In 2010, Sacramento, California quintet the Deftones released Diamond Eyes. Coming two years after the car accident that put bassist Chi Cheng in a coma, the album became the band’s highest-charting record in a dozen years, debuting at number six and scoring some of the best reviews of the group’s 20-plus-year career.
Sitting in a spacious lounge downstairs at the Burbank, California offices of their label, Warner Bros., frontman Chino Moreno tells Rolling Stone the success of that album was a big boost for the band when it came time to make their new work, Koi No Yokan.
“Because we got through making that record, it was so well received and we loved it, it was a confidence-builder [for] all of us as a band,” Moreno says. “So when we went in to make this record, I think we carried a lot of that over with us. There was no doubt.”
Moreno gives a huge amount of credit to bassist Sergio Vega, who joined the band for some shows prior to Diamond Eyes. “When he came in, he was excited. And that shit fuels the hell out of me, and I know the rest of the guys,” he says. “It’s definitely kicked some life into this whole thing, and we really appreciate him for that. If it hadn’t been for Sergio as a person, and as the bass player he is, I don’t foresee us sitting here right now talking about a Deftones record. He totally invigorated the whole thing, and still continues to every day.”
Vega’s enthusiasm is on display as he talks about continuing the creative momentum from the last album. “Diamond Eyes was capturing lightning in a bottle. We had just come together, had a lot of constraints in terms of time, so we’re just banging things out,” he recalls. “This time we had a little more chance to experiment and just play.”
The result is a widely shifting sonic journey that traverses heavy atmosphere and jarring riffs. But Moreno still views the album as a complete piece. “It’s not like every song is so different that if you hear one song, then you hear the next one and you’re like, ‘What is this?'” he says. “It feels like a cohesive piece of work.”
Diamond Eyes was an eye-opener for the band in terms of how they approach songwriting, and they followed that same technique again. “It was the catalyst for us figuring out it’s not like pulling teeth to make music,” says Moreno. “A couple records before that we were really in that mode, where writing songs started to become hard. Where Diamond Eyes, the way that we actually worked, it was a real communal effort, where everybody was in the room at one time and we just played off each other.”
It was such a relaxed process for the group that they came out with extra songs written, something Moreno says almost never happens. Even with the added material, the quintet will be recording covers, as has become their trademark. If Moreno knows what songs they’ll be doing, he’s not telling. But he does say the band might move out of their comfort zone for a few songs.
“I think people expect us to do Eighties shit, [but] I’m a big fan of music from the Forties and Fifties, just standard-ish type of things, so we talked about doing something in that thing,” he says. Seventies, too: “I was listening to this group Malo, which is sort of a Santana-ish type of thing. There’s a lot of jamming and solos in there, which is something we don’t do too much.”
The band kicks off a tour October 9th in Ventura, California with opening act Scars on Broadway, which features System of a Down guitarist Daron Malakian. The Deftones and Malakian toured together earlier this year when System and the Deftones paired up.
“Just to tour with System was a really cool thing,” says Moreno. “They came out around the same time we did and they, like us, never really fit into the mold of what we got thrown into. We were considered a nu-metal band – we still probably are by a lot of people. And I think people say the same thing about System of a Down, but as an outsider I feel they are completely their own entity. And I hope we could be the same way. Daron’s awesome, I like Scars just as well. It’s an awesome fit.”