By Cory Sklar
By Alee Karim
By Christina Li
By Dave Pehling
By Ian S. Port
By SF Weekly
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
Even with the limitations of Bundick's voice laid bare, the collective energy in the room animates the music, bringing it closer to how the group sounds in concerts. There's a new vivacity, an exciting hint of tension. It turns out that the robotic energy of pulsing beats can't replace the vibes steaming off a bunch of human musicians playing together in a small room.
Bundick also felt the new magic that went into "High Living" that evening. He brings it up the next day in Berkeley. "After last night I was like, 'Dang, this is so cool, all these people in the studio together,'" he gushes. "That's what I like the most, is trying to capture that one good take ... finding that vibe. When you just work in the [computer] program, it takes away that chance of capturing mess-ups, happy mistakes." (Bundick isn't new to the mysterious alchemy of a live band, or its usefulness in making music that is dynamic and aggressive: He recorded his second Toro y Moi album, the rep-solidifying and very laid-back Underneath the Pine, with a group in the studio.)
Lots of older Toro y Moi material consists of psych-rock experiments and indie pop, music that would never have encouraged overcaffeinated bloggers to label Bundick "chillwave." But there's something remarkably unflappable about all of his work, about the way he casually steps from one style and period to another, from searing guitars to aquamarine electronic textures, from tambourine '60s pop to glowing '80s nostalgia. Like Ariel Pink, the spiritual father of chillwave, Chaz Bundick is a savant of retromania.
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As an artist and a person, Bundick is by all accounts a relaxed and mild-mannered fellow. He will tell you when he has to blow his nose. But he is not remote. "He's very professional, and his inherent mellowness comes across well for that," Brown says. "But he definitely has his moments of making a dick joke in the middle of the studio."
Todd Hyman, owner of Carpark Records, Toro y Moi's label, attributes Bundick's calm constitution to his native environs. "He's a pretty laid-back guy — I think growing up in the South usually helps that kind of attitude," Hyman says. "A lot of artists, they'll have managers and lawyers and you have to go through all these other people. It's not like that with Chaz — I can just call him or e-mail him anytime."
Bundick gives a similar impression over coffee, though it's clear from the start that he's extremely serious about his music. He's serious about other things, too. Asked if he ever questions his entitlement to explore genres like R&B and hip-hop, where his indie-rock background would've once made him an outsider, Bundick offers a classically post-millenial response. "As long as you know the history of that genre, I think you're entitled to make music," he says.
Good pop songs convey a strong feeling. Chillness is the opposite of a strong feeling, and for that reason, it's not an interesting enough emotional foundation to sustain a musical career. Chaz Bundick gets this. He is acutely aware of the relaxed character of even Toro y Moi's most earnest songs, and says he plans on countering it on his next album. When asked, jokingly, if he plans on making a psychedelic rock record now that he lives in the Bay Area, he says, in all seriousness and without missing a beat, "Yeah, that's probably next."
Does Bundick ever get tired of the decidedly relaxed atmospheres of his sound? "That's been on my mind," he admits. "I want to break out. I recently bought a distortion pedal."