During the Deftones' off-season, its West Sacramento
rehearsal spot houses a slumbering pile of road cases
and drum heads. But on a recent evening, a spacey combo
of delay-driven guitars, vocal croonings and drum loops
spanked off the studio's walls. The Deftones,
Sacramento's Grammy-winning hard-rock band, will begin
work on its new album at the space come January. In the
meantime, the studio is the stomping grounds for Team
Sleep, singer Chino Moreno's side project.
The buzz about Team Sleep has been brewing for more
than two years, yet the band is only now reaching the
public. Team Sleep's debut album will be released in
March through Tone Def, the Deftones' boutique label on
Maverick Records, and Team Sleep is previewing its
works-in-progress on a current West Coast tour. On
Sunday, the band performs with old-school Sacramento
favorites Phallucy, the recently reunited
alternative-rock band. (For a profile of Phallucy, see
last Sunday's Encore.)
While the Deftones' bombastic hard rock is a sonic
punch to the gut, early reports said that Team Sleep was
more like a soothing endorphin rush, a down-tempo affair
dominated by synthesizers and trip-hop drum loops. But
Team Sleep has been beefed up recently, both sonically
and through an expanded lineup.
The project originated as a trio with Moreno at the
helm, along with DJ Crook, a turntablist and drum
machine whiz kid originally from Los Angeles, and
guitarist Todd Wilkinson, a buddy of Moreno's since
their days at McClatchy High School. Over the past few
weeks, a few local musicians have been added to Team
Sleep's touring camp: bassist/keyboardist Rick Verret
(who also performs with the band Tinfed) and Hella
drummer Zach Hill. Phallucy guitarist Sonny Mayugba also
performs on a couple of Team Sleep's newer tunes.
So what started as a moody, studio-based project has
blossomed into a full-tilt band, with a few cranked
amplifiers to boot. As Team Sleep's rehearsal rolls near
the midnight hour, the group's sonics seem to reference
the Cure's droning "Pornography" album, but with a
firmer stomp on the distortion pedal. Is this the same
outfit that Moreno described as "really ambient" in a
1999 interview with The Bee?
"It's grown a lot, especially in the last couple
weeks," said Moreno, taking a rehearsal break on the
studio's couch. "It didn't really start off as a band.
It started off as three dudes who wanted to make some
music. A lot of it was made in my house with a drum
machine, and it kind of morphed into what it is now,
which is a band.
"We had all these guitars and it's kind of hard to
play them quietly all the time," Moreno added. "And when
I brought Zach in -- he's seriously one of my favorite
drummers -- we started clicking. And he plays pretty
hard, so to match his intensity I just sing a little
harder and play a little harder."
So far, Team Sleep has about 12 tunes in its
repertoire (a few working titles include "Solid Gold,"
"King Diamond" and "Bling Bling"). Its album -- which
was recorded in Seattle, Atlanta and Sacramento -- is
just about done, save for a few vocal tracks and other
fix-its which should be completed by year's end.
A few cameos have rounded out the project, including
contributions from Helium's Mary Timony and Mike Patton
of Mr. Bungle and formerly of Faith No More. Patton's
vocals form the core of "Kool-Aid Party," a spooky tune
with lurching drum beats and jittery synthesizers.
"All of the lyrics are still a mass-suicide type of
thing, but (Patton) sang it like a lonely sailor song,"
said Moreno. "It's kind of cool how he took the idea and
twisted it all like that. It was fun to be able to work
Still, translating many of Team Sleep's tunes for the
live stage has been challenging, especially since the
band hasn't logged much rehearsal time. So, does Moreno
feel ready on the eve of Team Sleep's debut tour?
"Not really," he said. "But my whole thing is that
I'm doing this for fun, and you know what, I just want
to go out there and have fun with my friends. That's
what it started off as and that's what I want to do. I
don't want to stress on it."
Though tentative plans had been made for Team Sleep
to tour the East Coast in 2002, it's likely that the
band's West Coast tour will be it for now. For the time
being, though, the Team Sleep project has given Moreno a
prime opportunity for him to explore some textures and
musical adventures that might not fit with Deftones.
"After doing Deftones for a while, I couldn't wait to
do a whole set of mellow (stuff)," said Moreno. "But at
the same time, I can't deny that heavy music is a part
of me. Deftones is what I love to do and what I will
always do. (Team Sleep) is a leisure kind of project, a
fun project, and I still have a life outside of music.
But Deftones stuff is coming closer and closer, and once
(Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter) gets in to town,
that's all I want to concentrate on."
And then Team Sleep will have to give it a rest.
The Bee's Chris Macias can be reached at (916)
321-1253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.