Drenched in an introspective air of gloom, ††† (Crosses)’ arrival on the alt scene served as a sharp dose of cerebral darkwave magic. Combining the experimental drive of Deftones’ Chino Moreno with the production prowess of Far’s Shaun Lopez, the project promised great things – and the 2014 drop of Crosses self-titled debut cemented this promise.
Nearly a decade on from their debut, the darkwave duo have decided to re-emerge from the shadows. Last year’s ‘PERMANENT.RADIANT’ EP served as a catalyst, urging Crosses to continue exploring the depths of their sound with a more mature approach than ever before. Bolder and more experimental, sophomore release ‘Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete.’ serves up an even richer world for fans to sink into; it’s a record that promises to ripen with each listen, carefully layered to enchant and entrance in equal measures.
We had a chat with the hypnotic duo to fully immerse ourselves in their gothic, distorted world. Delving into how they build their woozy witch house sound, an unconventional foray into the world of rap, and their unique musical connection, let’s explore just how the Crosses duo have transformed over the last nine years.
Rock Sound: So – it’s nearly been a decade since the last Crosses record. Why did now feel like the time to make your grand return?
CHINO MORENO: “It wasn’t anything specific – Shaun just came to visit. But it just so happens that when we get together, we talk music. We went down to the studio just for fun, and it just sort of grew from there. It happened very organically.”
RS: Was there ever a moment where you felt like this could have been an entirely different project, under a new name? What with Chuck not being involved in the project any more…
CHINO: “From the start, all the ideas definitely felt like Crosses. We really liked it, it sounded like us. It felt like it expanded on the sound of our debut, it built on from that world. And that quickly became our goal, to push that sound, to expand on what we’d made before – and I think we managed that.”
SHAUN LOPEZ: “It definitely feels like a refined version of ourselves, you know?”
CHINO: “I think any project Shaun and I work on just sounds like us. We go in with the same attention to detail. The sound Shaun chooses, the musical beds he creates, have always attracted me. He’ll play me something, and I’ll immediately want to go right into the vocal booth. And those initial, instinctual responses will often be the final take we use on a track. I think we’ve always inspired each other – we just we just see eye to eye musically.”
RS: You’re kindred musical spirits.
CHINO: “And that’s very rare. I think any project Shaun and I work on, we go in with the same attention to detail.”
RS: How would you say you work together?
SHAUN: “A song grows slowly, organically. We have lots of little ‘what if..?’ moments. What if we change a note here, dip down lower here? Sometimes Chino will hum something to me, and I’ll sit at the piano and come up with something that syncs up with it. Then we’ll work out the next chord, and the next chord. That alone is something I wouldn’t have been able to do a decade ago, as I couldn’t play piano!”
RS: How has learning piano changed your approach to writing?
SHAUN: “I think I’m less inspired by the guitar now because piano and synths feel so new and exciting. The last song on the record ‘Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete’ isn’t even real guitar – it’s a sample of a Japanese stringed instrument called a koto played on my MIDI. And I love that. Technology just opens up so many more doors.”
RS: Crosses as a project seems to open up doors for you. Do you find it allows you to toy with sounds your other projects don’t typically explore?
CHINO: “We’re definitely like two kids in a toy store when we write together. Shaun’s studio is filled with so much gear, and the gear alone can be a massive inspiration for a track. Sometimes we’ll be inspired by a sound we hear, and then we’ll go to Shaun’s studio to work backwards, figure out how the sound was made. And making this record was entirely on our terms, there was no outside pressure to do anything – and that’s the best way to create. No pressure, just free to experiment.”
RS: It must be very liberating to not have huge expectations like, say, when putting together a new Deftones record…
CHINO: “It’s all released on our terms. But the approach is still similar: with Deftones, the goal is always to not take the most obvious route on things, and we have the same mindset with this project. We don’t want to fit neatly into a box. Crosses doesn’t just exist in a retro world, because we’re free to add contemporary sounds, or really experiment with our influences.”
