“I’m going to become the ambassador of world peace,” Chaz Bundick says with a laugh. Better known as Toro y Moi, the (almost) 27-year-old musician is at a turning point in his life where he’s beginning to see his music can be used more like a platform.
“We were listening to a couple of jazz records the other day and they were spreading this whole message of world peace,” he explains. “I thought that would be a good idea to make songs about world peace again, but take a psychedelic approach. I think that would be a cool approach to it.”
He has a point. The late ‘70s and early ‘80s had artists like John Lennon spreading that message, but what were we left with after his murder? Twisted Sister? Lil’ Wayne? Katy Perry?
“There’s a lot of pop music that is simple and mindless,” he says. “They’re singing about having ‘fun’ tonight [laughs]. What exactly is ‘having fun?’ If you see what young hipster kids are listening to, it’s not indie rock guitar based stuff anymore. It’s more like dance and hip-hop, which is fine. It’s totally good stuff. But crazy stuff surrounds it. It’s glorified in the media.”
Toro y Moi’s fan base is mostly mixed of young hipster kids, but that’s probably because he was anointed the “father of chillwave” early on in his career. According to writer Corban Goble at the Kansas City Pitch, “songs were digestible, but often forgettable, snippets of sample pop accented by reverb-heavy vocals leaning heavily on the DIY aesthetic.” Although Bundick has clearly moved past this intrusive and restrictive categorization, he recognizes its relevance.
“I don’t agree with it, but I don’t disagree with it,” he says matter-of-factly. “I’m pretty neutral about it. If I agree, then it sounds like I’m a big shot. If I disagree, it sounds like I’m being angst-y. I just try to stay indifferent.”
Whatever you call it, Toro y Moi’s music is undeniably all his own. The soft-spoken artist clearly thrives in the studio where, presumably, he feels most comfortable. There’s a sense during the interview that talking about himself isn’t his most favorite thing in the world. Although it could be that he’s waking up in yet another strange place somewhere in Texas and needs his coffee. He’s in the middle of a massive nationwide tour, which started in May and doesn’t wrap up until February.
“I guess because I’ve been doing it so much, being on the road is kind of normal,” he says. “I’ve been adjusting well. It’s as eventful as any other day when you’re working a job. There are a handful of things you do. You wake up, you leave, you travel, sound check, play a show, eat dinner, pack up and head to the hotel.
“I need coffee every morning though,” he adds. “Probably my favorite is Super 8 coffee [laughs]. Actually, my favorite coffee is like Blue Bottle Coffee. They’re a really good company.”
At this point, we’ve established coffee is a really good motivator for getting your work done. Aside from constantly creating music for his various projects, including Sides of Chaz and Les Sins, he stays busy designing his own ephemera. Armed with a degree in graphic design from the University of South Carolina, this is to be expected.
“I just like to constantly make music and create album covers, T-shirts or whatever,” he confirms. “It’s always fun to constantly be doing something like that. I really don’t like to be bored. I make the time to do a bunch of stuff. I mostly use Illustrator and Photoshop. I like how those work. I do a lot of hand drawn stuff, too, to give it some character and originality.”
Bundick’s attitude is so laid back, it’s almost strange, but he has a way of making you feel like you’re just talking to a friend, not some “famous” artist with an ego the size of Russia. Perhaps this is why he isn’t all over the media like some of his peers, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m trying to take it as big as it can go,” he says, but I’m going to stay instrumental to my creativity and personality and, I don’t know, my personal life. I see a lot of musicians going down the wrong path so it’s probably best to stay low key about it.”
Toro y Moi’s most recent album, Anything in Return, is further evidence of Bundick’s experimental nature. This time, the album is a tribute of sorts to ’90s dance music, another once dying genre breathing new life.
“I think my appreciation for deep house kind of sparked that whole sound or my approach to that,” he says. “I just wanted to do ‘90s type house that was more pop-y.”
From the lead track, “Harm in Change,” to the last, “How’s It Wrong,” there’s a pleasant infectiousness that won’t let up. It’s mellow, but at the same time exciting. Coupled with Bundick’s airy vocals, it’s pure bliss. The first single, “Say That,” reels you in with its unrelenting and hypnotic bass. As the nearly 53-minute album comes to a close, it feels like you’ve just spent that time, well, just “chilling.” While it doesn’t waver too much in tempo, it’s still packed with enough interesting sounds to keep it fresh. As the tour for Anything in Return tapers off, his evolution seems to kick into high gear. As he approaches 30, he sees things in a different light.
“This whole fascination with drugs,” he says. “I don’t know if it’s the internet that makes it spread faster and wider, but I guess more kids are interested in hip-hop and dance music, but the drug culture isn’t what it used to be. It’s more dangerous. I find myself starting to care more about personal health and stuff like that. Small stuff. I’m just going to seize the moment and not waste it at all.”
Toro y Moi with Classixx, November 4, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St., 9 p.m. Tickets are $15/ADV and $17/DOS. Visit www.onepercentproductions.com for more information.