In addition to Crosses, Chino Moreno sings with the Deftones, Palms and Team Sleep. (Theo Wargo / Getty Images)
Chino Moreno sort of fell into his position as frontman of Crosses. Or rather, he skated into it.
A few years ago, the Deftones singer lived a few blocks away from his childhood friend Shaun Lopez, ex-guitarist for Sacramento rockers Far, and he would skate over to his house to hang out. One time, Lopez and producer Chuck Doom were working on some tracks they had cooked up, and Moreno hopped in the vocal booth and sang on one of them. The song became “1994,” and it’s a part of the group’s first album, which is due out next month.
“Everything was very much instantaneous,” says Moreno, on the phone earlier this week from Los Angeles. “It wasn’t something that I had put much thought into, other than the music sounded very inviting, and I heard my voice over it instantly.”
Moreno sang on a few more tracks, and things neatly fit into place. “I think their idea initially was to make a bunch of songs and have different people sing on them,” he says. “Eventually, I just ended up singing over everything.”
Crosses released its first five-song EP in 2011, with another to follow in 2012. The group’s debut album combines those two EPs with a third, unreleased EP, and the band will preview the album Monday at Pontiac’s Crofoot Ballroom, part of a short four-date tour that marks Crosses’ first batch of North American dates outside of California.
In Deftones, Moreno is a vessel for mainlined aggression, while Crosses builds on softer, more ambient atmospherics. It’s a push-pull he enjoys wading through, and it crosses over — no pun intended — to the band’s live shows.
“It’s a little more mood-oriented,” says Moreno, born Camillo Wong Moreno. “There’s a lot of dynamics in it. It’s intimate. Where the Deftones is more blood, sweat and tears, this is more theatrical, for lack of a better word. It’s more people watching and taking it in, as opposed to losing all their inhibitions.”
Moreno, who now calls Oregon home, says he enjoys the freedom he experiences in Crosses. He didn’t write any of the band’s music — “I’m just the singer,” he says — which allowed him to step out of his normal mold. And when the first EP was released with no advance warning, he sidestepped the expectations that come along with fronting Deftones, one of modern hard rock’s most enduring entities.
“If I hyped up that I was putting a project out, before it even comes out, there’s so much talk about what it’s going to sound like, what it should sound like, what it shouldn’t sound like, and a lot of that stuff is overbearing for me and it makes me lose interest in wanting to do it,” he says. “It’s aggravating sometimes that so many of the fans of the music I make are also very opinionated about it, where they feel like they know what I should be doing. This didn’t have that element in it, because no one knew it was coming out.”
With Crosses taking off, Moreno is balancing his time: He heads to Australia with Deftones later this month, then heads back to Australia with Crosses in February. Later this year, Deftones plans to record its follow up to 2012’s “Koi No Yokan,” while Moreno is also a member of Palms (which released its debut album in 2013) and Team Sleep (which is on hold but could reconvene in the future).
Keeping those plates spinning keeps Moreno, who turned 40 in 2013, feeling vital.
“I like the fact that I’m able to do what I’m doing and there’s no pressure. I’m doing it as it’s coming,” he says. “Staying active and doing (things) is a part of what makes you stay youthful, in a way. I’m being productive and it’s fun, and that’s the main reason I’m doing it.”
8 p.m. Monday
1 S. Saginaw, Pontiac
Tickets $15 advance/ $20 at the door