Exclusive Videos and Interview: Chino Moreno and Aaron Harris of Palms
Tue, 25 Jun 2013 06:35:08
So what's the best thing about the Palms record?
Well, it's not merely the fact that it brings together some of alternative music's brightest talents in history—Chino Moreno of Deftones and Aaron Harris, Cliff Meyer, and Jeff Caxide of Isis—though that does make for some mind-blowing musical alchemy. The best thing about Palms is the group's ability to build an aural soundscape so wild and wondrous that you can fall right into its embrace willingly. The music's heavy at times, but there's an underlying sense of exploration, elevating it even beyond the respective musicians' resumes and into another stratosphere. In other words, Palms made one of the most inviting, immersive, and inimitable albums of 2013 [Palms CD - iTunes].
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Chino Moreno and Aaron Harris delve into all things Palms.
Watch the Videos and Read on Below!
What does "Future Warrior" evoke?
Chino Moreno: That song, in particular, was from about halfway through the recording process. It was almost towards the end. It wasn't one of the songs we started with. We actually started with "Mission Sunset" because it's the longest song. I wanted to attack the hardest one. It has the most parts in it. I knew if I could do that song, it'd all be downhill from there. It would at least be easier to figure out. We got that one out of the way first. When we hit "Future Warrior", we were recording at Aaron's house. To me, it's a great foundation of what the sound of the group is. It starts vaguely electronic, and it opens up. There are really pretty verses. Then, when it gets to the chorus, it sounds very triumphant. I picture a female warrior whether it's Joan of Arc or another strong female. It's the beauty of it, but there's power too. When we got to that song, I feel like we found what we were trying to do with this project. This was probably halfway through writing the vocals. We finished that up at his pad. Then, I remember we walked up the street to El Compadre, had a beer, and sat at the bar there in the daytime. I thought, "Wow, this is actually going to be pretty good". Like I said before, I took the song, and I knew it had potential to be great. Obviously, I'm a fan of Isis. I know I'm a decent singer. I know I'm not going to ruin it. At the same time, I know there are a lot of expectations about this group. As soon as you say, "It's the guy from Deftones and the guys from Isis getting together to do a band", even my expectations were like, "Okay, well this better be great. It better be just as good as either band". At the same time, it's a combination of those two so it has to be strong. Also, I didn't know how it was going to be. Listening to the demos, I couldn't foresee it was going to be great. When we hit that moment with "Future Warrior", that's when I started to feel confident about the project and the work. The idea became more focused.
By the same token, what does "Patagonia" evoke for you?
Chino Moreno: I like how you use the word "evoke" because it's like asking me to explain my lyrics in a crafty way [Laughs]. I like that.
Aaron Harris: My wife's been arguing with me about this since day one. "Tropics" got leaked by somebody who was trying to do a good thing, have fun, and do something cool for fans [Laughs].
Chino Moreno: So it was the first thing people heard of Palms. To me, I don't really mind it. It's one of the lighter songs on the records. I don't want to say "light" because I think it's heavy in other ways. It's not as heavy as some of the rest of the record though. It was people's first impression. Once again, it's like the audience's expectations were even more thrown off.
Aaron Harris: It was a tough decision. It's weird because people will say, "Don't release your best song first". Then, I saw an interview with Chino about Deftones and he was like, "We want to release the best songs first". It was this thing where we asked, "Do we want to give away the best song or do we hold it off for later for the record?" "Patagonia" was the only song everyone could agree on making the single. It's a good song. There are heavy moments. It's different. It's got some cool moments. It's probably not the most powerful song on the record. It's not the weakest either. We said, "Let's do a little experiment and save the good stuff for later". People were like, "Huh? I like this, but it's not really what I was thinking Palms would be". I remember reading the comments and thinking, "Damn, don't trip. We've got some things saved for you guys".
What threads this record together for you?
