Renaissance Man: Talking with Toro Y Moi

The “Renaissance man,” Chaz Bundick – better known as Toro y Moi – graces the music, fashion and art worlds with distinct ingenuity. His secret to success lies in doses – a chock full of life experience via records, a picture of serenity in one click of a camera and an abundance of design knowledge to create one-of-a-kind art pieces. Multiple album releases and recent collaborations validate his ability to deliver a standout work of art. Recently, Chaz-of-all-trades created a limited edition Alien Workshop skateboard along with an exclusive pair of sneakers for Vans. The crooning design maven has laid-back style drenched in retro-inspired duds (i.e. his signature specs). Hence, it’s no wonder that hip brands such as Vans and Colab Eyewear were eager to partner with the visual side of Toro y Moi. Here, Chaz and Milk Made discuss design, tour life and the joys of dishwashing.

Milk Made: I’m really excited about this collaboration you have with Vans and Alien Workshop. I skateboard myself. How did you get involved with them? Did you reach out to them or did they reach out to you?

Chaz Bundick: It’s sort of both. First, they invited us to play at a Vans show. Then, at the show, some people were there, they threw the idea out there and I was like, ‘That’s awesome. Let’s do it.’ I’ve been a big fan of Vans my entire life pretty much. It’s pretty cool to get a chance to do that.

MM: How about for Alien Workshop?

CB: Same thing.

MM: Same thing?

CB: Well, sort of. I threw the idea out to them this time. They were totally into it because they worked with my record label before. So yeah, they liked the idea.

MM: That’s awesome! Is this your first time designing for a label or am I late?

CB: Yeah, this is actually my first collaboration. The skateboard and the shoe – having those at the same time is even better. I’m super excited. Then, I have sunglasses too that I just designed.

MM: Is that for Vans too or for a different brand?

CB: They’re not Vans. They’re this company called Colab.

MM: You should design some tee shirts too.

CB: Yeah, I do. All of the merchandise and all the album covers, I design – everything from the labels on the records all the way down to the covers.

MM: You do it all. I’ve always thought the Toro y Moi concert tees were unique from the other band tees. I should have known! You’re about to go on a fall tour with such a diverse group of acts. You’re with Classixx – they DJ. The Sea and Cake is an indie band – along with Vinyl Williams. Exciting lineup! When you go on tour and you’re around these different acts, what do you feel you take away from the tour? This can be applied creatively or personally.

CB: For one thing, it helps us grow together as a band for sure. The more we know each other, I feel like the better we are on stage. Also, it makes you appreciate being home and doing stuff – like doing the dishes and going grocery shopping. Those little things – they seem more enjoyable when you’re not constantly in a car or something.

MM: Those little things we take for granted. You’re on tour through November – that is a lot.

CB: I mean, we’re never doing dishes on tour. (Laughs) If I get to do dishes at home, I get kind of excited.

MM: I was listening to your latest album, "Anything In Return," while I was looking at your Tumblr. I was getting a feel of the synergy. Your art matches the music. When you do your sketches and put your art together, is there a type of music you listen to in order to help in your expression?

CB: No, not really. People our age take in culture and it’s a little bit of everything now. That definitely shaped my visual stuff.

MM: Do you have a favorite artist by any chance – visually?

CB: Yeah, there’s this company called Seen & Made. They make everything from pottery to quilts, textiles, prints, and abstract art. It’s really cool. It’s only one person. I like him and I like Jessica Page.

MM: On your Tumblr, you also have tons of photography. My favorite is the melted Mickey Mouse.

CB: That’s a statue of mine.

MM: Really?

CB: Yeah. (Laughs)

MM: I love it. While you’re on tour – I’m guessing you find the time – are you able to photograph different sites and build your portfolio?

CB: Yeah, definitely. I’m 100% positive that I shoot more photography when I’m on tour. There’s a new scene, like, every single second. It’s not like seeing the same thing every day, because it’s never the same.

MM: You moved to California and you’re from South Carolina. With that background combined with tour experiences, how has that shaped your view of music and visual art?

CB: They’re different just because the thing about art is that it’s so universal. It can be learned and taught the same exact way everywhere. It’s just the amount of exposure that’s different. So, in South Carolina I was exposed to some stuff, but not as often. And then, out here (California), there’s just so much more art and culture just out and about. It’s pretty awesome. Every block in Oakland has a mural and there’s art stuff all over Berkeley.

MM: That sounds cool. As a writer, I can never just shut my mind off. I’m always thinking of ideas. As an artist, I can assume we share the same blessing-curse. You’re so involved with visuals and music composition. Are you working on any additional music projects at the moment?

CB: Not really. We added a new member to the band. We’ve just been practicing with him for a while. Nothing album related yet.

MM: Is there a brand or artist you’d like to partner with in the future?

CB: My friend is really cool, we’re probably going to make some sort of art thing in the near future. His name is Ty Williams. He’s a great illustrator and photographer. I’d like to work with him and I’d like to work with any sort of publication really – if I could do a cover of some sort or design feature. That would be fun. There’s tons of stuff – mostly probably in print though. I’d like to stick to magazines, posters, and textiles.

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