Chazwick Bundick – aka Toro y Moi – speaks to us quietly but assertively, a style entirely unlike his idiosyncratic, personal take on dance music, which has been warmly received for around 5 years now. Toro y Moi’s music absorbs flavours from across the electronic spectrum, from the glitchy to the gorgeous, and has been setting hearts fluttering with the soulful, human spirit that beats from within his music. From his acclaimed debut Causers of This to earning a #1 Billboard spot in the US Dance/Electronic Album category for 2013’s excellent Anything in Return, Toro Y Moi has carved out what many artists who get saddled with a dull buzzword – in this case ‘chillwave’ – don’t: a legitimate career. With album number five just released and a slew of collaborations, remixes and production credits with everyone from Chromeo to Tegan and Sara to Disclosure, Toro y Moi’s ever-changing, steady journey continues upwards.
What For?, Toro Y Moi’s latest release on Carpark Records, is another strong set of characterful pop songs with a backbone of real craft (and a live set-up) holding them all together; it’s an album that blends new textures into Toro y Moi’s palette and another step forward. “It’s always evolving,” Bundick softly tells us, “the first album was more laptops and samples and this record is five instruments and no samples, so it’s very different.’ When asked if he believes that he’s getting better at music making with each release, Bundick muses “I guess, it’s different every time so it’s hard to gauge but it always takes a little while for every record to even get to where it is. It’s sort of a process for each record, it’s never the same approach.” It’s this lack of relying on a formulaic approach, this changing process, which has ensured Toro y Moi has kept swimming.
The breadth of new ideas that floods into What For? stems from that need for movement. “I think it’s important for anyone in the creative fields to keep evolving. You have to constantly change in order to make it interesting for you and for others.” Plenty of bands will find a neat niche and stay there, but that’s evidently not his aim – not when there’s a multitude of musical directions to follow. “If you’re making something that’s the same over and over again it’s very boring for everyone – it’s the truth, and what’s the point in trying to make it in music if you’re not going to explore?” So is there an ambition to apply this exploration throughout his recorded output? “It’s not like it’s just a phase or something like ‘oh, I’m just listening to rock right now’, it’s like ‘what kind of record have I not made yet?’ I’m just a big music fan.” The wide-eyed music fandom that informs Toro y Moi’s diverse discography is beamed from disparate sources too. “I’ll take inspiration from a My Bloody Valentine song and then mix it with inspiration from a Flying Lotus track or something,” he expands, “I just hear different things and different production techniques and try to implement them in different situations.”
Toro y Moi places this expectation of an open mind on himself and on his listeners too. Due to the way we are all rapidly consuming media from the comfort of our desktop, it’s quietly broadening our musical horizons and opening up both musicians and fans to a multitude of new threads to follow. “I feel like now most music listeners aren’t really into just one genre anymore because the Internet is constantly giving us a stream of music. I feel like most listeners are pretty open-minded about music, they’re not going to be like ‘oh this should just be an electronic album’, so it’s fun to explore different genres and do what you please.”
It’s not just smooth musicality that has created the fan base that Toro y Moi enjoys – it’s also the personal element that lays behind the sleek rhythmic centre of his output. “I was mostly writing about different experiences, different events that happened in my life between the two records. Talking about different scenarios that sort of changed my life.” The instantly accessible frequencies of Toro y Moi makes his records work, but the lyrical content gives them extra staying power. “I would sort of write them [lyrics] in more of a vague sense to make them relatable. It’s not too vague but I definitely made it to where it was so you don’t necessarily know what I’m talking about.” It’s this staying power of sentiment alongside the strength of melodicism that defines great pop music, and Toro y Moi adheres to this entirely. “I think music should be relatable; when you’re putting out music on a label it should be considered that it should be for others to hear.” The pathos that shimmers at the centre of Toro y Moi’s music renders it relatable, memorable and has allowed him to not only attracted fans but collaborators too.
On the subject of garnering more attention, Toro y Moi is reliably unfussed. “I try not to let this stuff really effect me. I definitely roll with it but I’m not affected by being popular or being recognized. It’s flattering to be famous or whatever but it doesn’t affect me.” Is there a worry that complacency may arise as a result of fame? “[It’s] why I move around so much between visual art and music. It’s nice to try and do more things that are creative – things that help you hone your craft. Something that I do in graphic design might inspire me to do something cooler in music or vice-versa.” With eyes on him from a variety of musical circles, is there an ambition to coax people away from the charts and demonstrate that great pop music exists elsewhere? “I’m just trying to make good music and whether it’s Top 40 or not that’s up to the artist,” he levels, “Kendrick Lamar is doing amazing stuff for Top 40 music but he’s not representing Top 40 artists and he’s just the only one doing something good.” And so Toro y Moi sums up his point with a sentiment that’s defined his career thus far. “As long as you keep the wheels rolling, that’s good.” – unmoved by stardom but constantly moving.
Words by Joseph Fuller