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Toro y Moi

by Shaun Curran

Special To The Japan Times

You’ve played Japan before, were they festivals?

Chaz Bundick: The first two times were at festivals. We haven’t done club shows in Tokyo yet, that’s pretty hard. I’m not really sure about what goes into it, but I imagine it’s difficult with us being American coming over to Japan. With festivals it’s less of a niche market, and you can play where the people are rather than getting the people to come to you.

What festivals did you play here?

Hostess [Weekender] festival and a 24-hour festival called Taico Club. We were on at 7 a.m., it was pretty cool.

Did your set go over well?

Yeah, both times were pretty awesome. Last time we were here was with Hostess, which is a weird type of festival cause it’s only four bands a day. So we got to play with Spiritualized, and it was really cool. The audiences (here) are awesome, they really respond well to the music.

Are crowds in Japan easier to win over?

It’s hard to tell. Here the audiences don’t really show any type of reaction until after the song is over. But one good way to tell is if people are dancing around. It’s always a pretty quick stay in Japan, two days here with travel and stuff.

You’ve said “Anything in Return” harks back to your first album…

I had no idea that Toro y Moi was going to get this big, so I thought it would be fun to play around with R&B and electronica a bit more, if it didn’t get as big as it did I have no idea how the third record would have sounded. It’s always fun to do those kind of pop songs, but then it is also fun to have a weirder sound and reference different things and other types of music.

Are those pop-sounding tunes on the latest album deliberate?

Yeah, pretty much. I always wanted to make electronic-type pop, but I didn’t want it to be bubble-gum pop. That’s too easy for the audience, and for me to write. I really look up to artists like Caribou and Four Tet who make pop music that is challenging.

Has DJing influenced your songwriting?

Oh yes, definitely. It’s fun to have (actual) tracks. If you look at artists like Actress, they aren’t making tracks to be DJ’d out, they are just influenced by house music.

(The songwriting has) definitely changed. I’ve been fortunate to build up a repertoire of toys in my studio and use more hardware. That is the goal nowadays, to get out of the computer. I give Daft Punk some credit for making an album like “Random Access Memories,” where they are using that mantra, but there are tons of artists who have been doing that. Just go against the grain. If people are doing something, try to do something else.

Starting off on your computer seems pretty easy…

Oh yeah, it’s easy. It is.

How did you progress then? Were you hindered by the computer’s limitations?

It didn’t bother me at all, I was just experimenting. I didn’t know what it could all do until two albums later. Computers should be used as a tool, not as a crutch. Everything sounds a certain way, and you can just tell when something has been made on a computer. It doesn’t punch as hard sometimes. It’s not as dynamic.

You get tagged with the chillwave label a lot, are you bothered by it?

No, I’m down with being called that. It’s funny how people are shunned for using that term, or that they don’t want to use it themselves. It’s pretty accepted that it’s a common term now. It was just strange to have witnessed that (buzz) happen, especially from my point of view. But I am flattered by the whole thing.

Did you find it helped you more than it hindered you then?

Yeah, if it wasn’t for that label I don’t think that people would even know who Toro y Moi is. People hear “chillwave” and they think of Toro y Moi or Washed Out or something, it’s pretty awesome to be thought of instantly like that. I can’t complain, it’s something to be proud of.

It’s a strange thing. In 2009, that was the music I was interested in and that is where I landed at that time. On top of that, Internet blogs started really taking off as pioneers of exposing new artists and it was a weird time in which the stars aligned. Having all those artists making that similar kind of music and having the blogs become so big was a weird coincidence — but a happy one.

For new songs, though, you obviously think about how they can be played live…

For sure. That’s in my mind when I’m writing new music now. You look at bands that get bigger and bigger and start writing anthemic songs, sometimes it works to their advantage and other times it sounds really wimpy and lame, but playing live is in my mind now. I want it to work to our advantage, not like we are trying to be some stadium rock band. It’s all about finding a good groove, a tight rhythm section … not chants and melodies and stuff, just a good solid groove.

We’ve played together since high school. It is not like it’s my band and they are working for me, it’s a collective thing. The only thing is that I write the songs. When it comes to playing, everyone has their own groove. We’ve been playing for 10 years and we know how to click. I want (Toro y Moi) to be seen as a band, not just the Chaz show. I do want to get out from the instrument once in a while, so we’ll look into that at some point. But we just want a solid show.

Any new songs on the horizon?

Not yet. I’m trying to work on ideas and songs, but I need to be in a certain zone to write — it’s just my thing. I really enjoy that process, it is my favorite part.