Toro Y Moi
Photo: Ryan Bush
"I''ll admit I taught myself everything,” says indie lo-fi artist Chaz Bundick, aka Toro Y Moi. “The way I figure out how to get a certain sound is to try things until I get what I want. I tried to make my early recordings sound like they weren''t from a home studio, but I look back now and it''s one thing I kind of regret; they sounded so forced and over-produced. I am so much more proud of the recordings I''m making now, because I finally know the limits of my studio and equipment.”
Bundick''s setup is a true bedroom studio, where he lives in peaceful harmony with his bed and gear in the same pale-colored, tranquil room. “I live in a nice, quiet, ‘grand-parent'' neighborhood,” he says with a chuckle.
Relying on Propellerhead Reason 4 as his studio hub, Bundick''s instrument roster was small but effective for his new full-length set, Causers of This (Car Park Records, 2010). He says the most important elements were a mysterious unidentified piano acquired at a thrift store (“Seriously—I can''t find the name of it inside or out”), his Squire Mustang bass guitar, and a Fostex x-12 4-track cassette deck.
“Sometimes I use the 4-track to record and then bring the tracks into Reason to add more effects,” he says.
Bundick often pursued those effects in unconventional ways, with a less-is-more attitude. “For the track ‘You Hid,'' I was going for a ''90s R&B sound,” he explains. “The vocal sound was very important; I wanted to have a very tight delay, yet have every vocal track heard without it being cluttered. I recorded 10 vocal tracks total, including four harmony tracks, and ended up using a tight room reverb on the vocals, but no actual delay—I found there was enough stutter just from the six main vocal tracks [see Web Clip 1].”
Bundick does all his own vocals, including harmonies, and you''ll find no fancy vocal booths here. He''s still in the bedroom, and usually singing through his favorite microphone, albeit with an added pop screen. “Choosing mics varies depending on the song,” he says, “I use a Shure SM57 for demos, and if I''d like a really crisp vocal sound I like to use an AKG C-1000. But my favorite is the SM57—beautiful design inside and out. It allows close mic placing and picks up vocals better.”
Compression was another instrument of sorts, with Bundick being inspired by his musical peers. “Compression was actually the main experiment for this album,” he says. “I got the idea for a sound from producers like Thomas Bangalter [Daft Punk], J Dilla, and Madlib, and then I pretty much pushed it until I was satisfied. I tried to maintain the same compression on most of the vocals, using the standard Reason plug-ins for all the compressions and reverbs—no outside plug-ins or Auto-Tune. I mixed it myself and relied on mastering to make it the standard decibel level and open it up more. The way the sound waves phase creates such an amazing result.”
Given the polished results, it''s a little difficult to believe that this is Bundick''s self-professed “first real album.”
“Before, I would just take the latest 10 songs I recorded, put them on a CD, and give it a name,” Bundick says, “but the main philosophy I tried to go by here, especially since there were such differences in genres between the songs, was to find the same tone/mood in my voice and atmosphere [see Web Clip 2].
“I think production works best when you are in a natural state—recordings aren''t supposed to sound perfect.”
Home base: Columbia, S.C.
Primary software: Propellerhead Reason 4
Go-to mic: Shure SM57