Interview Toro Y Moi: “I Wanna Make Shoes!”

We get to hang with Chazwick in sunny Barcelona.

Having been one of the pioneers of a certain kind of blissed out, 80s influenced type pop music, it was not without a little trepidation we heard that Toro Y Moi’s LP number two was going to be different - less produced, more played… we even heard the word ‘folk’ being bandied about. But fear not, for if new track ‘Leave Everything’ is a taster, it’s simply about bringing a funkier, more soulful edge to indie pop, which is no bad thing, we’re sure you’ll agree. We got to hang with Chazwick in sunny Barcelona to discuss being prolific, designing shoes, and why European plugs are no good.

Have you come up with a name for the new album yet?

Not yet, no. Still thinking what it could, or should, be. I think I’m either going to go with a song name, or maybe a lyric. Something like that.

Do you have a deadline to decide?

Well, mastering is going to be done in November, so the promos will be sent out shortly after that… the clock is ticking.

As you’ve already released some dance music under a different name – Les Sins – were you tempted to use another moniker for the new material, given that it’s quite different?

Sort of. I came up with Les Sins around 2008, 2009, at the turn of the year. I started listening to dance, and I wanted to make a completely different project. It wasn’t like I made the songs and then thought “This can’t be Toro Y Moi”, or whatever. I didn’t want Toro Y Moi to be considered a DJ, ‘cos it’s something much more personal than that. It’s not like I’m just DJ-ing records. So with a different moniker I can always keep things separate.

A lot of artists feel the need to be prolific, given the fickle nature of music nowadays. Is releasing another album so soon part of a plan to capitalise on the success you’ve had, to keep your name out there?

No, ‘cos before Carpark Records came to me I always had an electronic project, or collection of songs, as well as a folkier, guitar and piano based thing going on. So when Carpark came to me, when they started seeing all the buzz I was getting… we put out the 7’ of ‘109’ / ‘Blessa’, that was like an introduction to let people know I have two different sides, or characters. It’s just always been like that. But to release it within the same year, that was just something for fun, as I’ve always worked on electronic music and more traditional stuff at the same time.

Are you going to keep being as prolific?

No, ‘cos I’m killing myself right now. There is so much pressure and work. I wrote both these albums in between tours, which was really hard, as before that I was just writing in my spare time. I doubt I would put myself in this position again… plus I never thought I’d be touring this much when I started out, but now I know.

Do you still believe in the integrity of whole albums as artistic statements? Most of the tunes on ‘Causers Of This’ faded into each other and worked together.

Yeah, I do. Definitely. I was looking at albums like J Dilla’s, and Loveless, and how they’ll have segways and transitional tracks just by themselves, and I think that’s really important. With vinyl making a comeback, it’s cool that people actually sit down and listen all the way through, they don’t just skip to the single or whatever. It’s cool to stick to tradition.

Surely vinyl never really went away?

Right, but it’s making a weird, odd, hip comeback.

Even cassettes are making a comeback, especially among the ‘hip’…

I know. I only did one cassette, we sold like 100 copies or something. I don’t even have one now.

Are you ever tempted to put out stuff as and when it’s ready, either as one off singles or an EP, or do want to keep it till you have an albums worth of material?

I was sort of scared that was gonna happen, but then again, it wouldn’t be that crazy. I mean look at Ariel Pink, his new album has a weird spectrum of songs, and I think it works really well. You can’t really listen to it on shuffle, I agree, you have to know how they go together. In a way, one off stuff could work, who knows? Like I might wanna go do some deep house, or minimal house song or something, and I’m sure I couldn’t do a whole album of that but it’d be fun, for my own sake, to release a track like that. Singles are definitely where it’s at nowadays, as people have such short attention spans. Even I do, like if I’m checking out a blog, I’ll keep clicking onto the next track, the next track…

Right, but even when people like a song, or have bought it, they’ll listen to it for a minute or so, and then skip to the next one.

I know! It’s weird, it’s like we’re searching for something but we never find it. Besides, there is so much good music out there.

Now that you are touring with a bass player and drummer, are they involved at all in the new material, either in terms of arrangements or even song writing?

