By Sam Barker
Edited by Ellen Meder
Sixteen years after Hootie & the Blowfish went platinum, Columbia has been looking for a local artist to take their place as unofficial musical ambassadors of the city. It might just be Chaz Bundick.
Bundick grew up playing on a cul-de-sac in The Summit neighborhood in northeast Columbia. A decade later, Bundick, 24, is playing much larger venues but says he's still the same old Chaz his friends know and love.
Millions of others know him as Toro y Moi, darling of the indie rock community and pioneer of "chillwave" – an amalgamation of hip-hop, rhythm and blues, electronica and rock, with a relaxed, summery feel.
Bundick has been making music most of his life, but he is also interested in photography and graphic design. The band's blog is filled with pictures taken during road trips and tours, as well as drawings and designs from Bundick's teenage years.
His enthusiasm for all things retro plays a part in his music. "I do enjoy certain aesthetics of previous decades, like the '80s and '70s," Bundick says.
Since its inception, Toro y Moi has grown from a solo project to a full-blown band, reuniting Bundick with Pat Jeffords, the former bassist of his high school band, The Heist and the Accomplice. The past two years have been a whirlwind for Bundick; he released two albums, toured the world and was even blogged about by Kanye West. Just this winter, he toured Europe and Australia.
He took time out of his busy schedule to do an online chat with the Carolina Reporter.
You were born and raised in Columbia and went to school at USC. Can you describe getting your music going, especially in an area that is predominantly dedicated to rap and country music?
Well, I was never really concerned about finding a fan base for this project because it was solely for my entertainment. I felt, and still feel, that having people like your music and gaining fans is a plus, but making sure I enjoy what I'm doing is always first. So no, being in the South didn't affect me, really. I'm a big fan of rap and country, too.
Since you've been touring around the world, you've been to a lot of different places. Do you plan on staying in the South or are you ready to get out, maybe go live up North or out West?
No, I've been here all my life. I'm going to move this summer. Don't know where yet.
What's a typical day in the life of Chaz Bundick? A lot of practicing and rehearsing?
Well right now, I'm on tour, so it's pretty boring. The best part is playing the show of course. But we wake up, drive, get to the venue, set up and then get ready for the show. But when I'm home it's pretty different. I usually go out to lunch with friends and catch up or record all day.
You've achieved great success in the United States and abroad, yet you still come back and spin at Bey's or Hunter-Gatherer and stay connected with the music scene in Columbia. Is that something you make a conscious effort to do, stay in touch with your hometown?
Yeah, I'm the same person I was before getting popular. So it just feels natural. I feel like I'd be doing those things even if I was still in town.
Who or what gives you the inspiration for your music? Where do you find it?
I find a lot of inspiration online and through relations. I like getting lost in the far depths of the Internet.
What made you switch from a solo act to incorporate a full band?
It's not as fun being on stage by yourself, and it sounds better.
Are you playing with the same guys from your old band?
Well, just the bassist, Patrick, from The Heist. But, Jordan Blackmon and Andy Woodward have been longtime friends. ...
Your debut album was released to near-universal critical acclaim. Your second album was named a 2011 Pitchfork "Best New Music" pick, which is a huge honor. How much do you focus on reviews? Do they change how you approach your music?
I don't pay attention to those. It's flattering though. But reading those reviews can only build up your ego or bring you down.
Your music incorporates elements of electronica, R&B, hip-hop and other genres. It's been labeled as "chillwave" or "glo-fi." Is that a genre you created, and are you comfortable with that name? How would you describe your music?
I'm fine being labeled that, it doesn't bother me. I'd just call it pop or experimental pop.
Can you explain the story or reasoning behind the name Toro y Moi? It means "Bull and Me," right?
Yes, that's correct. I made it up when I was 15, so it was kind of nonsensical.
So what's next for the band? More touring?
Yep, work, work, have babies, work and send them to school.