††† (Crosses): “It’s a trip to really trace where my head was at for each song”

Last year’s PERMANENT.RADIANT EP was the first Crosses release in eight years. But now, Chino Moreno and Shaun Lopez are already back with even more music: their incredible second album Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete. The duo talk teaming up with Robert Smith and El-P, creating a musical journey, and working their way through life’s “maze”…

††† (Crosses): “It’s a trip to really trace where my head was at for each song”
George Garner
Brian Ziff

“It’s always hard to think of a name that's going to represent every song on an album, but that phrase, ‘Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U’ just popped out to me,” Chino Moreno tells Kerrang! as he wends his way through a leaf-strewn LA neighbourhood. “It was something that came from my childhood, something that me, my brothers and sister, and our parents – our whole family – always said to each other every night before we went to bed. When I hear that phrase it just reminds me of my childhood – it was a constant. It gives me this feeling of comfort.”

This is partly how one of the year’s very best albums got its name. Released on October 13, the mesmerising Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete is the first full-length record by ††† (Crosses) – the reunited musical duo of the Deftones frontman and Far luminary Shaun Lopez – in almost a decade. But there’s more to the title than nostalgia.

“I realised that I don’t say it anymore,” Chino continues. “It totally…”

He drifts off for a moment. Here, the lingering presence of the ‘Delete’ addendum in the title presents itself. Stark and ominous, it’s like that beautiful, comforting sentiment has suddenly been erased.

“Adding the ‘Delete’ on at the end, to me, is [the idea that] one moment you have everything, and then – delete – it’s over,” he says. “Especially as the title-track is the last song on the record. It really summed up everything that happened in the last four years of creating this.”

And the past four years has been a momentous time, the pair weathering a pandemic and its emotional upheavals while doling out surprise singles, remixes and the excellent PERMANENT.RADIANT EP. Said release was expected to form the spine of their highly-anticipated second full-length album. Only it hasn’t.

Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete instead boasts 15 brand-new songs that capture Crosses, both musically and vocally, more adventurous than ever before. That it also features some jaw-dropping appearances from Run The Jewels’ El-P and even legendary The Cure singer Robert Smith only adds to the intrigue.

Here, K! joins Chino and Shaun to talk about its creation – covering topics such as contemplating the void, sore throats, accidental bouts of rapping, and what it feels like to have one of your personal musical icons get on a song with you…

More than most bands around, Crosses have played around with formats. Why, when you’ve clearly had so much fun doing one-off covers and singles, surprise EPs and remixes, was it still important you made an album?
Chino Moreno:
“It was really cool putting out singles and EPs – initially this band started out by randomly putting things out and letting people discover it on their own. But once we started finishing up this batch of songs, they really started complementing each other – even though they were done over a good four-year period. Some of it was old, some of it was done right up until the last day we recorded. Making a record just feels different, even just with the attention [it demands] of the listener.”
Shaun Lopez:
“Initially, the plan was to do what we did before: release EPs, then put them all together. For some reason, we just had this creative streak and started finishing way more songs than we needed. We stepped back and looked at all this new material, like, ‘The EP stands on its own – we have enough songs for a whole album now.’ And we generally don’t work that fast. I mean, I think we all know Chino’s history about finishing stuff…’”
“Did you hear that?!”

Are you going to stand for the slander, Chino?
“Go back! Delete that, delete!”
“We just really hit a creative stride. It was funny, because we would go into the session to finish something and instead we would start a brand-new song. We had so much material, but we didn’t wanna make a double-album out of it (laughs). I mean, 15 songs is a lot, you know? I’ve heard a couple people say, ‘Man, that’s a lot of songs.’ Generally, I like to have 12 songs on a record – less is always more in my opinion – but 15 just felt perfect. From where the album starts to where it ends, and I know this sounds cliché, it feels like a journey lyrically, musically… everything.”