No. Maybe in the future. But live, definitely. The songs that we play live, the new songs and even from ‘Causers’, we try to stay true to the song, to the melody, but the structures are a little bit different just because, as we’re all from South Carolina and we’ve been together a while, we understand each others’ chemistry and approach, so we change it to accommodate that. We all think like one person.

So did they come to it after all the new material was done, when you just needed people to go tour with?

In a way. Even before I started getting noticed, Andy [Woodward, drummer] and I were trying to make Toro Y Moi more of a band. I never had any intentions of making Toro just a laptop kind of set, but because of certain circumstances that’s what it had to be for a while. I just wanted to get the band together a soon as possible.

When you write, do you do so alone, or do you have people you can bounce ideas off or get their opinion on certain parts?

Performance wise, the writing and recording is still all me, but I’m open to ideas. When we were mixing the new record in the studio, Patrick [Jeffords, bass] and Andy came down and made suggestions for some parts that are now being added in. I’m a nice guy, I don’t get all diva about it.

You’ve said that after this tour, you’re gonna go do some producing. Who for?

After this tour? I dunno. It’s in the future for sure, most likely. I can’t say who for exactly, it was more like a general wish or goal. I’ll probably give it a rest for a while first. Having just done two records I feel like I’m gonna explode out my head. I’ll just take it easy.

With the success you’ve had, are you inundated with offers of production, or remixes?

Yeah, it’s weird, coz remixes are more like a publicity stunt nowadays. They used to be for fun, and for clubs, but now they are just for blogs or the press. In terms of offers, I have had a lot, but I’ve been turning them down just because I don’t have the time. When I first started getting them, I’d be like “Cool, a hundred bucks. Yeah, I’ll do it!” but then after I’d realise I didn’t even like the song that much, so I’d have to cancel it and say sorry, I just don’t believe in it right now, I’m not gonna force it.

So how do you choose what to do? Is it solely based on what you like or think is good, or a case of enough zeros on the cheque…

If there are enough zeros on the cheque, it’s always…well, I’m sure anybody would do that, but for sure I have to like the original song first coz when I do a remix, I like to do the polar opposite of the original. Like with Teagan and Sara, it was really a kind of indie pop song, and I really wanted to give it a Nelly Furtado, R&B kinda spin. But melody is the most important thing. That and the lyrics.

A lot of musician who do electronic type music end up obsessively collecting old old synths, effects pedals, moogs and so on. Do you do the same, or do you collect software and effects programs?

I just got my first vintage synth last year, and it’s definitely a life changing thing. Like, when I first got a loop pedal, I just couldn’t stop playing with it. But I’m definitely a hardware geek, not software – analogue is definitely awesome. I don’t know why anyone would go digital, analogue is definitely preferable.

With your background in graphic design, are you deeply involved with the album art, videos, cover photos and so on?

It’s all me, pretty much. Helping out with projections, CD covers, stickers, web ads. It’s fun to keep it in house; it’s cheaper, and you get exactly what you want…it’s just a question of having the time to do it all. I need to be in that movie, ‘Multiplicity’.

This is your second tour round Europe – what have been the highlights and lowlights of this trip compared to the last?

A definite highlight is having a fanbase over here. Considering it’s only the first or second time I’ve been to some of these cities, it’s crazy how the internet can do that stuff. As for lowlights, there have been some technical difficulties. The first show we played last summer, I blew up my mixer as soon as I plugged it in. Which sucked. I was like “Are you serious?” and I didn’t even know how to read the different adapters yet. That and not being able to use cell phones in certain places, or there being no wi-fi. That’s annoying.

Having dome some modelling before, and been noted for your style, have you been offered any endorsement deals for clothes or shoes?

That was when there were a lot of zeros on the cheque! I was like, “Really?” But it was just two shoots. I did one for Paper Magazine, and one for Uniqlo, and that was it. The label actually said “You should totally try and get into that” and I was like “That’s not me! I’m not into that.” So no deals unfortunately. But I saw that thing that Animal Collective did with shoes, and I was like “I wanna make shoes!” If that happened then yeah, I’d be totally ripped.

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