Get a swag transfusion from a spicy jawn!!
Chaz Bear from Toro y Moi comes thru talkin' confidence-boosting sneakers, wild furniture, and his new album — PLUS he stars in "Spyplane TV Ep. 2"
Welcome to today’s paradigm-shifting multimedia edition of Blackbird Spyplane…
⬆️ UP TOP ⬆️ we’ve got the vibes-rich 2nd episode of “Spyplane T.V.,” with special guest Chaz Bear of Toro y Moi… It’s a legendary OAKLAND LINK & BUILD, captured on HI-RES video. (Spyplane T.V. Ep. 1 is here.)
Also? Chaz is the “unbeatable subject” of today’s jawn- and wisdom-packed Blackbird Spyplane Interview — ⬇️ BELOW ⬇️.
Abbondanza ! JONAH & ERIN
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Chaz Bear of Toro y Moi — he’s a KINDVIBED MUSICAL PRINCE, and his new album, Mahal, might be our favorite thing he’s done to date ??!!
It comes out Apr. 29, and we can testify that it contains numerous blissful moments of HAZY psych rock and RUBBERY funk, not to mention some BREEZE-KISSED energies that make us think of acts like Stereolab and Sea & Cake…
Based in Oakland, Chaz is half-Filipino, & the album title is a Tagalog word that can mean both beloved and expensive — combine that with Chaz being a FRIENDLY DRIP LORD and U know we had to hit him up I.R.L. to discuss the new album; to learn how to step outside of yr comfort zone when it comes to Mach 3+ clothes-rocking; and to get the SCOOP behind some of his most mahal (beloved!) possessions on the planet…
Blackbird Spyplane: In all the videos from Mahal so far you’re doing a very winning “dorky swag” thing — wearing wild Jamiroquai-type hats, doing funny walks down staircases in the Marin headlands, waving at the camera with a big smile, keeping yr energy mad positive & unselfconscious… I clocked it & I love it.
Chaz Bear: “Yeah, it’s ‘post-cool.’ I think that’s where we are now. There’s obviously more to a human than how you’re dressed, so bringing out the humor is fun to me.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Another thing you do across Mahal is toggle between real and virtual spaces. The videos are super-grounded in the Bay, but then “Postman” has a beautiful 3D animated section, and there are a bunch of lyrics on the album about living life online vs. living life physically…
Chaz Bear: “I had to make this very ‘70s-sounding record in the era of hyper pop, the era of future-future-future, so it was, ‘How do you find the cool if guitars aren’t cool? How do I make an album that shows I’m aware and not just ‘a retro kid?’
“What I decided to do was talk about the now in these retro songs that are mixed to sound like they were made 50 years ago — talking about the present moment, and wearing the clothes I wear, like the Yeezy hoodie in the video for ‘The Loop.’ Playing the songs for people, I told everyone, ‘Trust me, the fashion and presentation will be way more contemporary than the music sounds.’
“For the record cover — the photographer is Chris Maggio, who does a lot of fashion stuff, he shot the 100 gecs stuff, he shot the new Heron Preston capsule that just came out. With the cover he sent back a version where he took out a Tesla parked in the background — I was like, ‘No, put the Tesla back, we need that context. Put it back. We’ll be ok.’”
Blackbird Spyplane: Right, this wasn’t about doing a museum piece for you, it was about opening up a little wormhole—
Chaz Bear: “—where the past can meet the future. Which is probably just the internet.”
Blackbird Spyplane: The way the songs are engineered & mixed, they really do have a physical presence— you can feel the room they were made in, even if yr streaming it on yr phone.
Chaz Bear: “Yeah, people can tell. Even just listening on a cell-phone speaker, you can tell if something’s too bright or too soft or too warm.”
Blackbird Spyplane: All right let’s talk about some RARE & CHERISHED possessions of yrs…. This chair is wild, what’s the deal?
