Chino Moreno & Shaun Lopez – ††† (Crosses) ‘What’s The Matter With The Transformation?’

“Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories. And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it.”- Stevie Wonder.

This testimony from the influential pioneer of pop, soul, gospel, funk, jazz and most notably rhythm and blues is arguably a psychological revelation as much as it is a truth for musical devotees. Discovered as a child prodigy who went on to be the youngest artist ever to top the Billboard Hottest 100 chart at the age of 13, an Academy Award winner, 25 times Grammy Award winner, he has been inducted into numerous Halls of Fame, a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and many more accolades; all of these accomplishments Mr Wonder has achieved in his 72 years of life, most of which he has also been blind. The most noteworthy aspect of this aforementioned statement though is its reference to time: “the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it”. Stevie undoubtedly has the fondest recollections of music and thankfully he is responsible for many timeless songs himself that reaches multiple generations.

Chino Moreno and Shaun Lopez of alt-electronic new wave outfit ††† (Crosses) resonate with Mr. Wonder’s quote above on multiple levels. As the vocalist of Californian alt metal trailblazers Deftones and the guitarist of famed post hardcore band Far respectively, these two artists understand that their music has reached enthusiasts to the far reaches of Planet Earth and created astonishing memories. What took the duo by surprise however, were some the responses to the two-piece’s new EP Permanent.Radiant released December 9th a full eight years after their debut self-titled album. As Shaun Lopez describes from his home studio, the reactions brought about a deeper understanding on their listeners’ connection to their artwork.

Yeah, I’m actually surprised that, because, I read comments, that’s just what I do. I want to see what people think. Because I think sometimes it’s important for an artist to check themselves, sometimes maybe, here’s something bad, you know?Shaun discloses with a tender directness – “Especially when you see comments from people that have been there since the beginning. I think it’s hard to win those people over with new music because you have to think that during an eight year gap, you have to think of the place that those people were in, in their lives, it was so very different. I always say this to even bands or artists that I’m working with: ‘You might have that one record that everybody loves. And in some ways, you’re just never gonna beat that.’ Those fans, they lost their virginity that record or they got married to that record, or they suffered their first loss in life and it is always going to bring them that sort of warmth. So when I see comments when people are like: ‘This is the best shit you guys have done’. I’m like: ‘For real?’ But it’s cool. I don’t take anything for granted.”

As discussed, a lot has changed in eight years. There were dramatic changes in the American Presidency, wars erupted shaking the globe to its core, scientific discoveries altered our way of living, economics, the digital revolution, climate change and emergencies – the list is endless. Not forgetting that Deftones also released two full-lengths in this period Gore in 2016 and Ohms in 2020; Mr Lopez maintained his producer duties working with an array of musicians including progressive rock band Chon on their 2015 album Grow among many others. Then, to acknowledge the elephant in the room, COVID-19 altered our existence as we knew it and while we are returning to a familiar state of living, we are still in recovery from the pandemic. It plagued this writer to therefore ask Chino how this time lapse, pandemic and life changes between releases affected or inspired himself for Permanent.Radiant?

Although we did make a lot of this record over the pandemic. Aside from this though, I don’t really feel like I was that prolific during the pandemic. I think a lot of artists when that happened, they said: ‘Hey, we’re going to shut down for 14 days at first, then a month now – well, now I can just sit back and I can be creative and I won’t have any distractions’. In theory, it makes sense, you’re already locked up so be creative. But, I didn’t feel creative for the most part in that time.” Mr Moreno shyly admits in a moment of reflection before continuing – “The only time I did feel creative is when Shaun and I would get together to work on stuff. But at home, I wasn’t like sitting there in my studio cranking out ideas or writing lyrics or anything like that. Once we started though, every time we did kind of take chances and got together, which was very risky – Shaun drove one time up to Oregon, to my place and that’s a f**king long drive. That’s like, what is it from here?

Oh Jesus, I think it is like 900 miles, maybe longer?Shaun interjects.

Chino then continues – “Because you couldn’t get on a plane then, so he came up and I f**king wiped everything down, even him (laughs) – then we went into my studio. That was one of the earlier sessions on when we just started working. It was so exciting to do this, to be able to talk to somebody and collaborate and showing them ideas and things to listen to. I can’t even describe the excitement properly; I also always like working with artists, I prefer collaborating more than I like making music by myself. So I think that was more where the inspiration was coming from, that reconnection and the energy with that.

What about the lyrical element? Had the way of life or changes in the past decade stimulated the subject matter differently for the EP?

Yeah. I mean, I didn’t want to just like wallow in the pandemic either. For instance the song ‘Day One’ which is probably probably one of the happiest songs not only Crosses has made; well I shouldn’t say it’s a ‘happy’ song, but it’s more optimistic sort of, when compared to my whole repertoire pretty much. I didn’t make it out of spite if everything; honestly I was just writing down words and that was kind of what was on my mind at the time. Everything was still closed, locked down, all the restaurants, everything was closed around here. So I think the motivation for that song was just that longing to be around your friends and put your arms around them – that kind of crept into the lyrics you know what I mean?

