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Music - Details
Team Sleep strikes a 'def-ferent' tone

By Chris Macias
Sacramento Bee
Published: Dec. 21, 2001

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 with him."

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.

About the Writer

The Bee's Chris Macias can be reached at (916) 321-1253 or


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