Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi burst onto the scene in 2010 with his born-of-bedroom-recordings debut, Causers of This.
His infectious mix of electronic and psychedelic pop -- with obvious nods to the synth-heavy '80s -- graduated from the blogosphere to the mainstream in record time, instantly making a reluctant star out of the graphic-design student.
Bundick has slowly warmed to the idea of full-time musicianship and released his third LP, the critically acclaimed Anything in Return, earlier this year.
Toro y Moi are currently on their second and final leg of touring for the new album, and Bundick recently spoke with SoundDiego before his band’s appearance at the Belly Up on Tuesday night.
Scott McDonald: Nice to have you back in San Diego. What is the live setup this time around?
Chaz Bundick: There are five of us onstage. We have two keyboards, bass, drums and guitar.
SM: That’s a little different than just you and a laptop.
CB: Well, that was how it started -- back before I even knew what electronic music really was or how it was performed. Before I even had time to put a band together, I had to do it with a laptop. And I was not really into it. Every time after a show I was like, "I can’t believe I’m on tour like this." It just seemed cheap or fake, or something. I don’t know, but I didn’t want my music to be heard like that.
SM: Now, with a band around you, are you able to do things like change it up as the tour progresses?
CB: We definitely have a set that we go by. We just don’t have that many extra songs that we’re willing to play [laughs]. But it’s a solid hour-and-a-half show, and we make small changes each night. It’s usually like, "Maybe we shouldn’t do that there," or, "Maybe you should play the drums this way," but it’s just little stuff like that.
SM: How have things been going so far?
CB: The only thing that sucks on tour is the drive. I do enjoy being able to watch a movie or listen to an album while the drive is going on, but it’s such a draining feeling to be in a vehicle for that long. But that’s the only thing, really. Well, that and the whole fact that you’re away from your spouse, friends and family.
SM: The new album is quite different from the first two. Were you listening to anything special while making Anything in Return?
CB: I was listening to a lot of house music and a lot of contemporary house. Floating Points is a big influence, and Motor City Drum Ensemble. But I feel like a lot of artists, when they grow older, their influences aren’t changing. And that’s partially why the fan bases are smaller or don’t exactly follow them as they grow. You have to find influences from modern day or you’re going to sound dated. It’s like you’re not open to new music or something. This new album showcases my appreciation of Kanye, Drake, Caribou, Four Tet and all kinds of different types of music. And that’s opposed to just J Dilla and My Bloody Valentine, stuff from the past. There are a few hints here and there, but this is not a record that’s trying to be retro or nostalgic.
SM: How far does that go? Might we see an all-organic-instruments album or a more rock & roll structured album from you in the future?
CB: That’s a big maybe, actually. I’ve been messing with a lot of guitars lately. I’ve just been messing around, but I do feel like there’s been a void in guitar-based music recently. I think it’s been overshadowed by a lot of the hip-hop and electronic stuff that’s so popular right now. Sonically, it’s just not strong enough to sit beside them. So that’s the main struggle in trying to go that direction. If you do that, you can’t really reach a wide audience. I grew up listening to indie rock -- Weezer, the Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, all that stuff. There is a way to make it sound big. I feel that artists like Yuck and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart do a great job. And I do feel like I will try to attempt some type of guitar-based music within the next two albums. But it’s a big move and hard to compete.
SM: Things are getting better for you and venues are getting bigger. Any difficultly keeping it all in check?
CB: No. I keep my head on and always try to keep perspective. Everyone in the band keeps each other in check. We’re all from South Carolina and are not afraid to say something like, "That’s stupid. You’re acting like a rock star." We all have the same ideals, which is good. No one’s trying to be Mr. Big Guy.
SM: You’ve always been somewhat reluctant to embrace all of this. Has that changed at all?
CB: [Laughs] Ah, I’m maybe a little bit more into the idea. It is my career now, and it’s definitely becoming a sustainable way of living. But with today’s Internet culture, it’s hard to tell if something, even if it’s been around for three years, is still going to be the flavor of the month. It’s hard to say how long its going to last. I just try to ride it out, pretty much, and not really get ahead of myself. If it ever gets to Grammy status one day, then, great, it’s always been my goal and something I’ve wanted for my whole life. But I’m not trying to hype myself up or get a big ego with it. This is already a treat, so I’m not going to try and ruin it.