Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundick has been notoriously hard to define for music journalists since he exploded onto the blogosphere in 2009 with his sexy, eclectic sound. He’s made music described as everything from synth-pop to bizarro-funk, and even drove music writers to coin the genre ‘chillwave’ in the summer of 2010. With his new album Anything in Return out now, Chaz has headed in another direction again, setting out to create a pure pop album which his girlfriend would like. She does – and from what we’ve heard she won’t be alone. Chaz chats with Jessy Edwards about the day-to-day of creating a new album, playing with genre, and how to make the Internet more interesting.
Hello Chaz. What are you up to at the moment?
Oh I just got home from LA. I DJed last night and I just got in.
I saw you play at Laneway festival at the beginning of the year in Melbourne. Do you remember that show?
Oh yeah Laneway was really cool. I like how you get to chill with other bands and sort of just hang out.
Your previous album really suited that festival vibe – fun, summery, sexy kind of feel. With the new album Anything in Return, where did you see it living when you wrote it? Who’s listening to it in your mind’s eye?
In my mind’s eye I guess I was picturing teenagers and I guess people in their 20-something’s who still wish they were teenagers.
With your new album you said to Pitchfork that your girlfriend, who loves pop, was sort of the litmus test for its success
So how is it different from your other two studio albums?
I guess I just wanted to make some pop music and see what happens, like, if it catches on to big audiences. I wanted to make something that wasn’t dumbed down or anything – I wanted to at least have it be intelligent and fun.
Did your GF love it?
Yeah she likes it a lot. [Laughs.] She probably likes Cake the most. My favorite song is Say That.
It’s good to like your own music
Yeah. I’m not gonna make anything that I don’t like.
No – that seems very wrong. How did you choose So Many Details for the first single?
I picked that one cos it was completely opposite to everything I’ve ever done. I thought it would catch everybody off guard. This next album is completely different as well, without scaring them away. Like, I could have put out something a little more ambitious but I think people might have been put off. Sometimes people like to get their feet wet like, “Ok, heard that, wonder what the rest of the album is going to sound like?”
So it’s a bait song?
Reading up on previous interviews, bloggers have described you with many, many genres, some that I don’t even recognise. With Anything in Return you said you set out to make a pop album. Do you like working to genres, or do you find them restrictive?
No way. I like working with a lot of different genres. They’re not really restrictive – I don’t think of them like that, I think of them more as destinations you know, like where do you wanna go with this? You might start off being pretty genre-less, but I usually like to take it somewhere. If it’s too weird people aren’t gonna get it or something – it can just be kinda a lost song.
Tell us about Les Sins. Would you say it is your dance music identity?
Yeah it’s just my project to make dance music and sort of just do instrumental stuff if I want; I’ve been working on a lot of that stuff.
It’s also really cool in it’s own right and I think it’s interesting that it could exist as an artist completely separately without the public knowing that it’s Chaz.
Yes. Being anonymous is fun but I don’t know, Les Sins is not anonymous to most anymore. It’s kind of too late for that.
Well yeah that’s true. But is it freeing at least giving a project a new name?
Yeah for sure. People are always associating people and are always gonna make presumptions when they know that a certain artist is making the music. So for me to start off anonymous at least at the start was cool.
And it doesn’t mean that the artist has lost authenticity.
I don’t think so no. I think that all artists should make all kinds of music you know. Just because you’ve only put out an acoustic album doesn’t mean that you always have to put out an acoustic album. I’m always into exploring as much music as possible. I mean I don’t see why you would just want to stick to a piano or something – it seems pretty boring. Keep learning more music and educating yourself more on musicians.
You are often described as prolific. What’s your typical day when you’re making music?
I guess I wake up and then it depends on what mood I’m in. It’s pretty fun to just have a mood and from there you just try to spit out whatever idea or song or something that you’re hearing in your head. Like the other day I made a disco-y kinda song, and then the day before that I made some sort of hip-hop beat, and before that I was working on a psychedelic rock song.
What’s putting you in the moods that are inspiring these different creations?
Everything around me from what I see on the internet to what I hear at a club, or hearing my friends playing a tune. Nothing too crazy. I’m not like dying for inspiration or anything. I just go walking around and I hear, I don’t know, some jazz coming out of someone’s house or something and I’m like ‘That’s a cool chorus, I’m gonna remember that.’
What do you normally have for breakfast? What’s your creative brain fuel?
Coffee. My favorite breakfast is coffee and a bagel. But I can’t eat that all the time because the bagel is not too healthy.
You’re touring now – you have to be svelte.
You put out a tweet earlier this year – it was like a call to arms for young people to be more creative with their blogs. You gave examples of a lot of things that are repeated on blogs all the time: Odd Future, Nikes, naked indie chicks and all that. What would be your advice for how we can make the internet more interesting?
Uh – to get off the internet really is the best way.
If you are trying to make your blog better don’t go reblog something else; go to a book store, look up old books or something, scan that in and put that in your blog.
And instead of finding a photo, go take your own photos for example, or even draw something. So if you see something that’s text-oriented, make your own text-oriented stuff you know – just sort of create. I always feel like the purpose, the best thing to do in life, is to create – whether it be art or whether it be have children, or if it’s making breakfast, making dinner, that’s the best thing you can do to make yourself feel better. I don’t think that sitting at a computer can really make you feel better.
Especially when you’re sitting at a computer copying someone else’s stuff.
So my advice is stop reblogging, and go create something.
Beautiful last words. Thank you Chaz.
Anything in Return is out now on Mistletone Records. Stream the first single off the album below, So Many Details, with a B-side featuring Hodgy Beats.
For tour info and news check out mistletone.com.