Toro Y Moi Outlasts Blog Trends
Chazwick Bundick (a.k.a. Toro y Moi) released his debut album a little late to the game. The first single off Causers of This, "Blessa," blew up in summer 2009, when the blogosphere was loving like-minded acts such as Washed Out and Neon Indian. But by January 2010, when the album—a layered cake of hip-hop beats, reverberating electronics and lilting vocals—was released, the hipster elite had pretty much already fallen in and out of love with chillwave.
But Bundick's music always had something bubbling beneath the surface to suggest he'd outlast the limitations of that genre. So it goes in 2011 that he is the most talked about artist of the bunch with his follow-up, Underneath the Pine, which trades some of the glitchy beatwork of Toro y Moi's first album for psychedelic melodies and real instruments, touching on indie hip-hop and rock, funk and '60s pop with an unforced glee. Listen to how the tropical guitars of "Before I'm Done" sound perfectly in step with the poppadelic psych-funk of first single "New Beat," and you hear someone inspired and setting forth as not only a great electronic artist, but, now, songwriter and performer as well.
"Chillwave was a made-up term," Bundick says. When prodded, he says he'd classify his music as more experimental pop or psychedelic R&B. "I always make sure to keep changing the way I make music and what I'm listening to. But I guess just the way this album turned out, I didn't want to make the same album twice. . . . I think I'm going to try to revisit electronics again further down the road, but not now."
The result of that change to more varied and live instrumentation is an album that moves, sounding unified yet unpredictable. "Divina" is like being stoned at church, with organs bleeding into a slow, soft glow, while "Still Sound" may be the funkiest thing Bundick has put to tape, his doubled vocals playing hopscotch over a Rick James-style bassline.
Twenty-four-year-old Bundick is a South Carolina native who dreamed up his band name (translated as "bull and me," in a mix of Spanish and French) while sitting in the car with his parents when he was 15. "It was just a sort of nonsensical idea. . . . I wanted a French-sounding name," he says.
He started playing piano at 8 and switched to guitar at 12, playing in indie rock bands before discovering electronics and sampling later on. "That really opened a whole new door to me," he says. "It was right around the time I found out about Daft Punk. Just hearing how they used sampling, that influence was huge."
He worked at a bagel shop and as a graphic designer while making music at the same time. With the success of his music, Bundick has finally been able to leave his day job behind and focus on touring, now with a full band instead of a laptop. He's remixing other artists, as his excellent remix of indie hip-hop artist Tyler, the Creator's "French" shows. Using his design background, he makes his own album covers and partnered with online crafts store Etsy to sell his new album as a tote bag with a download card.
"It's nice," Bundick says of being able to focus on music full-time. "But then again, being in a hard time financially and stuff, having that struggle—and I'm still struggling now with a lot of things—I feel like you need that to put out good stuff."
This article appeared in print as "Toro Y Moi Surfs Past the Chill Wave: Waiting out the Internet hype paid off."
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