Making Moves with Toro y Moi

Published June 15, 2015

ABOVE: CHAZ BUNDICK. PHOTO COURTESY OF ANDREW PAYNTER.

Two months after releasing his fifth album, the chillwave What For?, Chaz Bundick, better known as  Toro y Moi, is back with new material. Since 2010, Bundick has traded lo-fi guitars for electronics, and vice versa, and has been compared to everyone from Weezer to Caribou. Titled “room for 1zone,” Bundick’s latest track adopts an entirely new, aggressive tone, with trap-like beats and hip-hop-leaning autotuned vocals. Even the visuals shifted: rather than the simplistic single-color themes often employed in his videos, “room for 1zone” depicts an unnamed character in front of the Prada Marfa installation in Texas through a blurry and shaky lens.

Later this summer, the 28-year-old, Berkley-based musician and producer will embark on a world tour, playing venues and festivals across Europe and the U.S. Here, Bundick takes a break to speak with Workaholics‘ Blake Anderson, whose latest acting project Dope comes out this week. The two talked about everything from scoring films, to product placement, to their honeymoons.

CHAZ BUNDICK: How’s it going?

ANDERSON: Pretty good. How the heck are you?

BUNDICK: I’m good. I’m at home. The last time I talked to you, you were working on something. I was in the area, but we’ve never actually hung out or talked. We just said hey in passing.

ANDERSON: Right? I think the first time I was in the same vicinity as you was at a music festival. I was pretty drunk and I got the courage to go say that I enjoyed you as an artist and a person. You were very nice and charming.

BUNDICK: I think that was at FYF, because I was watching Nosaj [Thing] and I was about to go play myself…You immediately got outed by some fans.

ANDERSON: I lifted my cloak of invisibility. I’m like, “I like you very much,” and then had to pull the cloak back on. Have heard Nosaj’s new album? It’s pretty radical.

BUNDICK: I have. It’s really good. He’s a good friend of mine. We talk often and go to each other’s places whenever we’re in each other’s towns, and have good conversations—not just talking shop and stuff.

ANDERSON: I think having conversations like we’re having now is fun, especially with people in the same industry. I feel like we’re both in the entertainment industry; it’s a little bit synonymous, entertainment/art. I make dick joke art, but it’s still art, you know?

BUNDICK: [laughs] I think that’s the way to put it: tell everybody you’re making art.

ANDERSON: I was thinking, though, I have to apologize to you because some of my friends come to me for music like, “Yo, who should we listen to?” and I always explain that everybody who’s on tour is a dick. But I gotta start spreading the word—you’re huge, right?

BUNDICK: [laughs] Not in my eyes, but it’s getting to the point where it’s fairly successful. We’re going to start traveling in a bus soon so we can keep our sanity and our health…It’s easy for people to mistake most musicians as living the easy life. It takes a while to get to that point. I’m sure it’s like that for acting and television. It takes a second—just because your face is popular doesn’t mean you’re necessarily living comfortably yet. I think it’s good to have that struggle.

ANDERSON: For sure. You don’t want to get too comfortable. I’ve seen you a couple times throughout your career. I think the first time was at South By, like four years ago. Then I saw you at Coachella [this year] and you’ve got a whole outfit now, like a whole crew with you. Is that engineered on purpose? Are you trying to get your rock band?

BUNDICK: Yeah. I really want Toro y Moi to become a full band that’s got the aesthetic to a T. It’s going to take some time, but eventually it’s going to be something I’ve always dreamed of—that band with that logo, with that sound.

ANDERSON: I think you’re right there, man. I saw you guys at Coachella and you guys fuckin’ rocked it. You guys sounded great. I was wondering, you’ve got What For?, and that’s a good question—what for? Why do you do it? You put out a lot of music, is it because your spirit is telling you to?

BUNDICK: It’s hard with music because there’s so much pressure for a musician to keep a consistent streak. I feel like with acting or writing you can change styles almost anonymously or even do a serious role because you felt like doing it. But with music everyone thinks there has to be some method behind it. You can’t just switch up styles, you can’t just change, because people are already expecting the music to have a certain style. With this album I was thinking to just have fun with it—not overthink it but also try to find what everyone can relate to regardless of the genre or the sound.

ANDERSON: I think you did something smart with the rock band. This album feels a little different from stuff in your past. It’s not so much a departure from the sound, but when you add that band it injects a certain energy. Playing those instruments and playing together, I didn’t feel like I was cheated out of an album. I felt like it was an addition to what you’ve already made.

BUNDICK: I feel like it’s hard to change with music, but as long as you’re making something that you enjoy, that’s the main thing. Like, “Would I listen to this if I hadn’t made it?” I’m sure that’s the same case for you, like, “Would I watch this?” Or, “Would I read this?”