On that idea of it being like a journey, there are a lot of recurring metaphors, words and phrases between songs. Is that a purely accidental occurrence, or something you were deliberating baking into the lyrics?
“I didn’t realise until it was done, but there are phrases where I realised there is a journey [unfolding]. And some of this stuff dates back three or four years ago, so it was not ordered [to be] that way. For instance, the Robert Smith song on the record, Girls Float † Boys Cry, is an older track. It’s the saddest song on the record and I wrote some of those words during a dark time, I was in some sort of void where I was just unhappy. It reeks of loneliness and despair. But it was actually one of the last songs to be finished, so it was weird to revisit those feelings after I’d already worked through them. One of the recurring words I realised while I was listening back is of going through this ‘maze’ – of trying to figure out my way through life. It’s not as literal as that, but that’s a recurring theme. Some songs I talk about going through it, and sometimes I talk about it in the past tense, when I’m out of it. It’s a trip to sit outside of it all now and really trace where my head was at for each song. I love the music of Girls Float † Boys Cry so much, but when I hear that song it makes me feel sad. I’m glad I’m not in that place anymore. But I wanted to finish it and, obviously, getting Robert involved in it was just like… Who else to get on a song like that? It worked out perfectly to have him sing some of those words along with me.”

Shaun, what’s it like knowing you’ve officially recorded a song with Robert Smith?
“I mean, honestly, I never thought I would have a song with him. Chino just surprised me with it. He didn’t tell me that he was sending it to him. He only told me about it when Robert had already said he would love to sing on it. We waited for a while and at some point we thought it maybe wasn’t going to happen, then we got these raw vocal files that he had sent us. It was pretty surreal to open them up.”

One to add to the official Greatest WeTransfers Of All Time list, then?
“Definitely the greatest.”

Chino, in terms of broaching it with Robert, you obviously had a long relationship with him already. Did you know him well before he asked Deftones to play The Cure’s MTV Icon tribute in 2004?
“Yeah, I did – I met him around 1997. When Around The Fur first came out, we did a livestream where we performed some of the album – it was one of the first worldwide streams. We did it in this studio in Hollywood, and I didn’t know but The Cure were rehearsing next door. When we were done with the show, my tour manager said Robert Smith was watching us and asked if I would come into their studio. I was like, ‘What the fuck?’ I walked in there and he was so pleasant. He just had nothing but great things to say.

“Specifically, I remember we performed Mascara and he was asking me about its lyrics – and it was brand-new! It was like, ‘Wow, he really was paying attention.’ We became email pals and he had reached out to me a couple other times after that. So ever since, we’ve remained friends. For Girls Float † Boys Cry, I really wanted to not tell anybody about him being on it. I would have loved for people to hear the song and then, out of nowhere, his voice would come in and people would be like, ‘Is that Robert Smith?’ I love those Easter eggs in records, the same way Deftones did with Passenger and Maynard [James Keenan]. The collaboration ended up getting out, but it worked out in the most perfect way.”

Who came up with the title for the song? Robert Smith very famously once told us that Boys Don’t Cry, but now it seems they do…
“Yeah (laughs). The working title was always called something ‘boy’. I had three different titles, but they always had the word ‘boy’ in it – I don’t know why. But I was reading this article that was talking about scientific reasons why women are more buoyant than men in water. I thought, ‘Well, wouldn’t that be a good name for a song – Girls Float?’ Then I thought, ‘Girls Float, Boys Cry.’ I just married those things and then, specifically because Robert Smith was on it, I figured it was a nod.”

Did Robert say anything about the title?
“He didn’t! When I sent him the song, it still had the working title on it. Even to this point, I don’t know if he actually has any feelings about it or not (laughs).”

Favour for a favour and all, Shaun, are we to assume you’re down with Crosses guest appearing on the next Cure album?
“Yeah, man, I’ll produce the whole thing. I got you, Robert!”

On the subject of guest appearances, El-P does a ferocious guest verse on Big Youth. How did you pull that off?
“It wasn’t finished, but we already had the song in a pretty good state. Chino was like, ‘What would you think about getting someone to do a 16-bar rap?’ He mentioned El-P, and this was around the time Run The Jewels 4 was out and I was listening to that album so much. Obviously, I was waaaay into the idea. I found an a capella of a Run The Jewels song and put it on our track (laughs) and we were hyped. So, Chino just sent that to him and said, ‘Heads up, we just put this in a capella in there but do you want to actually do this?’ He got back and was like, ‘Yeah, I’m down.’ Eventually he sent it to us and it was just amazing – and he actually did more than 16 bars! He liked it and wanted to keep going on it so we had to send him an extended version.”

