Chaz Bear, known by his stage name as Toro y Moi, is an American singer, songwriter and producer whose fourth album Boo Boo is out via Carpark Records. Bear’s music is often identified as chillwave, and he has toured with the likes of Phoenix and Caribou.
McBriare Samuel Lanyon “Mac” DeMarco is a Canadian singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. In the wake of his 2012 debut album, entitled 2, DeMarco became a favorite of music critics and slacker rock fans. He released his most recent album, This Old Dog (2017), in May.
Chaz Bear, or Toro y Moi as his music fans know him, signed to Carpark Records in 2009, months after graduating the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. He hasn’t looked back since, producing a total of six albums so far, including one for his “Les Sins” side project, and creating his own album artwork. Never one to conceal influences, Toro y Moi’s newest album Boo Boo (2017) has elements of Daft Punk, Frank Ocean, Travis Scott and Oneohtrix Point Never. Citing the album’s creation as “cathartic,” Bear currently resides in Oakland, where he is working on honing his craft. In a phone conversation with musician and friend Mac DeMarco, Bear discusses the meaning behind Boo Boo, Solange’s inspiring festival sets and prank calls.
Mac DeMarco: How you doing? Last time I saw you was on that balcony…
Chaz Bear: Oh yeah, in Australia, when we took that photo.
MD: Exactly. Are you in Berkeley?
CB: Yeah. I’m in Oakland, pretty much right down the street from Berkeley. You at home too?
MD: I’m at home in Los Angeles. Woke up ready to rip witcha.
CB: Sick, let’s talk about music. What’s the last thing you listened to?
Directed by award-winning documentarian Mat Whitecross, Oasis: Supersonic is a 2016 British documentary about the rise of Oasis as a cult rock band. The film largely follows the band’s leading members, Liam and Noel Gallagher, and their complicated relationship as brothers. Oasis: Supersonic opened in theaters for one day, grossing a worldwide total of $1.4 million.
Founded in Manchester in 1991, Oasis was a cult status British rock band comprised of Liam Gallagher, Noel Gallagher, Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs, Paul “Guigsy” McGuigan and Tony McCarroll. Following their record-breaking debut album Definitely Maybe (1994), Oasis was named one of Britain’s “big four” along with Suede, Pulp and Blur. The band disintegrated in 2009, having sold over 70 million records.
Formed in 1988 London, Blur is an English rock band consisting of Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree. The band was a central player in the Britpop movement and rivaled Oasis on the 1995 UK charts in what was dubbed “The Battle of Britpop.” After going their separate ways in 2003, Blur reunited in 2009. Their 2015 album The Magic Whip was their sixth consecutive studio album to top British charts.
Named after the contemporary music movement in the late 70s and early 80s, yacht rock is recognized for its smooth sound. Popular proponents of yacht rock include musicians Kenny Loggins, Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers, Michael McDonald, Toto and Hall and Oates.
MD: I’m an Oasis fan all of a sudden. I saw their new documentary on a plane. I was a Blur kid and hated Oasis, and then I saw this documentary. I think what I’d missed out on was the rock’n’roll attitude, which there’s not a lot of nowadays. The only problem I had with it is the music—super compressed, dummy British. But I’m into it. Other than that, I just stick to the Japanese yacht rock. I was listening to your record a little while ago, and I was feeling it a little bit in there.
CB: Oh yeah, it’s such a mirage. You’ve got to keep the water in the music. There’s a lot of Japanese rock that I’ve really been into. The last thing that I’ve really, like, dug into is Tyler [the Creator’s] record. It’s really good stuff, and he’s only getting better.
MD: His crew is very inspired. I’ve been hanging out with some of those kids who play in that band The Internet—Matt Martians, Steve Lacy—sweet kids. Well, Matt’s older than I am, but Steve’s a pretty young guy. It’s inspiring. They all have a house with Syd [tha Kyd] and the other kids from The Internet, and they all jam together. It’s a lovely thing.
CB: Community is essential to really make good music. You need some feedback.
MD: You need a crew. Do you have a crew in Oakland?
CB: I do. I like to call it a company crew.
“Changing my name was one of those things
that’s a small detail
but actually changes a lot of things.”
— Chaz Bear
MD: I haven’t been part of a scene for 10 years. I didn’t even really feel like I was part of the scene in Montreal. But I mean, I see friends at festivals. It’s kind of weird because it’s not like you can walk down the street and knock on the door, but it’s like, “Oh, you’re flying in today? Cool, see you at the show.”
CB: I feel like investing in a space for stuff to happen is good. I have a studio and people just stop by now. It’s the first time I took my studio out of my house, and it’s become a little hub.
MD: I’ve done a similar thing but in my garage, so it’s still kind of at my house. But you have a separate zone?
CB: Yeah, it’s a studio space down the street from my apartment. My home is more private now. It used to be that people would always hang at my house, but it’s nice to just have a space.
MD: My girlfriend and I moved out to LA last year. I’m from middle Western Canada where it’s like, “You gotta buy a house.” For the first couple months, it’s exciting: “Oh wow! I’m buying a fridge!” Then you get sick of it, but it’s a nice place.
CB: It’s a whole new game.
MD: The problem with having my studio in the backyard is I never use my house anymore. Keira [McNally, DeMarco’s girlfriend] will come sit with me in the garage. But it used to be that I would record, and she would be on the computer or reading a book on the bed because she’s the only person I bounce stuff off.
CB: It’s nice to have the home be a project as well because other than that our lives are mostly outside of our homes.
MD: That’s another frustrating part, because I’m leaving on Wednesday for two months. I’m starting to get used to being here, and I’m being ripped away again. Usually it’s not a big deal because I’m leaving a closet with no windows. I’m always sad to leave my girlfriend, but leaving our house is like, “Damn it.” I heard you’re not touring this record, right?
CB: Yeah. I was like, “This record’s going to be a more cathartic process.” I bought a house too, up in Portland, and I decided to move back to the Bay so I rented the house out. My new lifestyle is a studio apartment with my studio down the street. I decided to do the studio life for the next year and try to reassess some stuff and figure out my approach or whatever.
MD: That point is probably coming for me pretty soon too, but I still got bills to pay so I’ve got to grind for a little bit.
CB: You can move out and just rent it!