A rejuvenated Toro y Moi returns to The Orange Peel

SYNTH LORD: A veteran of two Moogfests, Toro y Moi's Chaz Bear remains a supporter of Asheville's Moog Music and its ethos. "It’s been a while since I bought something new just because their stuff is so good. I just always reuse what I have from them," he says. "But yeah, they’ve got that new [Moog One] polyphonic synth, if we’re going to get into it, that I’m really excited about." Photo by Jack Bool

There was a time not too long ago when it was pretty much a given that Toro y Moi would play somewhere in Asheville every year.

Chaz Bear (formerly Bundick) brought his primary musical focus to Bobo Gallery (2009), Emerald Lounge (2011) and The Orange Peel (2012). Through Moogfest, he also performed at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium (2011) and, under the name of his Les Sins side project, Asheville Music Hall (2014). When Toro y Moi returns to the Peel on Thursday, Nov. 15, it’ll be the Oakland-based Bear’s first local show in more than four years, though for the past 2 1/2 of them, he hasn’t been touring at all.

“I feel like the time off the road really gave me time to assess where I think Toro is going before it goes in the wrong direction, and the same for Chaz in general,” Bear says. “It was something I needed to do, and I didn’t realize that I was becoming a businessman. That’s what the music industry kind of forces you to do — you’ve got to put the business first or else it’s not going to stay afloat. I just needed to experiment with different things.”

During that time, Bear focused on his art studio and getting his label, Company Records, up and going, including producing most of the albums on the discography and some music videos. By giving himself time to test the waters on how he views himself, he emerged with the realization that his strongest skill is most likely art direction and production — neither of which he’d had the chance to explore.

“Because I was always on tour, I never was able to say, ‘Yeah! I’ll come up to this session,’ or ‘I’m down to record,’ because I’m always gone,” Bear says. So many people reached out to him, from Travis Scott and Lil Yachty to folk artists Valley Maker, a friend of his from the University of South Carolina. “I just did everything. I was experimenting with all different genres and sounds.”

Further aiding these endeavors was Bear’s decision to move his studio out of his house and into a space down the street that he shares with other musicians from the neighborhood. He says the shift did wonders for his home life, especially considering the rate at which he works and the number of hours he likes to put in. For the actual creative process, however, it took him a while to adjust.

“I was so comfortable being able to just spit out any idea when I was at home and I felt like I was in a private place,” Bear says. “The ideas come out differently [now]. They’re a little bit more mature before it comes out of my head. Usually, when I’m at home by myself, I let the sillier stuff come out just because it does that and tends to work that way. But it’s cool bouncing ideas off of people and having people around.”

Productive as the new arrangement proved for Bear, he nonetheless discovered that, in the process of crafting the follow-up to Toro y Moi’s 2017 album, Boo Boo, he needed to leave the communal studio and go off somewhere by himself “to actually crank it out.” In selecting his destination, he embraced his love of Northern California, packed up his gear and hopped in his car.

“If you drive up and down the coast, starting from San Francisco, you can really get to any kind of nature you’re envisioning, whether it be a desert or an oceanside cliff,” Bear says. “So, I went to this small town called Cazadero, not too far from the ocean, and it’s right off this really beautiful river. I just posted up there for two weeks, just did my groceries and cooked myself all three meals for two weeks straight. It was something I needed to do, for sure.”

The result of this self-care and refuge is the 10-song collection, Outer Peace. Slated for a Jan. 18 release, the album marks the first time Bear has invited guest producers and vocalists to collaborate on one of his records. Featured musicians include Philadelphia-based electronic artist Instupendo and London-raised, Atlanta-based singer ABRA.

“I feel like this next record is definitely for the fans of Toro. It’s not really going to win over many new fans, but I think new ears would enjoy it,” Bear says. “Ever since the beginning, my records have always straddled the line between accessible and kind of obscure, so that was kind of an intentional move. And this time I sort of revealed the curtain a little bit and made it a little more accessible for people. It’s definitely electronic. It’s very electronic and it’s very upbeat and that’s all I can tell you.”

WHO: Toro y Moi with Dizzy Fae
WHERE: The Orange Peel, 101 Biltmore Ave., theorangepeel.net
WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 15, 9 p.m. $22 advance/$25 day of show


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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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