Whilst Chino and Shaun were both locked in to an extent, their imaginations and creativity still branched out. The above named single ‘Day One’ approached new soundscapes for the ††† (Crosses) identity. The prior detailed lyrical brightness is a major factor of this; furthermore though, musically the composition enriches the observers soul rather differently; it is in a sense similar to how Icelandic experimental pop goddess Bjork emits her artistic beauty and warmth. A noted departure to the darker new wave profile of ††† (Crosses).

I’ve seen that comment before.Shaun excitedly chimes in – “Some other people have commented about the Bjork element on that song. I never would have thought that but that’s cool. That’s very cool!

I’ll just say when Shaun sent me the idea, I didn’t hear it right away and go: ‘Wow, this is weird’. I just like heard it and it wasn’t actually the fully song, it was the seed of the song. So it was like a little plucking kind of tune with keyboard and maybe some synth on it. It was maybe a 30 second clip or something like that. I put it into my studio program and sang an idea, literally the first thing that came to mind, not so much lyrically focussed, but just the melody kind of thing.

So there wasn’t a premeditated sound direction with this single?

There was never the idea: ‘We should write a song like this.’ I sent my reaction to what he sent me and then the song started to build. Once it started sort of taking shape we both started kind of felt the ‘shoulder shaking’ groove and danced in that way to it.” Mr Moreno and Mr Lopez both shoulder shimmy in unison to accentuate the narrative – “We knew that this was a little different from our past work but it didn’t feel like: ‘Oh my God, we’re going too far away from it’. It’s was not consciously aimed for.Chino clarifies with a proud conviction.

It reads as a departure, but in retrospect Permanent.Radiant isn’t. What Shaun Lopez and Chino Moreno have crafted is an expansion on the ††† (Crosses) persona; an exploration of where their musical DNA can bond with. When this scribe characterises to the duo that their artistic reach is just finding new dimensions, especially with the track ‘Vivien’, a dance-floor mover; it is different but ultimately their project is undeniably them, and this is met with ACTUAL applause.

Well, that’s awesome. I mean, the world that I live in. I wish everybody was like you.Chino specifies with a gleaming smile – “That’s how I am too, you know, I mean, I’m very open to music and Shaun is the same – we like so much different stuff. I just assume that everybody’s like that, but sadly, some people aren’t, you know what I mean? Some people, with that song in particular, there’s people that love it, and then there’s some people that despise it. They basically telling us: ‘That’s not you!’ – yeah, okay, thanks for telling me who I am.” He laughs before elaborating further – “I mean, I understand it, I can’t get mad about it. Everybody is obviously entitled to their opinion, so it’s not that big a deal. In a perfect world, everybody would just take these things for what they are, you know what I mean? And just either like it or don’t.

Chino Moreno and Shaun Lopez appear more like brothers than band members during the interview. Finishing each others thoughts and spotlighting each others answers – the two men are in a great harmony and proud of what they have accomplished. Believe it or not though, this wasn’t always the case. The pair actually worked together on Deftones dividing album Saturday Night Wrist in 2006 and when that era is brought up, their combined answers seem like that friction disjointed them and provoked a nightmare of sorts.

Yeah, we got some dark times. Yeah, we got some dark days. In this room!Chino discloses. “We were like not cool for a minute.Shaun agrees readily. “It was a heavy thing, not to get too much into depth on sh*t, because it is a good story about our friendship.Chino divulges – “That record was so hard, we had been working on it for so long. And at one point, we were just gonna give up on that record. Because it was recorded in so many different places over such a long period of time, it was such a mess. Funnily enough, Shaun and I went to a New Year’s Eve party that The Mars Volta dudes were hosting. So we’re drinking and Shaun got a little tipsy he then asked what was going on with the Deftones stuff and I was like: ‘Oh, man, it’s a mess’.

Chino takes a breath then proceeds in a Shaun voice: “(He’s like): ‘Yo, I got a new microphone. I got my new shit. My recording shit now, is dope. Come through, I have that shit tight.’ And I was ecstatic. So later on that week I went over and I like pulled up maybe two or three demos from the record and did some takes on them. I sent that to the label and explained that my buddy wants to help me finish this record. They were like: ‘Anything to get it done!’ But those studio sessions didn’t go well. It was taxing on our friendship, it was a lot for him to take on because I wasn’t in the best state of my f**king life. I was a fragmented human being. So he had to navigate me, the project, the label, management, everybody!

Shaun then adds: “I’ll be honest, I was not ready for anything. Nowadays I could deal with whatever, that was a while ago, but yeah pretty pretty wild times.

As the lyrics read in the Deftones’ track ‘Gift’ – “I wave my head in shame. In memories.” Music gives us memories from all over the spectrum.

Interview by Will Oakeshott @TeenWolfWill

Stream Permanent.Radiant here

††† (Crosses) - Permanent.Radiant large

††† (Crosses) Permanent.Radiant tracklisting:

1. Sensation
2. Vivien
3. Cadavre Exquis
4. Day One
5. Holier
6. Procession

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About Will Oakeshott (50 Articles)
Funny bloke, writer, Journalist, Vocalist, bit of acting, music, comedy and dad joke lover. Love: music, beer, bodyboarding, movies, books.