Interview: Toro Y Moi - Underneath The Pine

Published in the March 2011 issue of Exclaim! and at Exclaim.ca


By Anupa Mistry

While you were busy spinning Toro Y Moi’s 2010 debut record, Causers of This, into the ground, Chaz Bundick was already off that, writing and recording the follow-up, Underneath The Pine. It’s not a disc in response to Causers-related chatter (chillwhat?), instead, the South Carolinian musician always intended to make something almost entirely different. That said, many of the Toro Y Moi signifiers are still there: heavy bass, splashes of glitch and hushed vocals. Still, Underneath The Pine veers off the ambient hip-hop path into more contemporized retro territory with bouncy funk references, spectral ’70s sparseness and Morricone-inspired cinematic flourishes. It’s more of a pop record than anything else, helped along by returning to Bundick’s instrumental roots ― “the album was written to be played live,” he says ― and layered vocal harmonies. Some moments throughout the 11 tracks sound incomprehensibly deconstructed, but “it’s an intimate experience written under intimate circumstances,” Bundick explains. “Before I’m Done” and “Good Hold” are the record’s strongest moments. They are simple-seeming songs that erupt and course forward with eclectic flourishes.

Underneath The Pines has an interesting album cover. Can you tell me how it came about?
Thanks. I took the photo. It wasn’t my original idea. I think what I liked the most was that it’s very captivating. It sort of caught the mood, the feeling and is literal and symbolic, in a way. I wasn’t trying to do this, but the photo is kind of odd ― there’s something about it. I like the texture in the pomelo fruit, the repetition of the texture. And the symbolic meaning of the closeness and the intimacy of it, the weirdness and perverseness that it implies. I sort of felt like that was exactly what I represented myself like on the album.

Does your visual background in graphic design play into how you make music?
Yeah, I would think so. Being interested in design from the ’70s and that more simplified, minimal look just got me interested in the ’70s as a whole. I feel like I’m automatically drawn to that time period; it seems to be my calling. Even watching a film or TV show, the video quality is really beautiful and warm. Seeing an old film and hearing how different and distorted it sounds, that’s a big thing for me.
(CarPark)