Connecting the Dots explores side-projects and associated bands featuring members, past and present, of bands we know and love.
In today’s Connecting the Dots, we’re going to focus on just a few of the myriad projects that are associated with the members of Deftones. Frankly, there are a good amount—many of them branching off of the band’s success with 2011’s Diamond Eyes, and not all of them have material that is easily accessible.
Chino Moreno (vocals, guitar), Stephen Carpenter (lead guitar), Chi Cheng (bass, [deceased]), Sergio Vega (bass), Abe Cunningham (drums), and Frank Delgado (turntables/sampling)
There’s not much more to say about Deftones that hasn’t already been established. This Sacramento band has been around since the late eighties, and have proved themselves over and over again to always have a musical trick up their sleeves. With a sound that combines the heaviest of metal with the smooth and poetic fluidity of dream pop and alt-rock, Deftones have not always been on top in terms of status—usually lingering somewhere in the general underground with a loyal fanbase—but are a band that wears their influences on their sleeves and manages to put a lot of heart into everything they make. This year’s newest album, Gore, has divided fans significantly, but has nonetheless been commercially well-received.
Track to Check Out: Far too many to choose from, but let’s go with “Phantom Bride” from Gore
This recently reactivated project that originally featured Deftones singer Chino Moreno, Hella and Death Grips drummer Zach Hill (now uninvolved with TS), DJ Crook, and a whole slew full of other members, is very much a Moreno-influenced affair. Taking influence from a lot of dream-pop and shoegaze bands like The Cure, My Bloody Valentine, and some electronic-inspired groups like Depeche Mode, Team Sleep’s 2005 self-titled debut was a huge left field turn for people expecting another Deftones-ish album. The album is soft and moody as hell, full of electronic instruments and some out of-this-world drumming in tracks like “Ataraxia.” Overall, Team Sleep is a mixture of melancholy, what with the dreamy but sad guitars on “Since WWI” and a vague, Lynchian creepiness to it all like “Tomb of Liegia.”
The recent reactivation of the band has also gave way to the live album Woodstock Sessions, Vol. 4, an album that I personally haven’t listened, but has ultimately failed to gain much as much traction as predecessor in terms of reception. If you want to check Team Sleep out, I would really only recommend their debut.
Track to Check Out: “Ataraxia”
Not an incredibly popular project—which is purposeful, considering that it now really runs an email list with all the tracks free—Sol Invicto is a duo composing of Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter and producer Richie Londres doing…something. What that something exactly consists of is not particularly easy to describe. The term “cinematic electronic metal” has been floated around in connotation with the group, but that doesn’t really do Sol Invicto any justice or really add to the understanding of this music. It’s instrumental music, featuring Carpenter’s famous guitar riffs combined with a variety of electronic subgenres, including industrial, ambient, and even some drum and bass influences. It reminds me a lot of Graeme Revell’s soundtrack for that not-so-great Aeon Flux movie that came out a while ago, or even a very light amalgam of Aphex Twin’s music throughout the years.
Sol Invicto hasn’t put out a whole lot of material—only three EPs and a handful of singles—but it’s some really interesting, twisting music that works well both as background music and for straight listening.
Track to Check Out: Forget a track: their 2011 Initium EP is worth checking out in full.
Another Chino project, Palms pairs the famous Deftones singer with three members of the defunct post-metal band Isis.
Frankly, there isn’t a whole lot to say about Palms’s sound. It basically sounds like you’d think it sounds: Chino singing over a bunch of In the Absence of Truth-era Isis b-sides. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, though; if you liked Team Sleep, but wanted a little more punch to the music, Palms fits the description pretty well. It doesn’t rock out as hard as Deftones is capable of—the guitars don’t hit nearly as heavy as they could—but it’s nonetheless a project that has some pretty awesome merits to it.
Track to Check Out: “Patagonia”
Yes, it’s yet another Chino project. At this point, if you’re not a fan of what Chino has to offer—that is, dreamy, ethereal vocals and significant electronic influences—you’re probably not going to enjoy this. Chino works with Far guitarist Shaun Lopez and frequent Chino collaborator Chuck Doom acting as a sort of mini backing band.
What I think Crosses brings differently to the table, though, is a different take on what is Chino Moreno’s (arguably) biggest influence: trip-hop. While Team Sleep has some significant trip-hop elements to their sound, Crosses brings these same elements with relative aggression. It’s full of some really well-made samples, and unafraid to be rough, with icy synths and almost tribal-like drumming, all with Chino’s voice to offer a sort of contrast to the entire sound. Of course, there are tracks that are dreamier than others, but all of them definitely have a more active sound compared to anything Team Sleep has done. Hell, Chino even screams on it at some points; you aren’t going to find that much outside of Deftones.
Track to Check Out: “This is a Trick”