When Chaz Bundick arrived at the University of Southern Carolina in the mid-2000s, he was liberated by having fast internet for the first time in his young life. Armed with a laptop and an iTunes account, he began his self-education in electronic music. But even as he dug in, he didn’t just limit himself to this particular world. While Bundick is best known for making soulful bedroom pop as Toro y Moi, he remains a music omnivore, and his tastes shift from album to album. “Lately I’ve been listening to psych rock,” he says. “It goes in waves. Yesterday I was listening to Crosby, Stills & Nash.”’
Still, through all his dips and explorations, Bundick remained interested in dance music, and now, working under the name Les Sins, he explores these sounds on the new album Michael. Of course, dance music is a diverse world, crammed with infinitely specialized subgenres and sub-subgenres. Michael hits many of them and might just invent a few of its own. “Why” is a groovy little nu-disco jam and “Past” looms like a dark minimal threat, but some of its songs move far beyond formal exercises, like lead-single “Bother,” where Bundick recombines frenetic and soulful house music indicators and then layers 1980s boogie synthesizers on top. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted the album to go full-on house,” says Bundick of Michael. “Then I had some stuff that I made for rappers that was good and that sort of gave it a different vibe. At first I was unsure about putting all these different genres on the record, but then I said, Why not?”
The Les Sins songs that appear on Michael were pieced together over two years. In-between other projects or endeavors, Bundick would juggle a few Les Sins tracks, inspired by whatever dance music he was listening to at the time. The main reason he kept making Les Sins songs was because they were fun, plus much less personal and demanding than what he records as Toro y Moi. “With Les Sins, those are mostly instrumental tracks, so you just let the production do all the work,” says Bundick. “If you want it be a darker vibe, you just use dark sounds. If you want it to be up-tempo, you just change the BPMs, literally. It’s easier with Les Sins to get the vibe of what I’m going for quicker.”
When it was time to finalize Michael, Bundick had more than twice the 11 tracks he ended up with. Whittling them down wasn’t easy and wasn’t a process he was used to. With Toro y Moi he usually records about the same amount of songs that he puts on each album. Figuring out what’s actually your best work can be a tough question to navigate in this era where the public’s reactions can be easily and instantly tracked and quantified. “I’m a big fan of photography,” says Bundick. “The internet allows people on Tumblr to see what a good photo is or see what’s going to trend. Now all of sudden there’s all these photographers taking photos of houseplants and naked chicks. I know it’s pleasing, but why is it so good? The perfect aesthetic is crafted for you already.” He goes on to say, “When it comes to music, I ask, Do I think this is good? Or do I think other people will think this is good? It’s a puzzle.”
Michael is out November 4th on Company Records. Pre-order here.