Toro Y Moi
24-years-young South Carolinian Chaz Bundick, aka Toro Y Moi, released an incredible pop album in 2010's Causers Of This . It's nostalgic and new all at once; it's intricate, layered sounds displaying hallmarks of disco and rhythm and blues, filtered with fresh, keenly put together sounds. It has an emotional and sonic multifariousness that draws the listener in entirely - the only choice is to succumb. With his second album Underneath The Pine mere weeks away, listeners can get a fresh fix of Toro Y Moi's addictive and captivating sounds.
When we spoke, Chaz had just returned from New York. During some downtime in NYC he went crate digging at A-1 Records and stumbled upon the Carrie soundtrack. "It's really good," he enthused. Chaz is fascinated with film soundtracks, photography, and the backbone to all pop music - "the juxtaposition of positive and negative, and minor and major chords."
With so many delicate textures and layers, and small quirks and details in the mix, it's quizzed of Chaz about his process in creating the blissful morsels of sound on Causers Of This. Rather than gradually adding to the songs over time, he would usually start over when working on them. "I would at times try to use similar mixing techniques - maybe keep the drone down, or keep the vocals at the same level, but really I was trying to start fresh every time."
The lyrics on Causers Of This were largely improvised, and the vocals are often a little low in the mix. "I think about my voice definitely more as an instrument. It's just easier, and I'm more comfortable with it that way," Chaz explains. He admits that he was rather shy about his voice during the making of Causers. "I was still new. For this album, playing all of these live shows and being in front of a lot of people opened me up to new things, and then I wasn't that shy. So a lot of the new stuff, especially on Underneath the Pine, the [vocal] rhythms are very complex sometimes, and then sometimes [my vocals] are very high, which I don't do often."
Chaz has worked on other musical projects in Les Sins, more dance focused, and Sides Of Chaz, an experimental endeavour. As to how important a role they play in influencing the Toro Y Moi sound, Chaz figures "Les Sins not so much, but probably Sides Of Chaz. I feel like that project definitely had more dissonance that I wanted to try to bring into Toro Y Moi. Toro Y Moi was really influenced by a lot of 1960s and 1970s sound; a lot of things that were released around that time period, especially the more cinematic sounds were what I tried to absorb."
Cinema and photography are key influences to Chaz's music. He graduated in graphic design before the release of Causers Of This and frequently displays his photography on the Toro Y Moi blog. "What I'm interested in visually definitely helps me figure out what I want to hear," he says.
The video clips for Blessa and Talamak are dreamy affairs that suit the songs well; Blessa set in the shadows of a party, and Talamak in dappled sunlight and autumnal hues. Then there's the Low Shoulder video. That's something else entirely. The basic premise is: a girl of about sixteen goes into a deserted diner and orders a cup of coffee. An older woman, apparently the sole employee of the place, spikes the girl's coffee with something and what ensues after is a strange episode of witchcraft. "I guess I sort of wanted to throw a curveball, and put out something that was darker," Chaz explains.
"Low Shoulder was created by these two directors in London. I wasn't there for the shoot but they were open to [my] ideas. Lyrically that song is kind of dark, when you think about it. The song is about me convincing my girlfriend at the time to spend the night so that she doesn't fall asleep driving.
:But it's not just that," Chaz explains, laughing. "I've always been attracted to the juxtaposition of positive and negative, and minor and major chords. I felt like having the lyrics go on top of a more upbeat, positive sounding song would go well, and then I would ultimately have a more upbeat sounding song but with a darker themed video. They took it their own direction. I didn't expect it to be so pagan, but I told them 'Yeah, I was thinking something dark,' and then they showed up with that and I was like 'Oh, okay.'"
Even if Low Shoulder was something of a curveball, Underneath The Pine is sure not to be.
TORO Y MOI plays two shows in Melbourne at Shake Some Action, Onesixone, Prahran on Thursday February 17 and at The Workers Club, Fitzroy on Friday February 18. Underneath The Pine comes out Tuesday 22 February through Carpark Records.
BY LOUISE HARDWICK