Live from Anne’s Backyard: Toro y Moi

Intimate performances, fresh sounds, and candid conversations with a view.

In need of some mind expansion? Toro y Moi is here to help you feel the love. Chaz Bear and co. are back in the loop with "MAHAL," the surreal-pop project's first LP since 2019's "Outer Peace." 

We’ve gleefully tracked Toro’s evolution from its earliest days as a one-man laptop band to its current full combo status. The only constant throughline is mastermind Bear’s sublimely-tuned ear for the most interesting sounds in electro, funk, R&B, jazz, and weirdo pop… not to mention his knack for assembling the perfect crew of collaborators to help bring his visions to life. 

With “MAHAL,” Toro Y Moi ventures into lush, dreamy psych-rock territory, emerging from a (semi)post-pandemic haze in a custom Filipino Jeepney to take Bear and his crew to meet their people where they already were — coffee houses, record shops, and East Bay views. The result is an album and a tour that feels close to the ground — organic, open, and sprawling, but not without moments of pure dance floor bliss, a la lead single “Postman.”

Two days out from the record's release, the band stopped by Anne's Backyard for a psychedelic set above the LA skyline, featuring singles "Deja Vu," "Postman," and more. Bear also sat down with Morning Becomes Eclectic hosts Novena Carmel and Anthony Valadez to talk Tagalog, Eric Andre, and an abiding love for Arby’s. Plus, a surprise visit from Mr. Postman and a trippy-ass cake from Solar Return.

After the (delightful) chaos of our last Backyard session, the extremely chill vibes were welcome — complete with impromptu band DJ sets, piano serenades, doodle sessions, and martinis in the hot tub (long after attendees had left). Toro Y Moi make for consummate houseguests. They’re welcome back anytime.

Toro Y Moi brings flower power to Anne’s Backyard.
Photo by Larry Hirshowitz.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

KCRW: Your new record “MAHAL” is beautiful. Can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the title?

Chaz Bear: Thank you. “Mahal” is Tagalog, or Filipino, for “love.” It also means “expensive,” so to me, it equates to “highly valued and cherished.”

Do you speak Tagalog? 

I don't. I can say “Mahal kita,” which is “I love you.” So that's the origin of my connection to the phrase, my mom would say that.

More: Apogee Sessions: Toro y Moi (2015)

Between the Tagalog album title, and the Jeepney you’ve been touring, the connection to your Filipino heritage feels very front and center. What inspired you to pull that forth?

I think the main factor was finding the Jeep, and then came naming it. Traditionally, you named the Jeepneys. I wanted a title that was one word, that would represent the psychedelic rock themes for this record. So yeah, love, flower power… I really just felt like rebranding.

Can you tell us a little more about the origins of this Jeep? Where was it delivered from?

It was coming from Minneapolis, but the Jeep is from the Philippines. It's made from a 1942 Willys Jeep from World War Two. After the war, it was disassembled, and turned into a bus. And in the ‘60s… I forgot the name of this mogul guy, but he commissioned two of these Jeeps to come to the States to give tours of his home development subdivision. So the Jeep was just there. When I bought it, it had 3000 miles on it. So I brought it to the Bay.

Photo by Larry Hirshowitz.

So you’ve been rolling out your spin on the “Magical Mystery Tour” all over the Bay Area with different pop-up events to connect with the community. What brought about this grassroots approach?

That’s a great question. We're here today in someone's backyard. And I think we're now in a time and place where we need to start rebuilding our circles and connecting with the community again. That's pretty much the main initiative or motive. Also, in case we weren't able to go on the road, I would like to at least be able to bring the music to people around town, take it to a record shop, coffee shop, DJ it out the Jeep, sell some T-shirts, and just have a local, guerilla foot on the ground. … Everyone's like, shocked, that we're doing something that public. So it's a nice, refreshing new chapter outside of the lockdown.

More: Live from Anne’s Backyard: Spoon

What can you tell us about how you came to collaborate with surrealist comedian Eric Andre on the “MAHAL” companion film “Goes by So Fast?”

First of all, Eric Andre is brilliant. Comedians and musicians have this bond that's really special, because we're sort of the artists that are on the ground. We’re always on tour – in a bus, in crappy hotels, nice hotels… You name it, we're there. 

So we immediately bonded. We actually ran into each other at a cafe. I was just walking by, getting a coffee, and I hear “Chaz Bundick?” I'm like, “What?? … Oh, Eric Andre, what's up?” [Laughs] We exchanged numbers, and we actually had coffee together at that same cafe. And yeah, we’ve just kept in touch. 

I told him that I had this idea to make a film with this Jeep — at that time it was still being delivered. But yeah, once he saw the text, he was down.

Photo by Larry Hirshowitz.

You’ve spoken recently of feeling a need to create more content, which is something you’ve always taken a 360 approach to. Why describe it as a need at this point?

I think the pandemic definitely made our connection to content change, and we crave a little bit more substance out of that. And that's a lot of what the record is about too. It's about this shift from physical media to digital media. How to adjust to that and still find substance in that transition. 

It's ironic because it's all coming out in a physical record, which is the best part. But also, being a graphic designer, I do feel like it’s a language that is innate, in a way. But I also strive to speak that subconscious language with design and visuals, and try to really just get people excited.

Did you design the website as well?

I directed it. It was designed by FISK. I just told them we have all of these Bay Area themes, and I wanted to reference vintage Craigslist, vintage eBay.

Photo by Larry Hirshowitz.

After five years spent making “MAHAL,” what does it feel like to have it out there in the world and you’re playing it live?

This is sort of my Linklater “Boyhood.”  I can't believe it took me that long, or I can't believe I had the patience to do that for that long. But for me, this record is a bit of a sister record to my fourth album, “What For?” … And the answer is “MAHAL.” It's all for love. 

I was working on this record even after “What For” was done and out. And throughout “Boo Boo” and “Outer Peace,” I was working on this record on the side. So it really just came down to wrapping it up. I think I didn't really have the chance to do that until 2020. I wasn't really able to get sessions booked anymore or travel, so I just called it and started… concepting [sic].

More: Live from Anne’s Backyard: Arlo Parks

In honor of “MAHAL” single “Mr. Postman,” we’ve had some anonymous questions hand delivered for you. First one: What are your favorite lookout spots in the Bay?

Well I’m in the East Bay, and I like to go to Point Isabel, which has a great view of San Francisco. It’s right on the Bay, and not too high, so you get the water right at your feet.

Photo by Larry Hirshowitz.

Next question: Has Joe Bataan heard your cover of “Ordinary Guy?” And have y'all talked about the possibility of collaborating?

Short answer, yes. I got to meet Joe Bataan through my friend Freddy Anzures. He introduced me to Nicole Ponseca who does Jeepney in New York, great Filipino restaurant. Nicole knows Joe as well, and she sees him around the neighborhood. She invited Joe over, and Freddy invited me over. I got his blessing that night at dinner to release the cover. And hopefully we get to make some music.

Final anonymous question: What’s happening with your electronic project Les Sins?

Les Sins is constantly bubbling. I just did a release … with AceMo, just to show that it's still alive and well, and my head is still in that zone. So yeah, it's coming.

More: Live from Anne’s, uh, Living Room: Genesis Owusu

Photo by Larry Hirshowitz.

Photo by Larry Hirshowitz.

KCRW Music Director: Anne Litt
Video Director/Editor: Angie Scarpa
Director of Photography: Leslie Bumgarner
Camera Op: Nacia Schreiner
Producer: Melanie Makaiwi
Sound Engineer: Paul Smith
Artwork: Gabrielle Yakobson
Digital Producer: Andrea Domanick

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