s funny to see what people say to me every once in a while.
Like the other day I saw someone call you “Bruno Mars’ way more mellow cousin.”
[Laughs.] Yeah. I think he’s Filipino, too.
In a recent interview you talked about moving onto a new sound again for the next record, which is a curveball fans have learned to anticipate. Where do you think you’ll head for this album?
I haven’t even actually started the new record – we only finished the tour last week. But other than that, I’m trying to find my influences right now and I’ve started listening to a lot more music: everything from like house and funk to psychedelic rock.
Just something different – something with a different factor to it. I don’t know, you want your music to stand out and you want it to be sonically up to par with everything else out there. Lately I’ve heard a lot of good production on guitar-based music, like Surfer Blood and Real Estate.
When I saw you live I was surprised at how instrumental and big everything sounded in the flesh with the live band. From starting as a solo bedroom producer, how much has the set up changed?
It’s changed a lot, I mean I used to be one guy with a laptop onstage. But right when I started doing that – and I mean I didn’t want to do that – it was a setup I was never really familiar with or comfortable with.
I’ve always wanted to be in a band. When I was solo, it was just me not even thinking how I was going to play it live when I was making these songs. So I think the big thing is that we’re a five-piece band now, and that’s definitely influenced the new songs being that they’re made to be played live.
And the band – some of them are your old roommates, right?
Yeah. The drummer, we used to live together in college, but we all live with significant others now. We’re big boys. [Laughs.]
Whereas some artists chase the zeitgeist and whatever is trending, you seem to deliberately do the opposite. Is that a conscious decision to go against what people expect from you, or simply what’s popular?
Oh, yeah. It’s always a good move to do whatever everyone’s not doing. It’s always sort of the motivation – to do something that isn’t popular or something that’s not being popularised.
In saying that, you freely “admit” you’re a big fan of pop and that you really like Taylor Swift. Do you think pop music has become less of a dirty word?
For sure. There’s always going to be bad pop music out there, but there’s that in every kind of music, really. I think house had a dirty name for a while, like people thought it was just boring, but now hip-hop artists are using house beats in all their songs and everything like that. It’s pretty weird how things get popular.
Would you ever want to break into the true mainstream? Like if Justin Bieber offered you a guest spot, or something.
Yeah, totally. That’d be dumb not to take an opportunity like that. If that ever came up I’m sure I’d try it.
What would be off-limits?
Just anything that I wouldn’t listen to on an everyday basis. Like, if someone asked me to play a Christian song I wouldn’t even attempt it.
You’re coming back to Australia early next year in the middle of our summer for Big Day Out. This will be your third time on our shores – how have you found it here so far?
It’s really great. Really chill. I think we have a couple days off this time, I can’t remember. We’re really not that busy or anything – we’re only there to play the shows and then we go with the other bands and hang out. Usually we just go walk around the cities. It’s somewhat similar to LA. It’s hard to describe.
What are your plans for 2014?
Just working on tonnes of music. Working on the album. Working on other projects like Les Sins, and doing some design-based stuff, too.
Sounds busy – we look forward to seeing it all come together! Thanks for the chat and good luck on Kimmel.
Thanks! Talk to you later.
Toro y Moi’s third album Anything in Return is out now through Carpark Records. You can also stalk Chaz through SoundCloud, Facebook and Twitter before Toro y Moi come back to Australia in January for Big Day Out 2014.
Also, along with Big Day Out and MTV, ACCLAIM is presenting the Toro y Moi Big Day Out sideshow with Portugal. The Man. Tour dates: