Band of the Week: Baio
By Sabrina Nanji
Vampire Weekend fans have another reason to celebrate: Chris Baio, who also goes by his DJ moniker, Baio, recently announced he will release his solo EP, Sunburn, on May 21. If there was ever any proof that good things come in small packages, this is it: the EP is only three tracks, and his mini-tour of just five shows happens to include Toronto.
Clearly drawing on influences from Vampire Weekend, Baio’s vibe is reminiscent of a surf-pop electro artist who was raised in a tribal Jamaican village. Littered with steel drums and vocals courtesy of Chilean techno singer Matias Aguayo, Sunburn is adequately named — and prompts daydreams of lazing in a hammock on a torrid beach, being served ice cold drinks by a cabana boy (or is that last part just me?)
We anticipate his set will have hipsters tearing up Wrongbar's dance floor this Saturday night. Herewith, Baio gives us the skinny on the new album launch and how he just wants to make people dance.
How did you get started as a DJ?
I knew I wanted to be involved in music, so I got really into college radio when I was 19. With that, there was an opportunity to go and DJ around campus and I really enjoyed playing parties and making people dance. It was more just playing songs I really enjoyed. Then the band stuff [with Vampire Weekend] started picking up and that went on the back burner for a little bit. Starting in 2009, I realized I wanted to start picking it up again and taking it more seriously, so while on tour, whenever I got the chance I’d go and DJ at a party or anywhere people were willing to have me.
How does it compare to playing bass with Vampire Weekend?
It’s lonelier! [Laughs.] There’s a different pace and energy to it. I enjoy that a lot of it is just about sharing music that I'm excited about with other people, and trying to figure out a way to present it to make them excited about it. It’s very, very different from playing in the band. There’s an element of performance in both and I love both, but yeah, it’s absolutely different.
How would you describe the Sunburn sound?
A lot of it is house-influenced. I’m kind of direct and innate about that, but I find it's really building blocks to make tracks on. There’s some element of tropical-ness in terms of the sound I’m using, but there's also a bit of somberness in its tone.
Did signing with Greco-Roman help develop your electro side?
I think they’re a really neat label, with really good taste, run by three guys including Joe Goddard from Hot Chip. I love their label, they put out really neat and interesting stuff, and they've been able to develop and build artists in the electronic world over the past few years, so we're not totally just extinct dinosaurs. It's thrilling for me they want to put out my music.
“Tanto” has a few instruments — the steel drums and vocals, too — how does the production of that type of song translate for just one person?
I usually play it in the middle of the set. That song is a compilation of programming and sampling; I play a bit of piano on it and have a piano in my apartment. The vocals are Matias Aguayo. He’s such an incredible musician and has an incredible body of work. As far as right now, it’s not like a live electronic music set, that would be years away. I can’t do that with an EP yet!
Well, on that note, can we expect a full-length anytime soon?
I would love to do a full-length of just my own material at some point, but right now there are no plans. I work on music every day, I work on tracks every day. I definitely want to put out more EPs and singles in the near future. But doing a full-length, I feel like I’m still developing as a producer, doing mostly instrumental and electronic stuff, and this EP, I feel, is my first step into that world.
If you absolutely had to choose, which do you prefer: slapping bass with VW or spinning behind a booth?
If I had to, you’re saying gun to my head? I would have to choose playing bass in the band. But I absolutely love both. That’s like a Sophie's Choice thing for me as far as music goes [laughs].
What can we expect from the set at Wrongbar this weekend?
A good time, good energy. I had a really wonderful time and played at The Hoxton right around TIFF. I love Toronto and I had such a wonderful time going out. Hopefully it will be a really good party, which is what I try to provide every time I DJ.