With “So Many Details,” we got a taste of what Toro y Moi is prepping for his Anything in Return album, set to drop on January 22nd. The producer is used to making experimental music adored by the indie crowd, but his goals are bigger than that. We talked to him about wanting to get on the radio, working with Kendrick Lamar and Justin Bieber, and what’s happening with the music that he and Tyler, The Creator made.
Interview by Mustafa Abubaker
How has this year been for you personally?
It’s been pretty relaxed, for the most part. This year I sort of took a more relaxed route. We didn’t really tour. We just didn’t tour this year, we did a couple one-offs. But, yeah, it was pretty good. I wanted to take some time off to relax at home and work on the album.
So far, you’ve released the first single “So Many Details,” which has a really organic sound. What was the process of crafting that song?
I think it’s really more of an experiment to sort of see if I could make that sort of music. I feel like I lean towards more the obscure stuff. I tend to take more weirder sounding pop. I guess the more weirder elements stand out than the more accessible elements. So I wanted to push the more accessible elements and see if I could make a good sounding album even though it’s accessible. A lot of people associate accessible music with being unintelligent.
Hodgy Beats has a verse on the re-working of “So Many Details.” There was also the song with Tyler, the Creator titled “Hey You” which leaked a while back. What’s your working relationship with Odd Future like and how did both records come about?
Well, so far, we’ve hung out a few times in the studio and recorded a few ideas. As far as records, it’s all in Tyler’s hands. He actually has the file. It’s up to him if he wants to do something with it or if something’s going to happen to it.
Can we expect visuals for “So Many Details” and more before the album is out? Are you approaching the music videos any differently this time around?
We have a couple videos made already. We’re going to try to do something unique and special to let people know we’re way ahead of the game. We’re going to release a couple of videos. As far as the visual elements, it’s going to match pretty much how the song sounds.
What’s inspiring you this time around?
I think it’d be cool to get on the radio. That’s a big motivation. I really want to get on the radio and then back out. That’s what I want to do, just sort of gain a following and make it a cult following.
You stated that you’ve been influenced by the score for the 1974 film il Corpo. What is it about film scores that interests you? Have you been looking into scoring films?
I guess what I like the most about film scores is that the composer is able to translate a lot of different emotions and different types of imagery through the same exact song just by changing the composition of the instruments. So, for example, another version of the song would have no drum sets and then another version would just be the piano version of that song. There’s ways to pull the theme. I like how there’s way to maintain the theme but change the feeling and emotion of it. I really like Jon Brion’s stuff. I know in Quentin Tarantino’s movies, they’ve re-used old songs or made songs that are paying homage to that.
Some people don’t realize you also have an alias of Les Sins. You released two singles under this name back in August – “Fetch” and “Taken.” What can Les Sins do that Toro y Moi can’t and vice versa? Is there a kind of balancing act involved, if so, what?
Yeah, I think it’s just with Les Sins I feel like I don’t have that pressure to make it accessible or poppy. With Les Sins, I can make a UK funky beat but other than that, it’s pretty much it. Les Sins is like my outlet for whatever I wanna do when it comes to electronic music.
You were just in Los Angeles DJing for the Boiler Room. How do you approach DJ sets and what do you like the most about it?
When it comes to DJing, the most important thing is selection. When you look at the situation too. The Boiler Room, specifically. That’s a show that has such a strong, heavy following. Everyone that follows Boiler Room is really into electronic music. So you want a smart DJ set, you don’t want to dumb it down with too many pop songs or something. The set was all off the top of my head. I was just picking songs here and there. That’s really scary to do but I feel like that’s the best thing you can do. I can’t imagine going into a DJ set planned out because if nobody’s dancing to that, then what do you do? So, my favorite thing to do is just to go in, not know what to expect and just start going. As long as you know your tracks and what goes with what and what kind of crowd you’re dealing with, that’s all that matters.
Your music has always had a hip-hop influence. Who are your some of your favorite rappers or rappers you’d like to work with?
I’d like to work with Kendrick Lamar. I like Meek Mill, Rick Ross, when it comes to the mainstream. I’d like to work with The-Dream. I guess I don’t really like the rappers that are constantly rapping about mindless gangster shit, you know, it’s kind of redundant.
Would you like to produce for mainstream artists? If so, who do you think would be a good fit?
I’d totally be down to work with Justin Bieber. Just to see if I could make a great pop song out of his talent. I think it’s better he’s going down the more serious route but “Boyfriend,” I don’t know. The whispering part is pretty whack. I like the sort of Timberlake route he went with it. I can understand how he doesn’t want to be compared to that but you have to look at the big picture, like what does he have to offer and what can make it better? When he worked with The-Dream, that was pretty awesome. That’s how pop music works though, it’s all really calculated, that’s why I don’t really wanna get close to it.
Some people also don’t know that you have a degree in graphic design from University of South Carolina; thus, you design all artwork for your music. Was this a conscious decision when you were in school or more of a back-up plan?
Graphic design was my main thing. Music was my back-up plan. It was like an unobtainable goal. It’s something I’m really into and want to try to focus on. That’s why with this album, I wanted to push my visual art a little bit more and make that known.