This story was originally published in Revolver's Winter 2023 Issue, which is available for order at our shop.
The former — the electronic-rock project of Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno and Far guitarist Shaun Lopez — and the latter — Laura Les and Dylan Brady's breakout hyperpop outfit — may come from different generations and regions and paint with different creative brushes; but dig a little deeper and you'll discover these trailblazing duos have more in common than meets the eye.
Beyond a mutual appreciation for each other's art, both ††† and gecs share a deep-rooted commitment to push their music forward, past genres and trends, beholden only to their distinct and ever-evolving artistic visions. They've avoided predictable pathways and forged their own paths — and success has followed.
The musicians that make up these groups have played the world's biggest stages, won the most coveted awards, and, for many fans, have become untouchable idols.
But, at one point, every person in these bands was once just a kid fucking around: maybe gaming, skateboarding, playing music or just whiling away the long boring days of their youth by doing exactly whatever their restless creative heart desired.
It's almost impossible to maintain that spirit of unselfconscious fun and freedom in an exploitative music industry hell-bent on dulling and corrupting the thing you love most — but if anyone's managed it, it's 100 gecs and †††.
For Los Angeles-based †††, that sense of boundless creativity is perhaps more palpable than in any of Moreno or Lopez's other projects. In their music, buzz-saw synths and digital strings seem to stretch for miles, glitching in and out of focus like highway mirages, hazy with heat.
Moreno's typically impressionistic vocals turn even dreamier when singing over Lopez's soundscapes, plumbing some-where instinctive and subconscious. As †††, Lopez and Moreno always sound like they're trying, and succeeding, at something new.
Their new album Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete., the full-length follow-up to their 2014 self-titled debut, is one of this year's freshest releases, and features collaborations with Run the Jewels' El-P ("Big Youth"), as well as Moreno's musical hero, Robert Smith of the Cure ("Girls Float † Boys Cry").
Despite multiple decades in the industry, it's clear that all the musicians involved in this album have retained the gleeful experimentation of youth.
The music of ††† appeals to a broad cross section of fans: from rock, alt and metal to goth, electronic and witch house — an audience largely shared by one of this decade's unlikeliest rising stars: 100 gecs.
The duo of Les and Brady, possibly more than any other act today, represent this unabashed, experimental attitude. The musicians — who both grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis — are two of the most skilled electronic music wizards out, yet their music still sounds like a couple of excited kids discovering a keyboard loaded with sound clips and trying to make their friends laugh by pressing all the dog-barking buttons.
So much music today is content simply to speak to the culture; here is a band who, without even having to try, transcends it. As soon as gecs emerged with their 2019 debut, 1000 gecs, journalists desperately tried to categorize a sound and aesthetic they couldn't quite wrap their heads around.
The duo were soon subject to overintellectualized think pieces that deemed them internet iconoclasts; spokespeople for a new world of hyper-referentiality, screen-affected attention spans and collapsing genre boundaries and hierarchies.
100 gecs' disorienting mix of slapstick pop punk, dubstep, glitch, ska, screamo — and yes, even barking dogs — created a genre of its own: hyperpop (a label coined by a Spotify playlist-maker who couldn't fit gecs into any pre-existing templates).
Gecs sound like the product of lifelong metalheads who have fallen in love with pop music, giddily picking apart its tropes while implanting their own playful brand of aggression. They'll fearlessly pivot from gorgeous, saccharine melodies into distorted fury — a dynamic that can be heard on the nu-metal-esque "Billy Knows Jamie" and big-riff banger "Dumbest Girl Alive."
Their brash, infectious sound has caught a wide range of people's attention: from their large dedicated fandom to pop star Charli XCX and rapper Rico Nasty (they've collaborated with both) to big-name heavy bands including Linkin Park (who tapped them to remix "One Step Closer" as part of Hybrid Theory's 20th anniversary release series).
Earlier this year, gecs remixed System of a Down in a Boiler Room set that currently has over a million views on YouTube. They're also all over the live circuit — both in IRL and URL — having headlined a festival in Minecraft as well as playing Coachella, opening for Nine Inch Nails and performing at the first-ever Sick New World festival.
Hyperpop might be considered a moment in analog with the rise of nu-metal in the late Nineties, when hard rock's sturdy blues architecture and grunge's navel-gazing sensitivities were bulldozed, making way for a broad swathe of eclectic influences — from hip-hop to industrial to electronica — to join the party.
