Indie Rockers Toro y Moi Embrace ’70s Soft Rock on New Album

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click to enlarge Indie Rockers Toro y Moi Embrace ’70s Soft Rock on New Album
Samantha Fryberger
With the guys in the IFC mockumentary TV show Documentary Now paying tribute to yatch rock, the suddenly popular style of soft rock that was popular in the ’70s, it would be easy to lump Toro Y Moi’s new album, What For?, in with the trend. And yet singer-guitarist Chaz Bundick says the indie rock band that plays the Beachland Ballroom on Monday was going for something slightly different. 

“I was going for a ’70s soft rock sound but not like yacht rock,” he says via phone. “I was really into [singer-guitarist] Todd Rundgren. It’s got a groove, but it’s not heavy rock. I’ve been into that music for a while.”

Since forming Toro y Moi in 2002, Bundick has taken a DIY approach. Though the band has been categorized as “chillwave,” it regularly shifted styles on its previous albums.

“I got into the Pixies and At the Drive-In — a lot of indie rock,” Bundick says when asked about his influences. “I was obsessed with college radio. My first favorite bands were Weezer and Modest Mouse. I’ve always been into all types of music. I like how the Beatles and even Elliott Smith changed it up and did something different. Animal Collective does that too. Every record is different. That’s always been the motif — to not have the motif. I try to make sure I don’t do anything that sounds like the previous record. I don’t mind, as long as it’s a different sonic idea. The main goal is to try not to repeat myself.”

The new album certainly represents another sonic shift. While it’s not a huge departure, a song like the lurching, Steely Dan-meets-Chic “Spell It Out” is much funkier than anything in Toro y Moi’s back catalog.

“That song was influenced by [singer-songwriter] Tim Maia,” says Bundick. “He has straight-up songs about world peace. I was stoned and I thought it would be so cool to write a song about world peace. If someone in the mainstream world would do it, I figured they would do it wrong because it’s mainstream music. I thought I would do my best attempt to write a pop song that’s about world peace without having to actually talk about world peace. It’s something that I really do wonder about. What the hell is wrong with people sometimes?”

The first Toro y Moi album to debut on the charts, What For? represents another step forward for a band whose popularity is slowly escalating.

“It’s very gratifying,” says Bundick when asked about the increase in popularity. “Acceptance is a weird thing. It’s what we’re striving for but once you get it, it’s like, ‘Now what?’ I try to ignore it. It’ll either break down or build up my ego, which I’m trying to fight. With all of the most successful artists, they have an ego problem. The goal is to get the band as big as possible but still have some balance.”
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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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