Chaz Bear: “This is the Memphis ‘First Chair’ — it’s from 1983, from Memphis’s Italian side. Michele De Lucchi designed it. I’m a big Memphis fan, and my friend Josh runs a secondhand designer-furniture store in L.A. called Formas, and he gifted it to me for doing all their logos…
Blackbird Spyplane: O hell yeah shout out to a barter economy… Also, we put Formas in our last BIG home-goods guide…
Chaz Bear: “Josh knew I was a big Memphis fan, but I was still, like, Are you serious? I’ve been a fan since, like, 2007, when blog-house was really popping off and it was all about CMYK — it wasn’t pop art, exactly, it was this weird cyber thing going on, but that’s when Memphis first caught my eye.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Right, the look back then was heavy on bold colors, 2D shapes, geometric patterns…
Chaz Bear: “Honestly, though, my attraction was about how it reminded me of Pee-wee’s Playhouse. I grew up watching that show, so what Memphis was doing didn’t feel ‘postmodern’ or ‘ironic’ to me, I was just, like, ‘This looks awesome.’ It sparked that, and also it had this punk, anti-design thing to it.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Pee-wee Herman is an all-time Spyplane hero, and yeah, Gary Panter, who helped design the set, actually came out of the L.A. art-punk scene…
Chaz Bear: “That sense of playfulness spoke to me, but also the sense of no filter, no bulls**t, like, ‘Yeah, it’s a sphere. Yeah, it’s a chair made out of triangles. It’s not trying to be anything else.’ I appreciate that. As opposed to a super beautiful flowy chair, it’s kind of brutal. And for some reason it looks fine with a regular wooden table.”
Blackbird Spyplane: The next things you sent are a Bode quilt jacket PLUS a note & pillow from Emily…
Chaz Bear: “I bought the jacket and Emily sent these along with it. I bought it for the Outer Peace cover (above) — we have mutual friends from the Atlanta music scene, so we became friends through them and kept in touch.
“There’s this DIY movement of, like, taking old jeans and turning them into a bag, and Bode’s doing the elevated version, like, going to a flea market in Paris to find this one thing for a jacket. That’s beautiful, and I think her clothes also speak to this weird pocket of Americana: I’m from South Carolina, and there’s a southernness to what she does that I connect to. The quilt aspect is part of it, but also just the color palette — everything is warm.
“And how everything is breathable. There’s lots of, like, curtains turned into shirts, lace, sheer material. Which also reminds me of Filipino pieces. There’s a sheer shirt from the Philipines called a barong and I have a Bode barongesque piece. She might have even said that was a reference.”
Blackbird Spyplane: We interviewed her for the newsletter a couple years back & she pulls inspiration from all over the place, yet it all somehow comes out looking distinctly hers — to the point that there are all these imitators trying to do what she does and not succeeding!
Chaz Bear: “I appreciate her eye for bringing outside cultures into this American style. There’s a sampling aspect to it, which is how I relate to music. So I keep that note with the jacket, and I sleep on the pillow every day. I like to think she sewed it herself and, back in that era, she actually might have.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Hmmm…
Chaz Bear: “There’s a chance!”
Blackbird Spyplane: Let’s close things out with the 2 wild pieces of footwear u sent over — Yeezy Insulated Boots and Cactus Plant Flea Market Vapormaxes… I love the CPFMs — they feel like a kindergarten craft project, in the best way, with the irregular smiley face and Play-Doh-style piping on the side…
Chaz Bear: “I feel like that shoe busted down so many doors. When I saw these I was, like, This is the kind of future I want to associate with, where it’s not just about a shoe that looks fast, but something for the art kids.”
Blackbird Spyplane: I don’t really stay up to speed on Yeezy footwear, so the first time I caught wind of these boots was when they turned Fat Joe into a meme for wearing them… These both go for crazy $$$ at resale, do you keep them on ice or rock them?
Chaz Bear: “Oh I didn’t see the meme. I love these and I wear them. Like, I threw away the box, I truly don’t care about the resale market! I like actually wearing them and getting them beat up, and I think Yeezy stuff is made to be used. It looks better that way.”
Blackbird Spyplane: If I look back at photos of you from a decade back, you’ve gotten way more adventurous in the way you dress — can you talk a bit about pushing yrself out of yr comfort zone when it comes to what U R willing to rock?
Chaz Bear: “Man, I really hit a limit during quarantine to just, like, ‘If my face is covered, I need to express myself even more,’ and it came out in my fashion sense. With these boots, I’ll wear them if it’s a day where I’m gonna be seen, but I’ll also just wear them to the studio, ‘cause they’re comfortable as h*ll and they give you confidence. The first time I wore them, I was like, ‘D*mn, I need more things like this.’ The Memphis chair, the Bode jacket, these boots — they’re all little spices.”
Blackbird Spyplane: It’s a really good point, and almost paradoxical: You might feel like you don’t have the confidence to wear a SPICY piece, but wearing it can give you that confidence you might otherwise lack! It puts a little spring in yr step…
Chaz Bear: “Exactly — it really does.”
💿 Chaz is on Instagram here and Toro y Moi is on Instagram here. The Toro y Moi website is on that GOOD U.G.H.Z. s**t, here. 💿
💿 Mahal is popping and it’s out Apr. 29 from Dead Oceans. 💿
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Get a swag transfusion from a spicy jawn!!