Whether it's nu-metal, alt-metal or hyperpop, Moreno, Lopez, Brady and Les have all outpaced the scenes that they were lumped into.
Now, with the release of their second album and major-label debut, 10,000 gecs, Brady and Les — just like Moreno and Lopez — are continuing to divert from pre-trodden tracks and cut their own path. 100 gecs, like †††, are set to survive long after fads fade.
Both bands are a case study in the power of shucking off opportunism to instead play with pure abandon — like they're back in their moms' basement, just for the sheer fun and freedom of it.
Ahead of ††† (Crosses') first tour in 10 years and 100 gecs' appearance at the Dia de los Deftones festival, we brought the two duos together for a chat about their cross-generational appeal, surviving trends and fans, the power and the pitfalls of the internet and much more.
HAVE YOU GUYS MET BEFORE? IF NOT, ††† (CROSSES), MEET GECS; GECS, MEET ††† (CROSSES).
CHINO MORENO We have not met. Hi!
LAURA LES AND DYLAN BRADY [in unison] Hey!
WHEN DID YOU GUYS FIRST HEAR EACH OTHER'S MUSIC?
MORENO Actually, for me, it wasn't that long ago. My niece, who just turned 16, showed up at my house one day with a big "I love gecs" shirt. She tried explaining you guys to me, but your music isn't the easiest thing to explain.
HOW DID SHE DESCRIBE GECS?
MORENO In the end she couldn't but she asked me if you were doing our festival. I've had a lot of people ask me, like, "What's up with gecs?" And I love that shit. I don't think things should always fit neatly into boxes.
SHAUN LOPEZ I think I learned about them some time after: I think it was a Charli XCX song. Every time I hear a song, I go to the credits. I looked it up and it was produced by Dylan, who I learned was part of this thing called 100 gecs.
LES I think I heard ††† (Crosses) before Deftones since I was into the witch-house stuff because that was emerging.
HOW ABOUT YOU, DYLAN? DEFTONES OR ††† (CROSSES) FIRST?
BRADY I think Deftones. My friend was really into the "Pink Cellphone" song [from 2006's Saturday Night Wrist].
MORENO We recorded that song with [Giant Drag singer Annie Hardy]. She began sifting through this book on how to control your emotions, and she went into the vocal booth and just started rambling. We were chuckling from outside the booth.
Putting it together was really fun. It was kind of out-of-character but that's what made it exciting. Shaun pretty much produced that whole record and it went through so many stages — by the time it came to Shaun it had been recorded at seven different studios. So it was like a puzzle to piece together.
LES That's a good thing though. Disparate ideas. If you've got things on the album that sound like they wouldn't be on the album, then it adds flavor.
LET'S GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING. SHAUN AND CHINO, HOW DID YOU MEET?
LOPEZ We met a long time ago, when we were probably 18 or 19. I saw Deftones play really early on and I remember thinking, Wow, this is heavy music but it's almost like this guy is singing like he's in Duran Duran. I was really drawn to that.
We were just some local kids playing music; so we were connected that way. We had a lot in common and liked the same music. And then, you know, both of our bands started coming up at the time and playing shows together.
MORENO We also hung out outside of music. With skateboarding, you have a lot of mutual friends. Shaun had this house in Sacramento where it was like a revolving door of roommates and Shaun was like the den mother. So many of our friends lived there.
I moved in there with [Far singer-guitarist] Jonah [Matranga] and Chris [Robyn], the drummer for Far. They had a garage, so we practiced there. Our bands were very friendly but very competitive at the same time. We were influenced by each other and really pushed each other creatively.
It was maybe four or five years into doing band stuff when we heard MPC music [music made with a sampling and sequencing workstation] like DJ Shadow. And then Shaun bought an MPC and started making beats.
I remember him giving me a disc that said "DJ Mantis" on it, his DJ name. I liked it. Coming from a rock world and guitar-driven stuff, it was really fun to try to make some new music, sampling and stuff. So, I talked to him. One day we were going somewhere, I re-member driving in his Volkswagen GTR, and saying, "We should make a project just like that."
LIKEWISE, LAURA AND DYLAN, WHAT'S YOUR ORIGIN STORY?