RS: You mentioned that this record is ‘lighter’ than the previous record – how so?
CHINO: “I feel like there’s a little more optimism this time – it’s not completely solemn and dark. There are definitely darker moments, but we found a balance. There’s different peaks and valleys. There’s a journey on this record, exploring different emotions, sonically and lyrically.”
RS: Are there any tracks on this record that you wouldn’t have been able to produce nine years ago?
SHAUN: “Definitely. Some of the tracks were still a struggle – we had to ‘crack the code’. Like with ‘Invisible Hands’, I’d made the rough track of the verses with the big, bombastic bass, and then we both couldn’t figure out how the chorus was going to sound. How do you move on from such huge verses? Then Chino went in and sang the exact melody that’s on the record.”
RS: And are there any moments or details on the record that really stand out for you?
SHAUN: “The title-track track is my favourite, lyrically. To me, it sounds so dark and sad – yet the lyrics really paint this picture of love. And every time I listen, the story changes. Sometimes I feel like these two lovers are about to die in each others arms. But then sometimes I’ll listen and I envision these people being the last two people on Earth, and they’re gonna live on together forever, totally happy in their isolation.”
RS: I know sometimes you don’t like going into detail, but what was the intention when you were writing the lyrics, Chino?
CHINO: “I usually don’t, but it’s funny how right Shaun is. That duality – it’s exactly what I was thinking of when I was writing, that open interpretation.”
RS: A lot of the tracks on ‘Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete.’ do exist in that liminal space of interpretation, where they can change based on your mood.
CHINO: “I would probably attribute that to a lot of the music that I grew up listening to. I’ve always been inspired by ‘romantic’ music – that kind of sad, brooding optimism. When you’re a teenager, any little thing that happens to you is the biggest thing in the world, and the music I listened to really captured that. Whether it’s lost love or just a crush, those songs I used to listen to still give me that huge, exciting ‘butterfly’ feeling. But then there’s the sorrow, as the huge ‘thing’ it’s speaking about is more intense than reality; it’s searching for something it will never actually find. And I feel like my own writing and lyrics explore those kinds of feelings.”
RS: How did Robert Smith and Run The Jewels’ EL-P end up getting involved? And how was it, involving them in the creative process?
CHINO: “It was very much a last minute thing. And it was sort of like ‘stitching’ them into our sound. With EL-P, we had the song ‘Big Youth’ there, and we wanted to build it out. I don’t remember if it was Shaun or myself that suggested having someone rap on the track, and we decided to play with the idea even if it was a little ‘out of character’ for Crosses. So, Shaun found an old acapella of EL-P and, just for shits and giggles, sort of matched it up with the track – and it lined up perfectly. We sent that to EL-P like ‘what do you think?’ and he loved it. Then he wrote a new piece for the track, and it all fell into place.”
RS: Do you think you would have been able to do a track like ‘Big Youth’ nine years ago?
CHINO: “I don’t think we mentally would have allowed ourselves to do it. We would have thought it was too ‘off-brand.’ But now we’re really firm on pushing the limits of what people expect Crosses to be; we’re comfortable stepping outside of our comfort zone. We have a much bigger palette, and we’re happier to take chances. It keeps things exciting.“
RS: Who knows – you might be rapping yourself on the next record.
CHINO: “You know, I do think that Run The Jewels track is probably the closest that I’ve gotten to ‘rapping’. I didn’t even realize it when I was doing it, but I remember Shaun told me that when he was playing it in house, his wife said, ‘man, how did you get Chino to rap on this?’”
RS: To wrap things up, what do you want people to take from this record?
SHAUN: “We want people to build their own journey out of it. Just like that closing, title-track – I love when people can create their own meaning, attach themselves to a record. Music is such an amazing thing. I still feel lucky to be able to make it.”
‘Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete.’ is out now.