It's hard to imagine that releasing three successful albums to increasingly positive reviews and rabid fan response, being credited as a cornerstone artist within a musical movement and touring the world by the age of 26 wouldn't build a raging ego. After all, the huge ego seems part-and-parcel of success in the music industry. In the case of Chaz Bundrick (AKA Toro Y Moi), however, that doesn't seem to be the case.
Granted, Toro Y Moi may not yet be a household name, but with only three albums under his belt, Bundrick has created a worldwide buzz with his layered electronic creations that draw inspiration from all directions. When chatting with him about how he has developed musically and where he foresees his music going in the future, though, he proves to be incredibly grounded about the entire experience.
Then again, Bundrick pretty much defies any preconceptions you might have about an electronic artist. Sure, he might be based out of Los Angeles now, but that's a relatively recent development. In truth, Bundrick is a South Carolina native who grew up in Columbia playing in indie and punk rock bands before getting his degree bachelors degree in graphic design at University of South Carolina.
Somewhere along the way, Bundrick's muse shifted and he moved into electronic music. When asked about the transition, he shared that "I was always interested in everything, from Weezer to...whatever. What spawned me going into electronic music, though? Well, I got a computer when I was in college and started making beats, so I guess technology changed my approach to music."
Of course, Toro Y Moi's sound has evolved with time, moving from what was initially dubbed part of the early "chillwave" movement to something still layered and dense, but a bit more upbeat and melodic, seemingly drawing from more sources for inspiration.
While some early reviews of the latest album, Anything In Return, have credited Bundrick's move to the West coast for a perceived shift in direction, he doesn't necessarily see it. When asked about the move, he said it was initiated by his desire for a change in scenery more than anything else.
"I lived in South Carolina for 25 years, so I just felt like I needed a change and it all worked out," he said. "I guess it has affected me in a way, but more in that I'm exposed to a lot more culture in general: A lot more music, a lot more of the arts, just everything."
That really hasn't changed his approach to creating music, however, as he shared that "I listen to everything from hip hop to '70s psychedelic. I listen for sounds and chords -- a number of things that I draw inspiration from, probably more than the music itself."
Even as the music has evolved, it all ties together logically when listened to in progression, but that's conscious, if not by design.
"I try to make all of the albums the same way," Bundrick explained. "I don't want them to jump around too much, so that there's some continuity to them. That's not the make it all sound alike, but more in that there are certain elements that tie together to make them sound like the same artist."
Even so, his approach to the creative process and what he draws inspiration from continue to keep his music fresh.
"I'd like to think that one of those kind of artists where what other people are doing will never really influence my music," he shared. "There's pop music that I listen to all the time and stuff like Weezer that I've always enjoyed, but it's hard to say how something that I'm listening to effects what I'm doing or how it's incorporated into my music."
Ultimately, Bundrick concluded that "What I'm doing just makes sense to me right now. Who knows? Maybe the next record I make will be guitar oriented and different, but I don't really foresee that right now. Who knows where it will go?"
As for now, Toro Y Moi is starting to create a buzz, not just in the U.S., but internationally. After spending a large part of the summer touring Europe and Asia, I asked how the audience and response has differed overseas, as many artists recognize a noticeable difference between audience. According to Bundrick, however, that doesn't seem to be the case for Toro Y Moi.
"The age demo is pretty much the same," he observed. "The majority of the audience is college kids, although there are some that are younger and a few that are a little older. It's all really about the same, though. I think that's probably because people are all learning about music he same way now and at the same time, with music on the internet."
Even as Toro Y Moi has started building international recognition, Bundrick has also seen his music building a larger following in the U.S. as he has appeared at a number of festival shows across the U.S. as well. Toro Y Moi stops in Tulsa next Tuesday, Oct. 8, in between appearances at both weekends of the Austin City Limits festival in Austin.
Bundrick continues to take it all in stride, however, not showing any signs that success is going to his head. For him, it has all come naturally. As an artist by nature, it all ties together and he continues to utilize his background and education in graphic design as outside companies have called on him to extend the creative experience.
In mid-September it was announced that Bundrick was designing a limited edition pair of sneakers for Vans, with 100 pairs to be given away in conjunction with his North American tour dates that have been extended into February 2014. Fans can register to win a pair via Toro y Moi's BlogSpot site through November 15 while Vans will distribute cards that can be redeemed for downloads of the group's performances of "Rose Quartz" and "So Many Details" from a recent performance in Brooklyn.
That's not the only outside endeavor Bundrick is a part of, however, as he also design a limited edition skateboard for Alien that will be available at skate shops beginning October 15.
Even so, Bundrick never mentioned those outside projects when discussing his creative endeavors. To him it all goes hand in hand and comes naturally. Whether playing to 25,000 at ACL or 1,500 at Cain's Ballroom, he continues to take it all in stride.
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