††† (Crosses) cover George Michael and talk the future: “We’re where Deftones were at when we made ‘White Pony'”

Chino Moreno and Shaun Lopez tell NME about therapy, touring, album plans, and online Britney Spears comparisons

††† (Crosses), the side-project of Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and multi-instrumentalist and producer Shaun Lopez, have shared their cover of George Michael‘s ‘One More Try – as well as talking to NME about what the future holds.

Now a tradition from the duo – having kicked off the holiday ritual by sharing a surprise cover of ‘The Beginning of the End’ by Cause & Effect on Christmas Eve in 2020 before last year dropping their rendition of ‘Goodbye Horses’ by Q Lazzarus – the duo this year deliver their take on the track from the late pop icon’s classic 1987 debut album, ‘Faith’.

“Doing these covers is what helped us to get the project up and running again,” Moreno told NME. “Our Cause & Effect cover was the first thing we did back and it inspired us to keep going. This year, we chose to cover George Michael’s ‘One More Try’ because we always talked about it.

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“One day, in my inbox, I got a demo of the music from Shaun. In my head, I was like, ‘I’m never going to be able to sing this because it’s George Michael and hard to do well’. I wanted to do it for real and it didn’t sound too bad. I’m pretty proud of it. It’s weird when you’re singing someone else’s song. I don’t know if I’d go for a vocal that high on my own as it’s right at the top of my comfort zone.”

Lopez added: “It’s not what people are going to expect us to put out, and I like that. Maybe next year we’ll do a metal tune.”

The cover comes fresh off the back of the release of the duo’s recent EP ‘PERMANENT.RADIANT‘ and the one-off double A-side of ‘Initiation’/’Protection’ – and there’s still much more new music to come.

“We’re actually in the studio right now working on what is to become the record, or whatever we decide to release it as,” said Moreno. “These six songs for the EP were randomly chosen out of that lot. I feel like each song complements the other, represents a different flavour, and makes for a cohesive piece of work.

“We’re still doing that right now – just picking more songs out to focus on. All in all, it does sound like a cohesive bunch of work. The idea is to put groups of songs together that do that and have that ebb and flow.”

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Asked if he considered lyrics differently from when he’s making music with Deftones, Moreno replied: “Not at all. I basically have one style and way of writing. The way that I approach it is basically just hearing the music and reacting to it. Sometimes I’ll attack something a little differently while working on it, just for the sake of trying, but I never go in that way. It’s usually something that I always like to keep organic. It’s usually just my first impression of something.”

He continued: “I’ve always made an effort to stay vague with the words that I use. I’ll paint some sort of imagery, but any time something gets a little too forward, then I’ll back up a little bit. I just feel more comfortable that way. It feels more artistic that way as well.”

Chino Moreno and Shaun Lopez of Crosses
Chino Moreno and Shaun Lopez of Crosses. Credits: Jonathan Weiner/Press

Ahead of the release of Deftones’ last album ‘Ohms’ in 2020, Moreno told NME of the impact that therapy was having on his life and worldview. Does he feel that his self-analysis was shaping the way he worked or thought about music in any way?

“No, I’m still pretty crazy!” he replied. “That’s hard to say. I don’t know if I’ve stood outside of myself and tried to analyse it. I’m a lot more productive – to be sober and have a lot more clarity in my life helps me get to the point quicker. I’m not dancing around as much shit anymore.

“One of my biggest issues in my whole life has been not dealing with things in the moment and putting them off. It’s pretty well known that all that does is compile things. Once you start knocking things out here and there, your plate becomes less full and you can focus on what’s in front of you.”

Moreno added: “Work ethic-wise, it’s been awesome. I very rarely feel like I get into a creative lull. I always feel creative and always have. Maybe in the coming years, I’ll be able to see all of this more clearly. I’m continuing because you don’t just go to therapy and get fixed. It’s something that you adapt into your life and just do it until you’re not here anymore.”

This latest era of the band has seen ††† (Crosses) exist as a duo without Chuck Doom, who was a member for their first three EPs and 2014 self-titled debut album.

“As someone who writes with different sets of people all the time,  I definitely had a fear that changing one ingredient of the final product was going to totally change the vibe,” said Lopez of the current line-up. “Maybe we wouldn’t finish stuff and need a third opinion. We started doing stuff, ‘Holier’ was one of the first songs that we made and I just remember how excited we were. It just felt gratifying to think, ‘We got this’.

“It opened up a lot more doors that we could go into. Before, we were held to a certain way of writing, and this just felt more open. It felt more collaborative.”

As for what draws these two together creatively, Moreno pointed to “a kinship we’ve had since we were really young – like, our late teens or early 20s”.

“We were both in pretty new bands at the time,” said Moreno. “I don’t even think Deftones had a demo, but [Lopez’s band] Far did. I remember putting the cassette in my Walkman in my room at my parents’ house and thinking, ‘Damn, we suck! These dudes have got it together!’ Far were drawing from a lot of the same influences as Deftones so I was stoked but at the same time quite deflated, thinking, ‘Man, we’ve got a lot of work to do!’

“Being inspired by one another and pushing one another was always the cool basis of our friendship. If I wrote a new song, Shaun would always be the first person I wanted to play it to, and vice versa. We’d hang out as friends and always turn each other on to cool new music, and we’d always especially trade electronica and trip-hop. He’s still eager to learn and try new things. Our music is like that – to pick up something that’s foreign to you and start messing with it.”

††† (Crosses)
††† (Crosses) (Picture: Clemente Ruiz / Press)

The pair are currently still in discussion as to whether their new material will arrive as an album or more EPs, but they did reveal that they had been “holding some of the weirder stuff back” and were preparing to “dive into that next”.

Moreno told us: “To use Deftones as an analogy: when we did our first record, we were just trying to figure out what the hell we were doing, ‘Around The Fur’ was us getting some confidence and success with that, then when we made ‘White Pony’ that was us saying, ‘We can do anything now’.

“People liked what we did and we had the freedom to expand. That’s where we’re at with Crosses now. We’ve shown what we can do, so now it’s like, ‘Check this out!’”

As well as some more “aggressive” and “out there” material to arrive, the band promised that there would be plenty of surprises on the horizon showcasing their diverse range of influences. Many fans had noted one surprise on the recent EP,  commenting that the single ‘Vivien’ appeared to reference Britney Spears‘ ‘…Baby One More Time’ in the chorus.

Asked if he’d read any of the online discussion, Moreno replied: “I have! I love the chatter more than anything. It wouldn’t be an Easter egg if we said that it was, so let’s just keep it at that and give a little wink.”

As for what next year has in store, Moreno said that ††† (Crosses) had been talking about how to tour while also giving time to their other projects.

“It just comes down to the logistics of it and how we do it – whether it’s something grand or minimal or both,” he revealed. “We haven’t got that deep into it yet, but it’s something we need to do. We’d like to get out there sooner rather than later, hopefully by late Spring or Summer.”

He added: “I’d like this to coexist with life in general. Deftones don’t have much on the horizon other than doing some writing. There’s no high pressure. I like the idea of those guys writing sans my presence. For now, we’re pretty focused on this. I know Shaun has some other stuff he’ll be working on, but we’re pretty dedicated to diving in and seeing how deep we can go with this next year.”

‘PERMANENT.RADIANT’ by ††† (Crosses) is out now. 

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