ANDERSON: Absolutely. When you release something you don’t believe in and you hear criticism, that’s when you know they’ve got a point. But if you really love what you’re doing, and if you put out a product you really believe in, then when the comments come back like, “Hey this sucks,” you’re like, “Well fuck you. I like it motherfucker! I made it for myself!”

BUNDICK: [laughs] Right. I actually took a ceramics class, and I made some cups, some plates, and some stuff. They weren’t the prettiest cups and plates, but I felt proud of them because I made them. I was intentionally trying to make something I would like; it wasn’t exactly perfect, but at least I gave it my all.

ANDERSON: There you go man, beautiful. So now you’re getting into pottery. Can we expect a whole line at Target?

BUNDICK: [laughs] You can expect a college dorm line of ceramic pottery! Do you have time for hobbies? Or do you give yourself time for hobbies?

ANDERSON: I suppose so. That’s what were talking about: having fun with what we do. My hobby always has been creating stuff, so when I have downtime to sit and think, I’m usually thinking, “That would be an awesome Parks [and Recreation] idea,” or, “That would be a sick Disney show.” [laughs] That gets me excited, the creative process, no matter what it might be.

BUNDICK: That’s what I always end up doing, too. If I ever get some free time I end up thinking about what to make next. I don’t pick up a guitar and start playing the songs I already know; I immediately try to write a riff. It’s just an innate behavioral thing that I do. It’s in all of us, too. Our brains are always thinking of something, but it depends on how creative you can get…

ANDERSON: For sure. But since this is going to be on the internet, when it’s our free time we’re banging hecka chicks, too! So don’t worry about that.

BUNDICK: [laughs] Hecka chicks!

ANDERSON: No, I’m actually married. I’m sorry.

BUNDICK: How long you been married? I’m married.

ANDERSON: I’ve been married about three years.

BUNDICK: My one-year anniversary is tomorrow. Where did you go for your honeymoon?

ANDERSON: We went to Alaska. It was awesome.

BUNDICK: Oh, shit! So did we! We went to Seward and did whale watching and all that.

ANDERSON: Dude, that’s where I went—we went to Seward!

BUNDICK: We drove up to Denali. Did you go to Denali?

ANDERSON: Yeah, we cruised through there.

BUNDICK: You know that little village that’s there, Denali Village? I got recognized at the coffee shop and this kid offered me a free ride in a bush plane that goes over Denali. My wife, she was dying to do one of these bush plane rides over Denali, and [before the trip] I was like, “No I’m not going to do it. There’s no way I’m getting in one of those planes,” just ’cause that’s how every musician dies. I was like, “I’ll do it if we get it for free,” and then this guy offered us a free ride. It was total craziness. I was like, “All right, I guess we’re doing this!”

ANDERSON: Your fear was that you would die in that plane, but as soon as it’s free you’re willing to take that risk.

BUNDICK: [laughs] It’s like, “I’m not paying 400 bucks to die!” Did you see any whales?

ANDERSON: I did. I saw some orca. I was pumped. It wasn’t supposed to happen, but they were swimming around in Seward. That place is like heaven to me. I’d love to return some day… Do you feel like you’re maturing? We sound like mature men.

BUNDICK: I guess I’ve matured. I’ve learned to go slow a little bit more. I think that’s what maturing is: saying yes or okay and just flowing with traffic, still doing your thing.

ANDERSON: It is like that. People often say—’cause I was a picky eater when I was a kid—that “Oh your taste buds mature,” which they kind of do, but it’s more like when people started handing me hot dogs with mustard, instead of being like “I don’t like mustard,” I was like “Fuck it man, I’m hungry, I’m going to eat the hot dog.” That’s a life lesson: eat the hot dog that’s handed to you.

BUNDICK: Eat the hot dog, get a wife.

ANDERSON: It’s that easy.

TORO Y MOI: What’s it like being on the comedic side of things? Like “Hey Blake, say something funny!” How do you do that with just your normal self?

ANDERSON: Naturally that’s what my brain defaults to. But I don’t get much of that, “Yo, say something funny!” The last time I had that happen, I randomly got asked to be in a Migos video. So the video [cast and crew] was on a lunch break, I got on set, and the director was like, “Migos wants you to eat lunch in their trailer.” I’m like, “Oh, okay, holy shit, here we go.” I’m pretty sure none of them knew who I was, so I’m like, “I’m on a show on Comedy Central.” I think all they heard was “comedy,” so they were like “Say something funny!” and I froze up. But whatever. We ended up smoking a bunch of weed and had a good laugh, so it all worked out.

BUNDICK: Who’s the first rapper you smoked weed with?

ANDERSON: It was either Action Bronson or Schoolboy Q. I think it was at the same Coachella party. All I know is that Action Bronson gave me an Action Bronson-sized dab and it did not sit well with me. When you smoke with rappers you really got to play it off because you don’t want to look like a bitch.

