Text: Isabel Aleman | Photo: Andrew Paynter
It’s a cloudy Tuesday in El Paso; the weather is changing and the cool desert days are setting in. I have Toro y Moi’s Underneath the Pine on the turn table and it’s an automatic mood changer. I feel chill and I let Toro y Moi’s ambient feel transform me from summer to fall. It gets me thinking how his music transcends the seasons and uplifts whatever mood you are in. We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi, where he was fresh off his latest record Live From Trona and live concert video. He let us in on his love for the desert and the future of his band.
I think we are going to start with your latest album Live from Trona—talk to us about your concert album and why you decided to do a concert album and a short film along with it?
Yeah I think Toro has definitely gone a full band route over the past like few years ever since Causers came out, the band has been growing one band member at a time. I think the concert film is just one of those projects that I have always admired. I have always admired concert films, just because it showcases the musicians and you really get a sense of how the band works as one. You know my band, we’re like a big family, we’ve known each other for like a very long time, no one is a hired musician—we all hang out outside of the band and everything. So for us it was just a passion project that we all wanted to be a part of. Harry and I had the idea and once we got the ball rolling on the logistics of it all, everyone was just in! It’s for us, it’s for the band really, and that’s the whole reason there isn’t an audience either. We wanted to just showcase our musicianship, and just have fun. It was essentially a band practice in the middle of the desert.
We were gonna ask you about that the location Trona in California. The desert was almost a band member, even with the sun setting, the lighting was perfect, why did you choose that location?
Yeah, Harry has an amazing eye and we connected on this idea when we were in Joshua Tree about a year ago. The desert, as you know being from west Texas, has this ability to make you feel really isolated and connected to something at the same time; you feel so grounded to Earth, but then you just feel like you’re the only one on Earth at the same time. I think that’s the way music really makes me feel and to have that be the visual for our music, it kinda fit really well. I don’t know, I just really enjoy that desert, that’s all (laughs).
We know that you are not only a musician, but also a graphic designer, can you tell us a little bit more about that side of you?
Graphic designing in general has always been a passion of mine, even before music took off, so I think that design is like a sixth sense for me. When you really start to appreciate design, you just start to stare at things and you think deeply about its purpose and if it’s simple or if it’s too complicated, or I don’t know. For me it’s a sense of figuring out music in a design sense as well. In a way that is what I am doing with music, it’s my version or my design of a song. I think that I’m always looking for any outlet to express the visual side. With this film, I kinda really put my visual input where it is… (chuckles) that came out so funny.
In one of your earlier interviews you mentioned that the first song that you ever wrote was about getting a F in class, and you say that you also write about your everyday experience. Can you tell us about where you find connection with your lyrics?
I’m not a big fan of my lyrics until recently I’ve always felt that they are my weak spot. My music is sorta my journal, my outlet, it’s always been my outlet even before music was big for me. It’s strange to have it now be like a commercial thing, so at the same time I’m always trying to find new ways to take it to a new level. But I think writing about experience is kinda… experience in general is all we have as humans to relate to each other. You know when you meet a new person you go back and forth on your similarities and differences, so that’s just it really—writing about personal experience is how we connect to each other.
Talking about experience, do you think that you are a very outgoing person? Do you enjoy experiencing new things?
I’m pretty outgoing, I’m not gonna go and do anything crazy. I like to think I’m pretty outgoing?
Have you bungee jumped yet?
I wouldn’t do bungee jumping yet, that’s what I was gonna say. I might jump out of an airplane, I might go on some crazy boat or something. But I’m not trying to bungee jump. There are lots of other extreme things that I would rather consider.
How would you say you have transitioned from album to album, how are you different?
Yeah, it’s so hard to remember how I was feeling on each record, I do know I really feel that each song I write and each record I make is kind of like, wether it’s my favorite or not my best, I always feel every step is necessary to get to where ever it is I’m going? Im not in this to like get to the top, I’m not trying to be the best. Going into it and knowing you’re doing it for yourself is all you can do. So at the same time I like to keep music interesting for me, it’s my life now. Im always trying to find different genres, different styles. There is just so much out there from all over the world, different time periods, I think that’s all I’m searching for.
You also collaborate a lot with other musicians and the sound changes, do you enjoy collaborating with other musicians?
I love collaborating, especially when it comes to producing other people. For me, the producer roll, especially outside of hip-hop. In hip-hop the producer is the guy who is actually making the beats and the engineering, who is mixing, but for me I sort of I love producing in the more instrumental world. When you are working with a singer/songwriter that works primarily with guitar, I love finding those gaps where a great bass sound could go in, or like the drums could come out. I love that part of collaborating.
Like a puzzle putting all the pieces together.
Yeah, sort of like a puzzle—you just let the song do its own thing and go where it needs to go.
How do Chaz, Toro y Moi and Les Sins differ from each other? What’s unique about each one from your perspective?
I think that Toro, the focus of that project is mainly songwriting, and pop music is sort of the underlying thing there. I think whenever I’m working on a Toro track, I’m always thinking about it from where it is now considering the amount of people that are gonna hear it. Every once in a while, how accessible I’m gonna make something, or how poppy. And then with Les Sins the focus of that project is production and like sonic texture. It’s less song based and it’s more instrumental. It’s really just there for you to feel the music feel the different rhythm and the bass.
Tell the Fusion magazine readers something that not to many people know about you?
Hmm let me see, I don’t like strawberries, it’s a big secret I’m into other berries but I’m not into strawberries.