Chaz Bundick is the soft spoken, remarkably talented dude behind one of the internet’s most lusted-after musical acts, Toro Y Moi. His fantastic debut album Causers Of This took his dreamy, lo-fi pop tunes from his bedroom studio and into the ears of the world at large, and just over a year later he is one week away from dropping his follow up record, Underneath The Pines (22 February). Chaz has just touched down in Australia for the first time to headline Playground Weekender and a handful of solo shows, where he will be playing tracks off the new album for the first time.
Underneath The Pine doesn’t have the same hazy, dreaminess that put Causers Of This and Toro Y Moi at the helm of the chillwave movement. The new sound is more up-tempo and polished with a strong disco/funk influence. “I’ve always thought that albums should be different and changing in style,” Chaz told Pedestrian. “I think that what I was going for in terms of sound was something more hi-fi – not as lo-fi [as Causers Of This], and so far all of the live instrumentation and recordings that I have done are all sort of raw sounding and dirty, and I just wanted to try to get that cleaner sound but still be up to par with Causers. And I think that thematically I was definitely going for a more of a Seventies, Sixties kind of sound.”
After the success of his debut and having high expectations from fans and his label, Carpark Records, you would assume there would be a fair amount of pressure to deliver with album number two. For that reason Chaz didn’t want to rush the process. “I recorded Underneath The Pine from May  to the fall around October. There was a lot of pressure because of the position I put myself in: I told the label and friends that I’d have a second album out by the end of the year. So I think there was that pressure but it was only caused by me so I was okay with that.”
Feeling the pressure of live performing is also something that Chaz has become more okay with over the last couple of years – particularly in regards to singing live. He said “I’m growing to become more comfortable. After the first album really it was just me solo on stage – but then singing the way I do for Toro Y Moi is totally different to the way I used to when I was in bands. For Toro Y Moi it’s a lot higher and different – falsetto. It was really hard cos I was kinda shy about it at first but now I feel like it’s nothing to be shy about.”
It’s somewhat surprising to hear him describe himself as shy after watching him in his video clips. He’s a natural in front of the camera. “Well… I was really very nervous for the first time I had to be on film for a video. I was all super-nervous and kept messing up.”
Not surprisingly, his photogenic qualities have been recognised and put to use by professionals in the field of aesthetics. “I’ve done some modeling. That was kind of… out of the ordinary for me but it’s fun. I like that kind of energy.”
The visual components that comes with the Toro Y Moi project – sleeve art, music videos, photography, etc – are personally managed by Chaz, whose background is in graphic design. He dedicates a lot of thought and time into putting his own artistic spin on it: “Like when I was thinking about Underneath The Pines for the album, the artwork at first was kind of… aesthetically pleasing but it really didn’t feel like it had a connection to the album. Like aesthetically it looked kinda Seventies and like old or something which was cool, but I really wasn’t feeling it – it wasn’t attracting me. And then I picked out that picture of the fruit in my mouth and somehow it just clicked, and I was like “this is it” whether my bandmates or my parents think it’s gross or not. …. [The image] connected with the album because it’s personal and it’s intimate and it’s kinda weird, so it’s definitely different from the last album so I thought that somehow it would work for this album.”
The Toro Y Moi sound is often described as “cinematic”. Cinema is actually a field that Chaz is interested in exploring at some point. “That’s sort of like a goal of mine to score a film and do an original soundtrack. I saw that Grizzly Bear did one (for Blue Valentine). I saw that they were doing a film score but they just used all their instrumentals from [first album] Yellow House or something. But those guys totally have the talent and the skills to do an original soundtrack which would be awesome. I wouldn’t want to be touring if I was doing that though.”
In the meantime, he is going to keep touring to keep up with the demand from fans and would be husbands and wives. The dude is a proper internet indie sex symbol. Just check out the comments and myriad of marriage proposals beneath any youtube video bearing his name.
As creepy as it might seem, Chaz is actually okay with his online sex symbol status. “It’s pretty funny,” he said when we read out a few choice lines including one that reads: I’m not gay but that guy’s adorable… Maybe I am gay for that little peach. Then there is the devoted Tumblr, Fuck Yeah Toro Y Moi. “I’ve seen that! I don’t know who’s writing that but apparently there’s another a ‘Fuck yeah whatever’ tumblr for everything now – like Drums. There’s a fuck yeah drums dot com apparently. I don’t know… Weird!”
“I think that it’s really awesome but… I don’t know – it fascinates me how images and sounds can spread so fast over the internet, and like I’m just a guy in South Carolina just chillin out. Then online it’s like a totally different thing.”
Not that he is complaining.
He attributes a large part of his popularity to the online music community. He said, “because of the internet, because of online fans and publishing and people spreading their music through the internet, that has all definitely helped my music. That’s how a lot of bands actually have gotten where they are. It’s really crazy how fast it spreads. Just to think how it used to be like 45’s record clubs that you would get in the mail, then it turned into MTV and now this… it’s pretty ridiculous.”
You know what else is pretty ridiculous? His live show. So grab some tickets and bring your marriage proposals.
TORO Y MOI DATES
17 Feb The Toff in Town VIC
18 Feb The Workers Club VIC
20 Feb 2011 Playground Weekender NSW
23 Feb Goodgod Small Club NSW
24 Feb Woodland QLD