Chino Moreno and Shaun Lopez discuss their latest EP, Permanent.Radiant; their friendship and development as musicians, and Deftones performing at Good Things festival.
(Pic by Jonathan Weiner)
Shaun Lopez has the kind of studio you’d expect as a member of ††† (Crosses). It’s lit in purple, and the musical equipment in the room is of the highest quality, with coloured cables wired into machines and computers. He’s chill in his surroundings, with bandmate Chino Moreno beside him, noodling away on a bass guitar.
“All this gear, I don't know if you can see it all around, lots and lots of toys surrounded us, lots of gear,” Moreno muses; all of that gear inspired Crosses to stay creative as they worked on their new EP, Permanent.Radiant, which the duo released this month. “It's that, and it's other music. Hearing other music that inspires you or even new music or older music,” Lopez adds. Moreno continues, “Just getting together and you know, you know, throwing ideas back and forth – that, for me, is my favourite thing. It’s one of my favourite things to do and my favourite way to make music, for sure.”
Crosses haven’t done much touring; they haven’t played shows in the UK yet, so it’s very impressive that they came to Australia as part of Soundwave festival in 2014. Deftones are also beloved down under – they performed at Good Things festival earlier this month and played a one-off gig in Adelaide as a sideshow.
“The Melbourne show, I will honestly say, was my least favourite show on my part,” Moreno says about the band’s appearance at Good Things. “I feel like I didn't have the greatest show, and I was in my head a little bit with many technical difficulties going on.
“I feel like it was one of the worst shows I've had in many years,” he adds. “When I got off stage, I was like, ‘wow, that that was probably one of my least favourite shows.’ Not so much because of the crowd; it was just the headspace. When everything started going wrong in a row, I got in my head and lost my footing. But it happens. I’ve played a lot of shows in my life, so it's bound to happen at some point. I'm just happy that they're fewer and far between these days.”
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It may seem like Crosses have been around for a long time, based on seeing the band name everywhere on the internet, but the truth is: this is only their fourth EP released to date. After forming in 2011 as a trio alongside bassist Chuck Doom, Moreno, of Deftones fame; and Lopez, guitarist of the underground rock band Far, the band released their debut EP, EP 1, for free or for $5 as a higher quality download in August that year.
In January 2012, the group released EP 2. Following that EP, Moreno temporarily put Crosses on hold as Deftones released their seventh album, Koi No Yokan, and his other project, Palms, put out their debut self-titled album in 2013. That year, Crosses signed with Sumerian Records. In 2014, the band issued the eponymously titled record, their first album. It was accompanied by EP 3. Then, they disappeared for six years.
In 2020, Crosses returned as a duo – Lopez and Moreno – and released a cover of The Beginning Of The End by Cause And Effect. Exactly a year later, in December 2021, they put out another cover, this time of Q Lazzarus’s song Goodbye Horses, with the announcement that they had signed with Warner Records.
This year, Crosses resurfaced with their first original music since 2014. The first single from the new EP, Permanent.Radiant, Vivien, was released in October and followed two brilliantly eerie tracks that didn’t make the EP, but we hope to hear on a future release: Initiation and Protection.
“It's definitely inspiring to just doodle, turn knobs, and touch stuff and be able to add music using your fingertips, literally,” Moreno says about Lopez’s studio. “Having Shaun with the engineering skills to be able to make it all sound good makes it a very instant, gratifying thing where one person will start doing something, and then you can immediately react to it.
“Some of my favourite songs are ones that were built in that way, built super-fast; you don't even get time to put your head up and think too hard about what you're doing. It's happening in real-time. Those are some of my favourite moments of working on this music.” What are the songs that were so gratifying for Moreno? “My favourite thing is the last thing we worked on, which we started yesterday,” he laughs.
“[My favourite songs] are somewhere, somewhat when you find yourself going into a territory that you haven't really explored much before, I think is always exciting,” Lopez adds while Moreno strums the bass guitar. “And if you feel like you're doing, you know, a good job at it, it's always great.”
Lopez and Moreno grew up together. “It was basically when Deftones were a ‘local’ band. It was weird because I was into metal, but I also loved Duran Duran, and when I heard Chino, I was like, ‘Oh, there’s some New Wave in his singing.’ Even though he didn’t look like that, because he had long hair,” Lopez recalled about his bandmate in a recent Kerrang! cover story. They hung out and rehearsed in the same studio, Matt Erich’s Musical Enterprise in Sacramento in the early to mid-90s, which only charged bands $5 an hour to play there.
“We were coming of age [when new wave music] was everywhere,” Moreno enthuses. No matter what age range you’re in, he tells, there’s a type of music that was popular in your teenage years that soundtracked a certain period of your life, and that’s one of his favourite places to pull from as a songwriter.
“There's no doubt that some 80s music, especially, is just great, man. I think some musicians pushed the envelope with electronics, synthesizers, and drum machines,” Moreno adds. “New wave bands sounded different than your regular old four-piece rock and roll band; you know what I mean? Those bands sounded very futuristic to me as a kid, and even listening back now; I think a lot of that music holds its weight over time.”
Sensation, the first song on the Permanent.Radiant EP, sounds like a horror movie take on a New Order song. “I love that description,” Moreno laughs, as Lopez confirms: “That's the first and the only take of [Chino’s] vocal, which I think, for me, as an engineer nerd who loves to hear behind the scenes studio stuff; I watch any documentary about anything, for me, that's the stuff that’s just so cool.”
Sensation was also one of the initial tracks Crosses started working on since returning from their hiatus. “I think Chuck wanted to do his solo thing and involve Chino, which kind of meant he wanted to do Crosses without me. Which is just fucking comedy… Anytime I would get together with Chuck to make some new tunes, something had seriously changed in the vibe,” Lopez told Kerrang!
A close friend of his also asked, “Why aren’t you doing Crosses anymore? I figured you and Chino were beefing?” to which Lopez confirmed that the opposite was true. “It was a bummer because the whole reason this stopped for that many years is because of one person, and that one person isn’t in Crosses now,” he said.
Moreno built a vocal booth in his closet underneath the stairs, he reveals, where he sang those opening words: “Don't wanna be here in the dark/But I believe I'll always be”.
Crosses have been in the studio for another week, grinding away. “Releasing a record inspires me; I wanna do more,” Moreno says. “It’s addicting to feel like you’ve accomplished something. You start with nothing, and then we have a tangible CD that we’re looking at right now that happened with us hanging out and messing around with this gear here.”
“This whole thing started as a labour of love,” Lopez comments, “and when a labour of love becomes this, it’s really cool.”
Permanent.Radiant is out now via Warner Music Australia. Stream it here.