BUNDICK: The hip-hop tolerance for weed is ridiculously high. I can’t even imagine getting to that tolerance. They need like three blunts to get a buzz. I’m just like, “Good god. I’m good after a hit or two.” [laughs]

ANDERSON: Yeah man. I’m just trying to take a hit and watch Niagara Falls trickle; I’m not trying to go to Mars. The entertainment world, it’s fun.

BUNDICK: When was the last time you heard someone say, “Some of us have real jobs”?

ANDERSON: I want to say it was probably my dad being really mad at me.

BUNDICK: Mine was probably my wife.

ANDERSON: Our jobs are real—they’re tough, they’re draining.

BUNDICK: Jobs are real! The internet puts a filter [over everything] and makes you forget that everyone has a job… Have you done product placements on Workaholics?

ANDERSON: Oh heck yeah man. We sneak ’em in all the time. What’s weird about our show is that we’ll go off on a five-minute speech about Dr. Pepper Ten, and that’ll be the product we didn’t get money for; we just think it’s funny to talk about Dr. Pepper Ten that much. People will be like, “Sell outs!” It’s like, “No dude, actually, the product placement that you didn’t notice was the little Slim Jim in the background.” We’ve done such a good job helping out any type of food or brand or movie or car that now you don’t know what we’re getting paid for, and we’re probably not getting paid for any of it!

BUNDICK: That’s what I think is genius. That’s what Andy Warhol did, speaking of Interview Magazine. He just took it and put it in front of you and you weren’t sure what to think of it. It’s just like, “Uh, is this art or is this an advertisement?” That’s the whole game right there. If you can master that—making money while having fun—that’s the ticket. I had an idea to do a music video of me wearing a Coca-Cola shirt drinking a glass bottle of Coca-Cola, and it being this super iconic video, just walking in New York City. I thought that would be pretty funny. Maybe that would make Coca-Cola notice me and pay me out.

ANDERSON: Who comes up with your videos? I watched two of them right before we talked.

BUNDICK: It’s mainly these two guys, Harry Schleiff and Harry Israelson. They have these super awesome simple ideas, but then they have the most style and coolest taste I’ve ever seen.

ANDERSON: They also have a subtle bit of comedy. There’re all these beautiful shots, but then your face will be obstructed by a bush for some reason.

BUNDICK: It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek. It’s learning to make fun of yourself, but also learning what looks good overall. You can’t really mess up with film, or a simple color scheme. As long as you approach it simply, or with a simple idea in mind, I feel like it’s going to immediately become obtainable. If you go about things with too much in the beginning it’s going to be hard to realize.

ANDERSON: And when you approach a video with simplicity it allows the audience to write the story, themselves, too. “So Many Details” [is] so sexy, so sexy-bomb track, sexy music video. You nailed it. And you look so nice in those clothes.

BUNDICK: I was so put off by that white turtleneck. I was like “I don’t know guys, white turtleneck?” I’m not too cool looking…

ANDERSON: You look very handsome, you pulled it off, and turtlenecks—not everybody can do that.

BUNDICK: That’s what they say. Everyone’s like, “You really pull of that turtleneck.” [laughs]

ANDERSON: There’s only really one other person that can do that, and that’s James Bond. So maybe you should be the next James Bond.

BUNDICK: That is a great idea. My dream job would be to score a pretty big film. That’d be awesome to score the next James Bond movie.

ANDERSON: Would you work with a symphony?

BUNDICK: Yeah, I would do some David Axelrod type stuff. Actually, there’s so many types of music that I want to approach. It’s hard to make time for it all. Have you ever worked with anyone and they were just like, “No, that sounds dumb”?

ANDERSON: Up until the last season pretty much everybody in Hollywood told us, “Fuck off dude, you guys aren’t anything,” but we’re starting to get a little bit of respect. We’ve made plenty of offers that have just gone down in flames. We asked for one of James Blunt’s songs for a flashback episode, the one that goes [sings] “had a bad day,” and he’s like, “No, and I don’t like that show. Fuck them.” So I hope he has a bad day, that piece of shit.

BUNDICK: Dude I want to be on your show.

ANDERSON: We can set that up.

BUNDICK: I can just come on the show and sing that song.

ANDERSON: [laughs] You as James Blunt! Now we’re talking! See, this is how it happens—the gears of Hollywood turning.

BUNDICK: As much as we try to not talk about work, we end up talking about work. It’s just what we do as humans.

ANDERSON: I think we should continue the conversation on the streets of Berkeley.

BUNDICK: Yeah, I got your number. I’ll send you a text.

FOR MORE ON BUNDICK, VISIT TORO Y MOI’S WEBSITE