Chino Moreno: I felt like it had to grow and become something. It goes back to something Aaron mentioned before. He realized I had committed myself to doing it after hearing one song and demoing some ideas over it. From that point, he said he started writing music with me in mind. When I heard the music, I could hear myself singing over it. I could hear melodies at first listen. It felt natural that way. At the same time, I'm not used to writing vocals over songs I haven't really heard before—especially long songs. There are a lot of parts. I had to really get used to the music. I had to listen to it tons and tons of times to completely soak it in. The more I listen to it now, the more I get out of it. I think a lot of listeners will as well. They'll get more out of it the more they listen to it. It's the same thing. It's something you need to have the patience for. It's an experiment in that aspect. It keeps everything fun for me because it's not easy to really work on something when you weren't there for the inception of it. It's like taking over halfway and putting what I do over it.
Aaron Harris: It felt really natural, to be honest. We kept Chino in the loop. He was busy with Deftones, and we knew that. I'd hit him up demos. Every time we got a new recording or song, we'd send it over to him. He knew what was going on so it wasn't like we wrote songs and said, "Here, sing over them". It was a little more cohesive than that. Hanging out with Chino, from the beginning, it felt really natural for me. Making music together was really easy. It felt really good.
Chino Moreno: Even rehearsal-wise, it's been cool. Everything is recorded. Now, it's the time where I have to use two sides of my brain. I'm singing and playing guitar on a lot of it too. I'm getting more in-depth with the songs. It's a really fun experience making music with my friends.
It's a very warm record, but it can also be very distant and off-putting. It's an incredible balance.
Aaron Harris: Thanks! I was a little worried when Cliff, Jeff, and I decided to keep making music after Isis because Isis was so dense and big. I didn't want to be a copy of Isis, but I wanted to achieve that density, fullness, and cinematic vibe to the music. I was a little concerned if the three of us could pull it off on our own. However, once Chino committed, we began writing with him in mind, and he sang over the songs, it really started to fill out and take its own sound, shape, and identity.
How important is it for the music to paint pictures?
Chino Moreno: Honestly, since we're not playing that many shows, yes we are a band per se. However, it started off as a project not a band. It wasn't like four guys who got together and decided to make music from scratch in a garage. It was basically a project that got placed together. You can sit there and experience it by yourself in your headphones. The more listens, the more you delve deeper into it. It's more like that.
Aaron Harris: I totally agree. Music that brings up an emotion in me is obviously really important. I feel like I feel music and see it.
What would be the cinematic equivalent of the Palms album?
Chino Moreno: Joe Dirt…
Aaron Harris: [Laughs] Oh man…
Chino Moreno: Aaron, you answer this because I've had to answer it before with him. I could just say Stars Wars again—any of them [Laughs].
Aaron Harris: Probably something that was made in Southern California…something dreamy…
Chino Moreno: This is a real answer. The other day I watched Into the Wild. That was a great movie. That movie gave me a lot of vibe. I like the fact that the majority of the movie takes place in Alaska. It has that. A lot of it is also on the beach and in the Salton Sea and all of these other crazy places. I think this record is like that. There are many types of landscapes. You can even tell from the titles. There's "Patagonia" to "Tropics". It's very placed in different climates or seasons. It has that feel to me.
Aaron Harris: I saw a movie called Valhalla Rising. The music is great. It's a very visual. The movie is like a trip. That was the first thing I thought of. It's on Netflix so watch it [Laughs]. I don't know where I was going with that, but it's a good trip.
Do your kids turn you on to music, Chino?
Chino Moreno: Yeah, all the time. My younger son always turns me on to rap. I don't listen to much rap music anymore. He turns me on to a lot or off to a lot [Laughs]. He's a way musical kid! He's playing piano and stuff right now. It's pretty wid. It's awesome.
What's next with Crosses?
Chino Moreno: We have a bunch more music we're going to put out. I think we're being told late October around Halloween we'll have something out. Most of that has been recorded for a couple of years now. I've got to fix some stuff up, and we're going to put out a full-length with some bonus tracks on it.
Have you heard Palms yet?
Read our short story inspired by the album here!