Running With the Bull

Talking Disco-Inspired Chillwave With Toro Y Moi

Toro Y Moi is a full-time job for Chaz Bundick, who dedicated himself to music after finishing a graphic design degree at the University of South Carolina. His chilled-out electronic demos made waves around the world, and he has since been sharing them onstage. His second LP, Underneath the Pine expands chillwave further—and funkier.

“We’re busy promoting the record,” said Bundick. “We’ve got Europe, then a short thing in Asia, then later Australia and Brazil. It’s pretty crazy. It sounds cheesy, but how people react to music is universal. It’s cool how similarly people react to it.”

Bundick tracked everything on the latest record himself, resorting to live instruments instead of samples and loops as building blocks, and there’s a much different energy as a result.

Disco grooves and flower power swirl around the album. Bundick’s layered falsetto is the only thing that keeps this record in the 21st century, basking in reverb like only indie bands today can.

“It’s my new religion, I can’t stop listening to that stuff,” said Bundick about the decidedly ‘70s sounds of funk, soul and R&B. “It was just a matter of time before I got to play it.”

Last year’s Causers of This cut-up and transformed that influence with effects patches, but here smooth bass and electric keyboard lines take a more literal reproduction of that funky music.

From the disco jam “New Beat” to the Procol Harum-style “Divina,” Toro Y Moi is all about the ‘70s ass-shaking—now done in high-waisted pants as vintage as the sound. Underneath the Pine brings disco into the mix in the best possible way.

“If I had a choice I’d always use live instruments. Effects can make [live instruments] sound electronic, but you can’t really make electronic music sound live,” said Bundick. “It’s really boring staring at a computer screen all day. With this record I really wanted to have fun.”

As far as writing and production goes, for now Bundick is keeping the fun to himself. He did all the work on the last two albums, and things will most likely stay that way for the foreseeable future.

“There’s the pros and cons of working by yourself and with people,” said Bundick. “I’m into the idea, but right now I’m just doing my stuff.”

Nevertheless, playing with a band to flesh-out his self-recorded solo material gives this hip dance party live energy. With the writing for Underneath the Pine largely done between touring stints, new Toro Y Moi keeps things the way the crowd likes it: upbeat and big.

“It’s written with the live show in mind,” said Bundick about the new record’s sound—one much more designed for a band than Causers of This was.

“We’re all long-time friends, so it feels like we’ve been a band for a long time. When I started getting exposure I wanted to get the band together as soon as I could.”

Toro Y Moi and a handful of other American electronic musicians are usually given credit for pioneering the mid-tempo throwback dance-pop reverb fest known as ‘chillwave.’ It kept bloggers busy until all those triangles started showing up, but Bundick’s continued success is evidence of how he stands out from artists with less depth.

“I want people to feel refreshed. I wouldn’t say [the chillwave sound] is all my idea, it’s more about being ahead of the crew,” said Bundick. “Making shit that I enjoy is always first. If there’s no passion it’s not worth doing. If people go one way, I’ll go the other way.”

Bundick’s track record—two solid full-length records in just over 12 months—legitimizes the hype, especially in a microgenre where it’s rare to make it past a trendy EP. Toro Y Moi is the real deal, and that’s no bull.

Toro Y Moi / La Sala Rossa / 4848 St. Laurent Blvd. / Fri., April 8 / 8:30 pm / with Braids & Adventure / $13 advance, $15 at the door.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 29, published April 5, 2011.