Toro y Moi has spoken on how his Filipino heritage influenced his new record ‘Mahal’ – particularly the Jeepney that is central to the album.
In an interview with MusicTech ahead of the release of ‘Mahal’ this Friday (April 29), Toro y Moi – real name Chaz Bear – explained that he had originally envisioned using his jeepney, a vehicle that is a common form of public transportation in the Philippines, to reach out to fans.
“I was like ‘well, we’re not playing in venues anytime soon so what if we just bring the record to the people?’” he told the publication. “My thinking was: get a vehicle, take it to the record shops, take it to the coffee shops, pop up some speakers, and be face-to-face or mask-to-mask with fans.”
The album’s title ‘Mahal’ stems from the Filipino word for ‘love’ – or ‘expensive’, depending on the context. “The cultural side, bringing in the Filipino elements, that came later,” Bear explains. “It was like ‘how do we make this even deeper and more tied to who I am?’
“I don’t know if a lot of people know about my Filipino upbringing,” Bear, who was born to a Filipino mother and African American father, continued. “They hear the beats and R&B stuff and they just assume it all comes from Black music, but there are some elements that also seep in which are a bit more world music.
“So, I wanted to really hit the nail on the head with this one and flip out some Filipino culture for fans.”
The jeepney, which Bear purchased on eBay for $20,000, ended up becoming more than just a visual element of the album, he shared. “I decided to capture us fixing it, capture it breaking down, and put all of that on the record – the whole trip and journey. It really solidified the record and gave it its own world.”
The jeepney appears on the cover of ‘Mahal’ – and is central to the road trip Bear takes with comedian and actor Eric Andre in the short film accompanying the album, Goes By So Fast.
In an interview with NME in March, Bear said that he didn’t want the record to “remind [listeners] of dark times,” noting that many other artists would be influenced by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I had a lot of time to really come up with a plan and think of something fun and smart for this rollout,” he explains.
NME rated ‘Mahal’ four stars, with reviewer Dhruva Balram calling it “his boldest project yet, mark[ing] Toro y Moi as a bonafide auteur”.