This past December, ††† (Crosses)—the tricked-out sonic brainchild of Chino Moreno and Shaun Lopez—wrapped up a years-long hiatus with the release of PERMANENT.RADIANT, a freakish EP packed with cyborg voices, improvisation, and lovestruck futurism. There’s also a lot of science, if not just chemistry. In a brief phone call, the duo spoke to SW about chemical reactions, spontaneity, and what lies ahead.
CHINO MORENO: We had a pretty hectic week this week. The release—as opposed to Oh, it’s out, we can kick back now and bask in the past work—I feel has kicked us again. Even higher. We had a great session last week of recording. We’re just on it, man. More music, more exploring.
SAMMYSWORLD.ORG: That’s actually crazy to hear. I always thought the pre-release was the calm before the storm, and then after, it gets hectic in a bad way. But the fact that you’re hitting the ground running again—is it a thing about having released music that makes you want to release more, or is it just the particular wave you’re on right now?
I feel like it’s a little bit of both. I would definitely say that it helps having something out. And then, some of the stuff in the EP dates back a couple of years. So as new as it is, we’ve been living with it for a while. We’ve got a lot of a lot of stuff that we’ve been working on over the past couple years—I want to say 20-plus songs—sort of at very various stages of completion. But we just went in and completed a few, all kind of different sounding, and maybe slightly more expansive, than some of the last stuff. And I think that’s kind of what’s exciting about this project in general.
True. Something I’ve been thinking is that a project is only a project, really, if you’ve done something different. The music is like a scientific research kind of thing, where a “project” is a means of like expanding what you’ve already had in the inventory. Also on the science wave, there’s kind of a very scientific thing about the song “Sensation.” There’s a collision of fates… then some form of expulsion happening… was there intention behind the chemistry-adjacent lyricism, or did it just kind of come out that way?
I think one of the last lyrics to that song is when I say “Love will be expelled.” I had to think to myself: that could be thought of in two different ways. “Expelled,” as in love does not exist, or “Expelled,” as in love can be expelled from the body or heart. Projected. I meant the latter when I wrote it, but I love when I read lyrics that can go either way. I think that’s one of my favorite things to do when writing lyrics—to see how well I can convey a simple emotion in a not-so-simple manner.
It’s only now that you mention it, that I’m realizing it can be interpreted the other way—like, love can be expelled the way you’d be expelled from school. When I first heard it, I was thinking along a very scientific, bodily, visceral reaction sort of thing. But I also wonder what that looks like to you. What was coming to my mind was the COVID diagrams, where you saw the particles coming out of these figures. How do you visualize an expulsion of love?
Well the song itself, I feel is pretty optimistic. It has a pretty dark character. But it’s kind of hopeful, sort of. If I had to vaguely explain it, it’s a song that’s just looking out on the horizon in a sullen place. I think there’s a possibility that we could be looking at a blurred horizon, not really knowing what’s in the future. But there’s an optimism that we’re going to arrive at some place and this expulsion, of love, will transpire.
I feel that. It has a very sitting on a cliff, looking at the sunset kind of energy to it, which I really like. But then also, on a technical level, there’s something the nerd in me wanted to ask about the song. At some point, there’s a robotic voice-ish kind of thing. And I don’t know if it’s a voice or a guitar or both. But it’s like, after the second or within the second chorus—
What is that?
That’s my voice. But the funny thing is—and I guess I’ll give this away, because it really doesn’t matter—that was just me saying “Oh, I have this melody idea.” And I went into the vocal booth. So I didn’t have lyrics yet. A lot of the times, I’ll just have like a melody idea or something. And I’ll say, Sean, push record, I’ll run into the booth. And he had done this effect on there. It’s sort of like a vocoder-ish kind of effect. And that’s what’s on there. When I was writing the lyrics for the songs, I was like, I forgot what I said. It’s kind of cool. It really is better though, like you said, because it’s, it’s a lot of people think it’s an instrument. But yeah, it’s actually a vocal.
How much of your work would you say is spontanteous, and how much of it would you say is calculated?
I hardly ever go in calculated on what I want to do. There is a stage—and it usually happens when I’m writing the words—where I do get a little bit more calculated on it. But in the beginning, you know, I hate to sort of put up boundaries or walls, like “it’s got to sit in this dark, elated sort of space,” or something like that. If I don’t do that, it leaves room for me to explore a little bit more—so then, once the general vibe is there, I’ll sort of populate a little bit more stuff as far as my vocal.
SHAUN LOPEZ: I try to be calculated, but it never works. I’d be like “Alright, we need more up-tempo songs,” or “We need more stuff that has energy,” and then I’d try and make stuff that has energy. But I ended up making something like the total opposite of that. I’ve learned that I just can’t be calculated with things. My brain just doesn’t work that way. So I just have to go in and just be like, “I’m gonna make something today.” And whatever it is, it is what it is, you know?
Nothing wrong with that. I think it’s just a very musicianly habit to hear other things and be like, “we need to make more like this.” But then also, the other side of it is people looking at you like “we need to make more like that.” Emotionally, how much would you say this project was for you both, and then how much would you say it was for the listeners?
CM: Well it sounds selfish, but usually, most certainly always, it starts with the intention of us making something that we like. I just feel like it’s a little more genuine when it when you write music that way. With this project, it just kind of happened. But I felt like it was genuine, because it was just something that happened, you know, him and I just reacting to one another. And so those things are special as well. And I feel like they can totally fit into the world that we’re creating, which is constantly expanding.
Does the process change at all with circumstance?
CM: I think I think there’s always room for it to shift with whatever we’re going through. And it definitely is a time capsule, or a snapshot, per se, of every song that we make of where we are in a certain moment. I think that’s lovely. I love the fact that we can make music over such a large temporal scale—some of these songs stayed back even a couple of years. I feel like at least for us, there’s a sense of time where even when a song is dated back from a couple of years, we can still hear it and go wow, that still moves us in a certain way. So I think that’s what we’re definitely striving forward to collect, moments like that.
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