Chino, the world has heard you rap lots of times, how come you didn’t fancy laying down your own 16 bars?
“Man, I just don’t think I really can anymore. I have stated plenty of times that writing lyrics, to me, feels like a task at times – and rapping has so many fucking words! By singing I can stretch the words out so I don’t have to write as many words (laughs). That’s sort of my excuse for not doing it anymore. And I’m out of practice. Funnily enough, though, on Big Youth I get the closest to rapping as I have in many years, in as far as my vocals and the cadence of them and the way they’re loosely formatted in a rap. I didn’t even realise that until afterwards – Shaun’s wife said, ‘Damn, how did you get Chino to rap?’ And I said, ‘When am I rapping?’ I guess it kind of is. The whole song was loosely based around a Beastie Boys vibe. We were in the studio and I wanted a track that was just a straight 808 beat. In the end, we’ve sort of balanced it out – it's not out of Crosses’ realm, but it’s definitely a nod to the stuff we grew up with.”

You do realise one of you will have to do El-P’s rapping part live, though…
“Shawn’s already said he’s got that covered.”
“That’s… That’s gonna be a no from me.”

Let’s talk about some other key songs on the record, one being Pulse Plagg. First question: what the hell is a Pulse Plagg?
“Yeah, that’s funny because I asked the same question. It’s a working title I got on a file from Shaun a couple years ago. I thought it was a German word or something. But sometimes I like things that I don’t understand.”
“It was just a random title. Sometimes they don’t make sense!”

Another massive moment on the album is Pleasure, which is a disproportionately epic opener. It almost sounds like you’re auditioning to soundtrack an action blockbuster, Shaun?
“Yeah, I had just gotten a new synth and it was one of the first things that I made when I plugged it in. I did the opening loop and Chino was, like, ‘Yo, what’s this?’ Usually when he does that, I just make sure the microphone is on. The melody on the opening verse is the first thing he sang. It was cool, but we didn’t really have much else for it. But when Chino started to make the sequence for the album he put that song first and there were no drums in it or anything. I was like, ‘Oh!’ I felt this crazy pressure to finish the production. But once I started adding motorcycle sounds in there, tires screeching, I was like, ‘Man, this feels so fresh to me.’ It sounds corny, but it just makes me want to drive fast. I also liked that Chino was exploring that new side of his voice, that super, super low register. The first time he did it was when we did that The Beginning Of The End cover and all the comments were like, ‘This is great, but who’s singing?’”

Chino, after all this time, do you take that as a compliment when you can read comments saying, ‘Who’s singing?’
“Yeah, because I’d hate to think that people hear something of mine and go, ‘Oh yeah, this is what I expected.’ That kind of ‘Who is this?’ reaction, to me, means I’ve done my job.”

You’ve both always painted the picture of Crosses in the studio as being very harmonious – just two dudes hanging out making music. Yet a lot of great music comes from creative friction, too. Do you ever disagree on stuff?
“That’s the crazy thing, we never argue about the music part. He can just tell if I’m not really feeling something musically. With Invisible Hand, it took a while to crack the code. Vocally, we went back and forth. At the time he was trying to sing it, his voice was just a little rough.”
“That was funny because that was, I don’t want to say an argument, but I do remember you got mad at me. We’d been working for a week straight in the studio and I just kept on talking and my voice was getting raspy. Shaun said, ‘Dude! Stop talking!’ (Laughs) I was kind of thrown back, like, ‘What did you say, motherfucker?’ But he was like, ‘You’re screwing up your voice right now.’ And I realised, ‘Oh shit, he’s right!’We both felt strongly about the song so we picked it back up when I was in a better space with my voice.”

Maynard James Keenan is set to play with both Puscifer and A Perfect Circle on the same bill each day when they tour with Primus in 2024. Would you ever consider doing a Deftones and Crosses show on the same line-up? Could you do that?
“I think I could, I just don’t think I would. I don’t think people need to see me that much (laughs). That’s the way I look at it.”

But you’ll have some long-overdue European tour dates soon, yeah?
“We don’t have anything booked at this moment – that’s what we’re figuring out, actually. We were hoping to get to Europe on the last record, so that’s definitely a priority for us.”

Finally, Shaun, you told us last time around that you were sitting on a lot of unreleased Crosses material. Is Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete going to be it for a while, or will Crosses’ prolific streak continue?
“There are still some strong ideas that are looming. I’m always into that surprise element, like, just put a song out next week! We love stuff like that, but we don’t want to do anything that takes away from this album. We’re really proud of it.”

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