What For?, the fourth album from Toro y Moi (also known as Chaz Bundick), was not made for playing on your laptop speakers. In Bundick’s words, it’s an album designed for the live experience; he tested it out for around 90,000 people at Coachella last weekend, so we’ll take him at his word ahead of his show at Paradise Rock Club this Friday.
“It’s about as crazy as you can imagine,” says Bundick about the annual festival, on the phone from his home in Berkeley. “Playing for that many people is kind of surreal. I get more nervous in front of smaller crowds. When it’s a big crowd like that, it kind of feels like you are playing to something like 500 people. That’s the amount of people I can see standing in the crowd. After a certain amount, it’s just a big group of people.”
Since Bundick’s emergence as a solo artist in 2010, he’s built his reputation on giving audiences something different each time they hear him. His lauded debut Causers of This ushered him to the forefront of the electronic chill wave scene, but subsequent efforts Underneath the Pine and Anything in Return found Bundick further exploring his range as a musician, building a more robust sound with inflections of disco, R&B, and synth-pop using live instrumentation. What For? continues Bundick’s personal evolution as an artist and live performer, but he didn’t make it on his own.
“The first thing I thought when making this record was ‘I’m going to get someone to play some sick drums,’ and then ‘I’m going to get someone to play a rad guitar solo,’” says Bundick. “I wanted to work with other artists just because I wanted the music to be better. When it comes to electronic music, it’s fun to do that stuff by yourself because you are on a computer and in a zone. But with this, I was kind of showing it to friends a lot and trying to get as many ideas and influences as possible.”
Indeed, the album doesn’t suffer from a lack of inspiration: Bundick and his collaborators draw from a broad range of psychedelic pop, funk, and indie rock sources, and, though the recipe may sound familiar, the individual ingredients are tweaked for maximum appeal. “Run Baby Run” glows like a sunny early Oasis cut, with Bundick’s upbeat vocals gliding above the guitars, while “Empty Nesters” and the roller rink bounce of “Spell It Out” subvert their ostensibly pop arrangements with quirky references to vintage yacht rock.
Though he continues to make electronic music, most recently with last year’s excellent release under the name Les Sins, it’s easy to see why Bundick is excited to bring his new songs to a live audience.
“This is totally where I want to be, but I don’t know where it is going to go,” Bundick explains. “I definitely want to play more guitar on stage, just because that’s a real fun instrument to play live, and I think people are starting to see Toro more as a band now and not just a producer guy. It’s nice to be known as a live band. I had no expectations really on where I think I would want to go or where I think it should go, I kind of just want to see what happens.”