Toro y Moi on keeping things chill

ANDREW PENKALSKI | Updated 2/21/2013

Electronic act Toro y Moi is a hobby turned job for Chaz Bundick.

Chaz Bundick is Toro y Moi.
Photo by Andrew Paynter

It doesn’t make a lot of sense that Chaz Bundick even gives interviews. As the sole conductor of buzz-born electronic act Toro y Moi, the South Carolina native has long articulated that his musical output teeters between that of a hobbyist or at least an incidental professional.

After the runaway success of 2011’s “Underneath the Pine,” Bundick could have holed his manic attic-funk up in the Carolinas. Instead, he lugged it all the way to Berkeley, Calif., where his longtime girlfriend is completing graduate school. Toro y Moi’s third album, last month’s “Anything in Return,” wears the West Coast transition on its sleeve, with gushier love songs and a more balanced rhythmic palette.

“California definitely changed some things,” said Bundick, who performs Wednesday at the Fine Line. “Moving was still hard, like any big change. The weird part is that after this tour I’ll go back to California and not South Carolina.”

In the wake of a potentially alienating experience, Bundick has become admittedly extroverted. It shows through on the streamlined tracks on “Anything in Return.” After two LPs of hiccuping samples, the new material is marked by a newfound seamlessness. The double-time percussion of standout track “So Many Details” slinks around Bundick’s melodies, which now sound more interested in keeping shoulders swaying rather than changing a time signature. The fact that his face graces the album’s cover also suggests something a bit more traditional.

“I think I sort of wanted to pay homage to classic records where they still had faces on them,” Bundick said. “It can come off as gaudy or arrogant to put your face on a record, and I knew I didn’t want to do a photo of my face. I wanted a physical piece of artwork that I could hold onto.”

There’s a small clash of ideals at work here. Bundick the hobbyist has done a fashionable job at downplaying any long-term expectations for Toro y Moi. But the portrait art of “Anything in Return” toys with his persona in a more exposed way. The image suggests that even Bundick — a design student himself — must find his signature Coke-bottle frames somewhat iconic. So where does the line between solitary pursuit and notoriety begin to blur?

“It’s why I look up to people like Thom Yorke and David Byrne and even the Flaming Lips. They’re big successful artists, but they still keep a perspective on things,” the 26-year-old Bundick said. “When it comes to making your hobby your job, you do have to watch your back and be smarter about things. What I try to do is never take it too seriously, because who knows how long I’ll be in the spotlight or whatever?”

For now, it seems Toro y Moi’s pastiche of danceable exploits can pay Bundick’s bills for as long as he desires. He said that grad school may be in his future — a consequence-free attitude few artists can afford. And if Bundick ever does pull the plug on his pet project, he’ll have to reconcile with the fact that a lot of other people are now listening.


When: 9 p.m. Wed. Where: Fine Line. Tickets: $15.