Fr. Jones shoots the breeze with Columbiaâ€™s very own Chazwick Bundick, the man behind worldwide chillwave sensation Toro Y Moi, about inspiration versus motivation, touring overseas, live hardware, and the inevitability of musical experimentation.
FR: Instead of a chillwave question, letâ€™s talk heatwave. It was 105 degrees on consecutive days this past week in your hometown of Columbia,Â South Carolina. Do you care to say anything about that?
CB: How many days? That sucks. Thatâ€™s too hot but Iâ€™ve seen that before. I like that feeling though- the humidity and hot weather. Feels like Iâ€™m at home.
FR: Currently, you are neck deep in touring. Just glancing over the past dates youâ€™ve performed on this year, and the shows coming up- itâ€™s a little intimidating. How do you plan to approach this second half of the live circuit?
CB: Well, weâ€™re going to change the live set a lot and make it longer for one- our set was too short. When I got the band together, we were already low on time to learn songs. We pretty much did as much as we could, learned as much as we could, and tried to do the best show with that. But other than that, we just really want a longer show.
FR: You spent this past May touring overseas. FromÂ WarsawÂ toÂ GlasgowÂ and all points in between, where was your favorite place to play? Did your journey bring you across anything that inspired you as an artist?
CB: Yeah. One of my favorite places isÂ Poland. I love playing there in general. It has a really cool vibe. The crowds there are really enthusiastic. They like to show how much they are into it. Music doesnâ€™t make it out there as often as theÂ UK, yâ€™know? Theyâ€™re really enthusiastic. But also- the big cities, likeÂ RomeÂ andÂ Paris. Those are always treats too.
FR: Can you tell us a little about your experience at South by Southwest earlier this year?
CB: It was cool. This was my second year. It was pretty much like starting over again because this was the first time I did it with a band. Itâ€™s just a totally different experience. We had to carry all of our equipment everywhere and there was this extra stress. It was cool, man- but itâ€™s a lot of work. We tend to do more work than we need to. We did like nine shows in three or four days. So it was a brutal week.
FR: Speaking of South by Southwest- in your opinion, who is the best act that no one has heard of?
CB: We saw this one band calledÂ AvaÂ Luna. Theyâ€™re fromÂ New YorkÂ and there are like seven of them. They make this really great Motown/pop music with a contemporary spin. Very energetic, really cool. They invited me to their show and I was like, â€œYeah, sure. Iâ€™ll go.â€ And I liked them so much, I asked them to go on tour with me in October.
FR: Your music stands as some of the best fusions of experimentalist production with pop songwriting out there today. Yet for the past decade, it seems that experimentation and avante-garde sounds have been a hallmark of independent music to the point of being almost required. Do you think that pushing sonic boundaries remains important, or has experimentation become passe? How do you see your music in this context?
CB: Iâ€™m not sure about passeâ€™. Music is always constantly evolving naturally. I think the whole experimentation partâ€¦ I guess thatâ€™s just natural too. What I do when I make music is that I like to put my spin on songs from different artists but because Iâ€™m a totally different person with a totally different mind, itâ€™s not going to sound exactly the same so thatâ€™s naturally going to be my sound sort of thing, yâ€™know? Thatâ€™s what I mean by my spin on things. I canâ€™t sing like Paul McCartney, but I can sing how I think I can sing or how I feel comfortable singing. And then in turn it changes into itâ€™s own thing. Itâ€™s like a cycle. When it comes to my musicâ€¦ Iâ€™m into all types of music from shitty rap to avant garde whatever. I appreciate it all for what it is. When I listen to Soulja Boy, Iâ€™m not taking him serious. I know that itâ€™s just ridiculous. Youâ€™re not supposed to take it seriously. Itâ€™s supposed to be fun. When it comes to my music, I just think about all these things. Yea, it can be ridiculous but it would be fun to do this because weâ€™re going to be doing it live.
FR: Today, people listen to music on just about every format available - vinyl, ipods, laptop speakers, even cassette tapes are coming back into the fold. Do have a preferred format? Do you think your work lends itself to a particular listening medium? What do these various listening methods mean to the music scene in general?
CB: Iâ€™ve always liked the MP3s. But they all have their plus sides. I guess my favorite would have to be vinyl. It just sounds amazing. You can actually feel the soundwave on the violin. Thatâ€™s just an amazing thing. But I think cassettes sound great too. Itâ€™s cool to know that audio files all over the world are keeping everything alive really.
FR: On that note- how do you see the music industry developing throughout your career? Does it feel like something you are constantly competing with?
CB: Itâ€™s a job- so itâ€™s going to be competitive. But itâ€™s not like the labels run everything. It used to be that the labels throw big money into bands and that would be that- making money, whatever. But now I think itâ€™s more like bands have the tools and the power they need to do whatever they want at home. They can put it online and showcase whatever and then they can choose who they want to go to when the labels come to them. So that part is totally different. But the industry is changing. I wouldnâ€™t say that itâ€™s not as powerful anymore. But itâ€™s just starting to adjust to the internet influence of finding music and how music is free now. I like the direction of the industry. Itâ€™s more interactive with the actual audience. People can witness a bandâ€™s growth and progression. Itâ€™s better than wondering where these bands came from.
FR: OnÂ Underneath the Pine, your sound took at turn for more band-oriented arrangements, as opposed to the synths-and-laptops approach onÂ Causers of This. Is this a sound that you are more comfortable with and plan on sticking with? Or can we expect the unexpected on your next major project?
CB: I donâ€™t know. I donâ€™t really think about that. When it came to this album, I really wanted the live show to be taken up a notch. For this album, I was thinking about what was going on live, who was going to be playing what. I just wanted a better live show. As far as the next album, I try not to think about that. Thatâ€™s not usually how I approach things. I know that itâ€™s always important to keep changing. So if I do an album that is live-based, Iâ€™m probably not going to do it again right after.
FR: Do you have a favorite piece of gear either for production or on tour?
CB: I like all my keyboards probably the most. My JX3P, my Roland. And I have a Noric, which I just got, itâ€™s awesome. I like hardware a lot. It makes sense to have a lot of gear onstage especially when you can make it happen that itâ€™s not a burden to have a bunch of stuff with you. I think itâ€™s good to eliminate the laptop as much as you can when playing live because itâ€™s more interesting to see.
FR: On a more personal level, what is your perspective on where your song ideas come from? Are your methods for writing new material hampered by your busy 2011 on the road?
CB: I just like to make music whenever I have time to make music. Itâ€™s hard because my inspiration and motivation are kinda the same thing. Itâ€™s like something in the back of my head, the first thing I think about is making music. I donâ€™t really feel inspired. Itâ€™s more like a drive. I donâ€™t know, I just always want to make music.
FR: Any advice to up-and-coming artists struggling to make it in the 21st century music industry?
CB: Yeah. Donâ€™t be afraid to try anything. Be honest with people and yourself. I think itâ€™s pretty understood that if you want things to happen, you have to do it. You canâ€™t just sit around and wait for it to happen. If you want to release something, say â€œLook, Iâ€™m releasing this.â€ Surrounding yourself with positive people, youâ€™re going to get positive results. Itâ€™s pretty understood I guess. Iâ€™m pretty shocked still about how I got to where I am now. It just happened really fast and itâ€™s not really a familiar career path. The way I got here is the most common way, through the internet. And that is still weird to me.
As it just so happens, Chaz will be making a pitstop in Columbia before venturing back onto the live circuit. Â Donâ€™t miss Toro Y Moi with Coma Cinema at New Brookland Tavern, July 14th. Â Doors open at 8.
- Fr. Jones