Chaz Bundick. Photo by Andrew Paynter
Toro Y Moi mastermind Chaz Bundick tends to not know where his influences will take him. Inspired by smooth cosmic jazz and modern recording techniques in equal measure, his third album, Anything in Return, sounds like the floating Space Odyssey lovechild of a tight, slightly stoned ’70s funk band and a hotshot hip hop laptop producer.
I spoke with Bundick, who was halfway between Philadelphia and New York, about going from dreamy bedroom pop to turtleneck-sporting lothario in three albums flat (you might want to watch his amusing video for “So Many Details” to get that reference).
Erik Leijon: There are a lot of vocal samples on Anything in Return. What do you like about them?
Chaz Bundick: I like how malleable they are; you can do so many things with them. You can either use them as a single element, or you can put a bunch of effects on them and they turn into something different, like another percussive sound — there’s so much more you can do with them than just a regular chunk of music. I love the flexibility vocal snippets provide.
EL: Are the vocal samples used in the songwriting process?
CB: They’re one of the last things I add to a song. Like an addition to an existing song.
EL: Was it difficult implementing hip hop-style vocal samples, given you don’t make hip hop music?
CB: At first it was hard, but it was a trial-and-error thing.
EL: What’s cosmic jazz?
CB: It was this particular era of jazz in the ’70s that’s very psychedelic. A very astral, spiritual kind of jazz. It goes by a lot of names, but cosmic jazz is one from that time period.
EL: Did you want Anything in Return to sound like cosmic jazz?
CB: I don’t know — it was one of the influences, and it’s how it kinda turned out (laughs). I don’t know what I want my stuff to sound like, ever, until the song is done, regardless of what it was influenced by. A good example is I have songs on the new album that were influenced by [’70s German experimental group] Can that don’t sound like Can.
EL: Is it true you wanted the album to be future-sounding, though?
CB: I wanted to make something that sounded contemporary, and not like it was referencing the ’70s. My previous album [Underneath the Pine] had a lot of analogue gear involved and was done using old-school recording techniques, and I wanted to take a break from that for a second and do something more progressive, and play with the toys I like using now.
EL: Any toys in particular?
CB: It was more production techniques. The way things are processed nowadays are very different from back then — things are louder, with more frequencies involved. It’s the influence from hip hop and R&B, with the low end being amped up a bit more.
EL: Both of your new videos, “Say That” and “So Many Details,” have a certain lightheartedness about them, yet look stellar. Did you have a lot of input?
CB: For those two videos, [directors] the HARRYS had a certain aesthetic I really enjoyed, so I asked them to work with me. Really it was about finding the directors that fit with what I wanted, which was something cinematic and simple.
EL: Was the weather an issue with “Say That?”
CB: It was filmed outside of Lorain County in California, where all the redwoods are. There were a couple of times where the fog was too thick, and there were some parts where the shot was done from really far away. Maybe the hardest thing was walking out away from the camera and trying to hear what they were saying, because they were at least 100 yards away from me.
EL: So did it feel like it was just you, standing in the middle of nature, dancing by yourself?
CB: (laughs) Yeah. ■
Toro Y Moi play with openers Wild Belle and Dog Bite at Club Soda (1225 St-Laurent) on Saturday, Feb. 16, 7:30 p.m., $18/$20, all ages