Chris Baio comes across as an introvert trying to challenge himself to be the most charismatic guy in the room. His words are delivered as if he’s learning to speak for the first time, discovering a new joy for pushing down on consonants and elongating vowels. He wants you to dance, but his commands come across as more of suggestions — as if he’s speaking out loud whilst still in his head, and is really more concerned with getting his own feet to move anyway. His voice flies up and down his register, he’ll settle on a groove only to let it fall apart in the middle and build up something new, and he seemingly can’t make up his mind about whether he wants to be a peppy rock band or a hip electronic producer.
All of which leads him to be exceptionally charming.
Baio’s debut album, The Names, is delectably gentle and hypnotically warm. It feels humble, but is executed with an abundance of skill. The music feels homemade: synths rise and fall like sunbeams across a living room floor and kick drums come across like reassuring pats on the back. The whole record holds a cohesive identity — a personality that feels equal parts intelligent, casual, and immediate.
As the bassist for Vampire Weekend, Baio has played some of the biggest stages around the world, including Treasure Island seven years ago. He finally returns this weekend, on Saturday’s electronic lineup instead of the indie-rock focused Sunday, and with a batch of his own songs to deliver. We had a chance to ask him some questions about his new project, playing it live, and his return to the Bay Area, and he came across as appealing as he does on record.
The Bay Bridged: The record consists of a number of sounds and textures, and exists in this unique hybrid of sounding simultaneously like a band and a producer. How have you chosen to translate the songs live?
Baio: Playing live is almost always my favorite part of the process and it’s something I’ve been thinking about since before I finished the record. I play with a guitarist, and I handle all the electronics. When I’m singing a song I walk to the front of the stage like a traditional lead singer. The vibe I’m going for is “techno crooner.”
TBB: Vampire Weekend played Treasure Island Music Festival back in 2008. Do you have any memories of that experience?
Baio: I remember it being extraordinarily crisp & windy and doing a photoshoot at a playground. Here is a photo from that photoshoot, if you’ll notice my hair is truly windblown in it: