“Happy Valentine’s Day, guys! It’s good to see all your faces again,” Chaz Bundick shouts to an enthusiastic crowd at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. The male suitors in the audience know they’ve nailed it this February – there’s no better date night in Brooklyn than a sold-out concert from Toro y Moi, one of the most buzzed-about indie acts on the blogosphere since the release of Bundick’s third album, Anything in Return. Smartly dressed It-girls swoon as Bundick’s soft falsetto floats over “Rose Quartz”: “And if I fall into the sea, don’t let me go, ’cause I feel weak.” The winking Titanic allusions are romantic enough, but these songs soundtrack the casual – less “Can I take you out?” and more “You wanna chill tonight?”
Toro y Moi started out as a bedroom project for Bundick during his college years in South Carolina. Three albums later, he’s helped to define the aesthetics of the synth-funk/R&B/indie blend that critics dubbed “chillwave” when it first emerged. At the Music Hall, he performed behind a rack of keyboards and beatmaker gadgets backed by two guitars and live drums, and the songs pulsed through the venue as dense walls of rhythm and chord change. “I really wanted to make good hip-hop-R&B stuff” for the new album, Bundick explained during soundcheck hours before the show. “I focused a lot on the drums and samples, making sure everything was where I wanted it.”
The results were thumping psychedelic loops sprinkled with sparse vocal chops and sharp drops – though the album hasn’t been out a month, fan favorites “Say That” and “Harm in Change” elicited huge reactions. The set was pensive and well-rehearsed, creating a fuzzed-out atmosphere in which pheromones flew. “We’re in the middle of the U.S. tour and are finally feeling in the groove of things,” Bundick said. “Most of the crowds are familiar with the new album, which is really surprising. This is a pop-y album, and more people are connecting with it, I think. There’s been a broader reach. It’s something different for me.”
Bundick even penned a song with pop prince Justin Beiber in mind: “I originally wrote ‘Cake’ as an experiment, to see if I could write a song for him. It would be awesome to do something with him down the line.” The producer also hinted at collaborations with fellow indie cult-leaders Odd Future: “I actually was trying to get Frank to sing on a few of the songs on the album, but our schedules never aligned. We should be doing something soon, though. I saw that Tyler just announced his album today. We did a few tracks together for it, but I have no idea if any of them made the cut.”
After reappearing from backstage to toss flowers into the crowd, Bundick and company launched into a bright encore performance of “Low Shoulder.” The venue had slightly emptied, and the dance floor breathed new life as tipsy couples grooved with reckless abandon through newfound space. Pastel shades pulsed across the stage display, and the plucky singer soared across the bridge: “If you rest for me tonight, I’ll let you drive off in the morning.” People started making out. Like was in the air.