Critics tried to define him as chillwave when he first came out, but Chazwick Bradley Bundick – better known as the brains behind Toro y Moi – has become so much more; one of the most well-rounded and referenced projects for young genre-smashing musicians who defy categorisation, he has successfully positioned himself as a man of endless creativity and potential. The Toro y Moi sound is constantly switching and finding new angles and shapes to entertain listeners, and rather than alienating fans with all this change, it has rightfully earned Bundick an enormous and loyal global following.
Just last year, Toro y Moi staged a live concept album filmed with drones in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Titled Live in Trona, the film and album stamped a firm impression on fans and provided another window through which we bear witness to an ongoing sonic experiment.
Who knows what to expect when heading along to see Toro Y Moi live on his forthcoming Australian tour? If last year, and current singles “Star Stuff” and “JBS” with frequent collaborators The Mattson 2 (singles taken from forthcoming album Star Stuff), is any indication then we could be in for immersive waves of psychadelica. Or we could dig deeper into his more electronic or ambient works (which were given to us under the name PLUM last year). It’s best to get in not knowing what to expect, so for a brief chat with the man himself we focused on what Chaz does best: change.
First off, I feel like Toro y Moi is such a kinetic project, it’s always morphing and you’re always giving the music world not only new ideas but pushing others towards a more open exploration of music and art. What would you say are the biggest changes between the project when you started and the project now?
It’s so hard to even put that words I guess. I was just thinking about this today, no joke. If there’s something that is constantly changing, is it even a thing? Like, there needs to be a constant that…man we could go on forever about this man, you kind of stumped me. I want the music to constantly change but at the same time, if I want that all the time then that’s just going to change isn’t it?
I guess things work in cycles, and that’s the best thing about music and this idea of genres. Because we know that what the artist is referencing will immediately take us back to that time period when we first head that genre. So like if we hear new music now and there’s a heavy sense of dance or electronic or something, you immediately know that, “Okay this person was influenced by 80’s, or dance or whatever”. I don’t know man, you kind of got me with that question!
What kind of changes are you most proud of then?
I guess I’m proud of the most recent ones really. I’m glad that I’m able to just let go of a lot of things. Changing musically is really just documenting how a person changes. It’d kind of inevitable to witness. I’d watch artists change and I used to think “you can’t tell if they are making good or bad decisions”…they are just changing. You kind of get tired of doing things the same sound, you want to approach music different, constantly.
When we first heard McCartney’s solo stuff for example; that sort of open-mindedness in music it’s like once you have it you’re never really going to let it go. You’re always going to be open-minded to music. I think people like him, Michael Jackson, and the like, they just break all boundaries of genre.
What was the idea behind Live from Trona and particularly choosing the Mojave to shoot it in?
Harry [Israelson, the director] and I – Harry does all the videos of me – were talking for a long time about doing a live album. The one I wanted to reference the most was Pink Floyd, the one where they just played in the Amphitheatre of Pompeii to no one but the camera crew. I mean that’s pretty tight. The idea in my head was like “it’s a simple idea executed really well” and that’s all I really try to do with all my music videos. For the film, I was kind of just like, “Let’s play in nature somewhere”.
Being that it’s something you’ve never done before, what did you learn from the experience that may influence the evolution of your music going forward?
Every time I can see the project I’m just kind of stumped for a second. I’m like, I can’t almost appreciate it until I have to do press for it. Now when I think about it, when I made it it’s like, “Oh that was weird it was like a long video shoot”, but now I see it and I’m like “that’s a legit film we made”. It’s fun to do projects like that and just keep going. It doesn’t matter if it’s small or large, just keep moving, focus on any project and allow yourself to have waves of different moods and whatever.
In early interviews you’ve stated for a long time you’ve wanted the project to be a band, but in others you’ve also said you like working alone at some points. How do you strike that balance between collaboration and complete autonomy?
Well a live experience is just completely different. I found that live I’m personally not into it being so track-heavy or electronic, when it comes to live drum kits and stuff. For example, Simian Mobile Disco, they fucking rule and I love electronic music when it’s electronic on stage. But when it came to some of my stuff that was electronic that I was trying to figure out how to perform, it just wasn’t working, it sounded too “alt” and cheesy. I did albums that slowly sounded more live band-ish, therefore when you see the live version of those songs it’s like an enhanced version of it, not like a cover ya know?
I’m definitely still doing pretty much all the recording and the producing, that’s kind of like my forte. And then I let go a little bit more for the live stuff, the live show is a complete collaborative effort.
Toro y Moi x The Mattson 2 “Star Stuff” will be released on March 31st 2017
Toro y Moi Australian Shows 2017
Sunday 5th March
Perth International Arts Festival, Perth
Thursday 9th March
Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Friday 10th March
The Zoo, Brisbane
Saturday 11th March
Days Like This, Sydney
Sunday 12th – Monday 13th March
Pitch Music & Arts Festival, Melbourne