Toro y Moi Jumps Out Of His Comfort Zone With 'Outer Peace' Around 2010, Chaz Bear became the poster child for the chillwave genre. His latest album, Outer Peace, explores adulthood and identity in the modern world.
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Toro y Moi Jumps Out Of His Comfort Zone With 'Outer Peace'

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Toro y Moi Jumps Out Of His Comfort Zone With 'Outer Peace'

Toro y Moi Jumps Out Of His Comfort Zone With 'Outer Peace'

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

My next guest is a man of many talents. He sings. He plays the keyboards and guitar. He is a graphic designer. And he makes music that's chill.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FADING")

TORO Y MOI: (Singing) You are something I feel. I can't help but notice you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He also embraces change like few others in his art, in his music and even in his name. Born Chazwick Bradley Bundick, he later changed his name to Chaz Bear. But he's best known as Toro Y Moi. Since 2010, he has released seven albums and toured the world. Bear's latest album is called "Outer Peace." And he joins us now from member station KQED.

Welcome.

TORO Y MOI: Hello. Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So before we dive into your new music - you grew up in South Carolina, right?

TORO Y MOI: I did, yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. And your mom signed you up to play the piano. And now you make so much of your music using the computer. But does she ever sort of say, hey, I'm the one who started all this?

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I made you do it.

TORO Y MOI: Yeah. I'm sure she'd like to take that credit.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

TORO Y MOI: But I'm glad she did pretty much force me to take piano lessons. At the time, I didn't really want to. I wasn't a big fan of it at 7 years old. But by the time I got to 12, I realized I did like music. Then I told my mom I wanted to quit piano and pick up guitar.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And she was cool with that.

TORO Y MOI: Yeah. She was happy I was doing music, at least.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FREELANCE")

TORO Y MOI: (Singing) Oh, walk on the water for me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What was your big break?

TORO Y MOI: My big break - it wasn't, like, given to me. I had to go get it. And it was, like, when I posted my music on the Internet, I, like, literally was, like, emailing it to blogs and emailing it to Pitchfork. And this was back in, like, 2009.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You were hustling.

TORO Y MOI: Yeah. I was just on my hustle. I just graduated college. And I was just like, I need to get this music out there because I really want to play music for a living.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I think Kanye West was one of the first people...

TORO Y MOI: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...To pick you up, right?

TORO Y MOI: Yeah. He was seriously one of the first people to blog about me - and still is unreal. Like, I haven't even talked to the guy (laughter). But it's come a long way. It really has.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FREELANCE")

TORO Y MOI: (Singing) Nothing's ever worse than work unnoticed. Freelance now, yeah, I guess you earned it. Life is only wishing we could load it. Level up, you've got to make a bonus.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So with each consecutive album, you have challenged yourself with different genres like hip-hop, R&B and electronic. What was your challenge this time around?

TORO Y MOI: I guess I'm just saying something a little bit more mature. A lot of my music is kind of introspective. And for this record, I didn't want to go in that same direction of writing about love and relationships. But it's time to just grow up. I'm 32 now and just trying to stay afloat, really.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, speaking of introspection, let's listen to the track "Who Am I?"

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHO AM I?")

TORO Y MOI: (Singing) Kawasaki, slow it down. This might be my brand new sound. Psychedelic, oh, wow. Add an accent to your sound. Now I don't know who I am. Now I don't know who I am.

The subject matter is more about, like, identity crisis. And I kind of wanted to just make a track that sort of outed my insecurity on being unsure, especially being biracial. That's, like, a thing that's kind of just, like, a theme of my entire life. It's like I'm black and Filipino. It's kind of - it's just a fine line to walk. So especially with being in music, I want to do it tastefully and do it right and sort of take both sides into consideration, like, literally. So it's kind of just trying to find who you are.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Have you landed somewhere with that? I mean, because you have these different identities, do you have a sense of that? I know, like, in your 30s, that's when you really start to explore that, I think.

TORO Y MOI: I felt comfortable but I think, publicly, I wasn't. And so, like, now I am. I kind of feel like I know what my strengths and weaknesses are. And I kind of know how to play into them.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE")

TORO Y MOI: (Singing) Opinions outweigh my doubts or maybe I just pay attention. I said, my opinions outweigh my doubts or maybe I just pay attention.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What's your biggest strength?

TORO Y MOI: Going with the flow (laughter) - pretty easy at doing that. And then my weakness is probably being nonchalant.

(LAUGHTER)

TORO Y MOI: It's not that I don't care. It's just that I don't have the capacity sometimes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: To really invest.

TORO Y MOI: To invest, yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, these conversations are supposed to be like therapy sessions. So that's why I'm asking (laughter).

TORO Y MOI: I am all for it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

TORO Y MOI: Nothing wrong with a free therapy session.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) I've got no advice to give, sadly. But I do want to talk about something you just mentioned. And it is - the indie music scene continues to be a largely white space. And as a biracial artist working in that community, do you see that changing?

TORO Y MOI: I have noticed it. There are lots of musicians of color that are dabbling in genres outside of, like, hip-hop and R&B. And I think that that's important to sort of go outside of your comfort zone or go outside of what people think you should be doing. And I enjoy the challenge because it's so easy to go with the flow sometimes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BABY DRIVE IT DOWN")

TORO Y MOI: (Singing) Baby, drive it down for me. Let me know you're gon' do it. Baby, drive it down for me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I got to ask you one more question before we let you go. Why did you change your name?

TORO Y MOI: I have an amazing wife who is very strong about challenging the norms. And I was like, I'm down, baby, if you are (laughter). She's like, I don't want to take your name. I want to make a name. So...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh, really? So that - so you guys...

TORO Y MOI: Yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Like, made a name together.

TORO Y MOI: We did, yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What's her name?

TORO Y MOI: Samantha Beardsley - and so we just chopped Beardsley and made it Bear and kind of - yeah, just created our own little world.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh, that's actually really beautiful.

TORO Y MOI: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I like your wife. And I like your mom.

TORO Y MOI: Thanks.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) That was Chaz Bear of Toro Y Moi. His latest album is "Outer Peace." Thank you so much.

TORO Y MOI: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BABY DRIVE IT DOWN")

TORO Y MOI: (Singing) Let me know you're gon' do it. Baby, drive it down for me. Let me see you go. Baby, drive it down for me.

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