-My Friend Chaz Bundick has an impressively diverse musical catalog & an endearing quirkiness to his personality offstage. I’m gushing really, but that smile combined with those curls just do something to me on a spiritual level I can’t even begin to explain.
“Chaz would never do that, but Internet Chaz would,” says the 28-year-old musician who’s better known as Toro y Moi. “I think as a musician, showing a humorous side of you, whether it’s making a funny voice on a recording or taking a funny photo, shows that you’re a little bit more human. If people think you take yourself too seriously, it’s going to push them away because they can’t relate to you.”
Being relatable does not seem to be an issue. Today, Chaz is drinking coffee, taking photos and walking around his current neighborhood in Berkeley, California. While shooting different objects and patterns — stacks of furniture, zigzagging shadows, colorful doorways — he discusses his life in music and background in graphic design. After growing up in South Carolina, Chaz went to school for the latter, thanks to encouragement from a high school teacher. He compares the experience to that of Mason Jr.’s, the protagonist of the movie Boyhood.
“I felt that movie was all about me,” says Chaz, while snapping a pic of some green school chairs against a pink wall. “My family life was pretty stable, but I was the angsty art-punk kid in South Carolina. It’s nice to have teachers like that who are still aware that the kids they are teaching are from small towns and need some inspiration.”
Chaz would eventually find more creative outlets in photography and, of course, music, as Toro y Moi. The group began as more of a one-man bedroom project until expanding into a full-fledged, successful touring outfit. Later, he would launch a separate dance-focused endeavour on the side known as Les Sins. Though Toro y Moi takes up the most time — he writes, records and produces most of it on his own, and then performs it with a group of musician friends — Chaz always finds moments to draw and take pictures.
“I think on the whole I am looking for different materials, and it seems to me the more man-made it is the more interesting it is to me,” he says, about his photo work, while stopping to admire the outdoor setup of a local party store. “See,” he says, pointing to the display, “I like how the plastic in the trees makes the reflection work on top of the vinyl confetti. It’s just so many different layers of image.”
Like most people who draw, Chaz began when he was young. But he never jumped all the way into illustration — he prefers to keep things to a simple pattern then blows them up on a shirt or print – or, for that matter, an album cover.
“I try to draw whenever I can’t do music,” he says. “I wouldn’t mind designing every aspect of my world. That would be pretty cool. I think inspiration for me is the Vignelli’s. They were husband-and-wife designers. They did the New York City subway design. The husband passed away already. They designed every single thing they owned and wore. And that’s what I want to do. It’s like a more highbrow version of submerging yourself. The stuff they made wasn’t crazy expensive, their aesthetic and bar was very high.”
Until then, Chaz will have to complete the tricky goal of progressing as an artist while also creating things that feel relatable and exciting. (Keeping things humorous certainly helps; take, for instance, his Instagram user name, @lukespukashells, which was inspired by a line uttered by Mischa Barton in the show The O.C.). Above all, he knows you can’t be afraid to try new things.
“It’s nice to just constantly keep making stuff,” says Chaz, with a camera in his hand, “no matter how much or how far it goes.”