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Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundick on writing in a vacuum, visiting Tokyo and digging XXYYXX

February 12, 2014
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In our Feb. 12 issue, we wrote about electro-pop leading man Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi and his recent admissions that he was “burnt out,” “straight-up tired” and “bored” with music. We figured that’s why Bundick couldn’t be corralled for an interview, when in fact it was simply because he was playing shows in Australia and Japan, rendering him nearly unreachable from the polar vortices of the U.S.

But upon returning to the States in time for the Weezer Cruise’s departure from Jacksonville on Feb. 13, Bundick finally came through with his email interview responses. And that granted us the ability to dig a little deeper into Toro y Moi’s current mindset – and revel in a few big-ups he threw Orlando’s way.

Orlando Weekly: So how was the Big Day Out Festival in Australia, Chaz?
Chaz Bundick: Big Day Out is fun because it’s almost like a traveling summer camp full of other bands. You get to actually hang out with other artists, as opposed to U.S. festivals, which are typically one-day-only affairs. Everyone flies in for the show and flies out right afterwards. There’s not much time to relax and hang out.

How about the Weezer Cruise? Is this is a first for you?
[It] is a first for us. I’m pretty stoked to play those shows. It’s so crazy that we even get to do something like this. I am very thankful.

And we’re thankful that you scheduled a couple of one-off Florida shows in Orlando and Miami for after your return.
I’ve only played Orlando once, and it was a low-attended show. But it was fun. It was with EAR PWR and we just had a small dance party in the front. I can’t believe how much the fan base there has grown, and I’m super excited to play for them [again]. it’s been too long!

You mentioned in a Rolling Stone interview last May that you were “straight-up tired of music.” Do you still feel that way?
Somewhat. But I think I’m burned out and exhausted more than fed up with music. I just feel like there’s too much music to consume, and every once in a while you have to quit finding more and listen to what you already have.

Are you consciously trying to create or listen to music of a totally different genre? Or just doing what feels natural?
I usually like to do what isn’t popular at the time, but it’s also a combination of doing what I want mixed with making music that isn’t popular. It’s a strange cycle that has a very blurry line between natural and contrived.

Do you think your guest turn on the recent Chromeo song/video “Come Alive” works against you trying to un-slot yourself from the electro-funk box?
[I have] no qualms with being “slotted” into the electro-funk box for the sake of being in the video. They told me they really appreciate the funkier stuff, and that’s cool. But it doesn’t make me want to create more funk music or anything. I [just] thought it’d be fun to work with them.

So what kind of music are you listening to right now?
So much random stuff! The five most recently added artists on my iTunes include [Orlando musician/producer] XXYYXX – I run into Marcel randomly at festivals. I like to listen to young artists and see what they’re influenced by. Merle Haggard is another; I love old country music being a Carolina boy and all. Then this dude, Seiho, from Japan, [who] makes really awesome electronic music and [is] probably gonna blow up soon. Kelea is in there. I love female R&B stuff, especially when it’s more obscure. Last is Cocteau Twins – I never really got into them until now. Granted their prime was when I was in elementary school, but I’ve been into shoegaze and twee since college, and it’s really nostalgic to hear. I feel like I can connect with the music somehow. Really, all that matters is finding a connection to the music [that] either reminds you of someone, something or some time in your life.

Is it challenging to balance what you record as Toro y Moi and what you play live?
It’s getting harder, especially because we’re a live band now and it’s still just me in the studio during the writing process. But I could see that changing for future releases. Writing is always hard, whether you’re by yourself or with a group. The key is to not to think about it too much – make what you’d listen to.

Is that the overriding motivation for you? You’ve talked a lot in the past about how happy you’d be if music was just a hobby.
I’d honestly prefer to write in a vacuum, but I guess I’d prefer [if] music [were] my career and not just a hobby. In order to strike that balance, I pretty much have to be in the limelight sometimes. It’s really important to keep perspective about everything; it’s easy to succumb to an overly inflated ego, [and] you [can] end up as some caricature of yourself if you’re not careful. I’m happy as long as I focus on making music and not “fame” or lack thereof.

So what’s the future hold for you and for Toro y Moi?
After these Florida shows, I’m actually going to do more design stuff. It’s still a passion of mine and I’d like to expand my horizons and move past T-shirts and album covers. Right now, music is the best way to make a living and I’m still very focused on that. But I think the design world is somewhere I’d like to eventually end up.

The year is still young. But so far, what’s the best A) thing you’ve eaten, B) TV show you’ve watched, C) place you’ve visited and D) nice thing you’ve done for someone else?
A) I had the best damn ramen ever in Tokyo [at] a place called Ichiran; B) I just watched the entire Bates Motel series on Netfilx [and] all I gotta say is “Where’s Season 2?”; C) I love visiting Japan; and D) I recently recorded my friend Keith Meade and am helping him find a label. That, and I also like to dog sit for friends.

TORO y MOI with Caveman
8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 17 | The Social, 54 N. Orange Ave. | 407-246-1419 | thesocial.org | $20

Related: Toro y Moi freezes out chillwave as a genre

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