LES Me and Dylan grew up in kind of the same suburb of St. Louis and met each other through mutual friends. I just knew Dylan made music. People were like, "Oh, yeah, you make music, so you should talk to Dylan."
One time we were both at a house party before we had met, and he was playing beats off a project he had done with somebody who also lived in our hometown. I had a fucking existential crisis listening to it because I was like, This guy is way better at making music than I am.
And I got pissed off and went home and worked on music after that. I saw him again at something else; we just began talking and over time we shared music and stuff. Then I came back home for a summer from college, and we hung out.
After that he came to Chicago, and we recorded our first EP in my dorm room. I had mattress pads all up in the closet and it sounded super dead in there.
YOU UPLOADED THE TRACKS TO SOUNDCLOUD, RIGHT? DO YOU REMEMBER HOW IT SPREAD SO QUICKLY?
BRADY We both love SoundCloud. Yeah, it was SoundCloud but no one really like listened to it straightaway. We were both continuing to do our own projects.
LES We were in different places. Dylan was in L.A. doing the producer grind, more or less, and I was going to school in Chicago and doing solo stuff. Yeah, I don't know; We were both doing our own things before we decided to bring it back together.
SHAUN AND CHINO, THE INTERNET WASN'T REALLY A THING WHEN YOU STARTED MAKING MUSIC. IN RETROSPECT, DO YOU THINK THAT BENEFITED YOU?
MORENO It's hard to say. I mean, maybe, because I'm all self-taught and I didn't really know what I was doing. I just wanted to play music so bad, but everyone else was better than I was at drums and guitar — so I needed to find my own way to be in a group.
So [Deftones'] earliest music probably wasn't some of our most shining moments and for that reason it's not out there. A lot of it was just backyard parties and stuff like that. So, to me, it helped us in that way. We were able to have some sort of artist development before being shoved in front of people.
The internet is one of those things that I have a love-hate relationship with. I feel bad for people that just want to try something — and fail at it — and then people jump on it and break their confidence before they even get a chance to try something that might be different. I think the best music is, you know, out-there, natural, not typical.
LES Yeah, I mean, I have that love-hate relationship with the internet too. I love that you can send project files to each other and find your niche of people. But then there's the internet at large, where, you know, it's that feeling of being completely bombarded just because you can't see anyone.
So if 20 people say they hate some-thing, it feels like it's 200. You can be a small artist and 20 people can not like what you're doing and then you get discouraged because you think, Oh man the whole world hates this. It's an interesting problem.
IT'S DIFFICULT FOR SOME PEOPLE TO COMPREHEND THAT FAMOUS ARTISTS ARE ACTUALLY PEOPLE WHO POSSESS HUMANITY, AND I THINK THE INTERNET EXACERBATES THAT TENDENCY. DYLAN AND LAURA, WITH YOUR FAST RISE, YOU'VE ESSENTIALLY GONE FROM PEOPLE TO ABSTRACT ICONS. IS THAT HOW IT'S FELT FOR YOU?
LES You're dictating a nightmare to me. I don't like the idea of talking to that many people all at once. If I'm in a room with more than like 10 people, I get very tense. So it's just a life-decision thing.
We've definitely put the internet thing to a head. It's, whatever, because more people know who we are. But, in general, I don't need to see and be seen by that many people at a time.
SHAUN, CHINO — HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO A GECS SHOW?
MORENO No, I haven't. I mean, we play some of the same festivals. I think we did one together recently.
LES Yeah, me and my girlfriend saw you. I had to run from our set to yours and the sheer volume of people just fucking packed in to watch you was crazy. Trying to get away from the stage was a nightmare.
WE'VE TALKED ABOUT SOME OF THE DOWNSIDES OF THE INTERNET, BUT I DON'T PERSONALLY EXPERIENCE THAT AT ANY OF YOUR SHOWS. AT A GECS SHOW, FOR INSTANCE, YOU'LL HAVE THIS WONDERFUL SENSE OF COMMUNITY, WITH THE CROWD AIRDROPPING WHOLESOME MEMES, AND PARTAKING IN SOME OF THE POLITEST MOSHPITS YOU'VE EVER SEEN.
LES Your brain on the internet is an interesting vibe. I'm sure everyone at our shows heard about us on the internet or listen to us there, and everyone I've met at our shows have just been super-sweet people — always super respectful to one another face-to-face, seemingly.
SHAUN, CHINO — LET'S TALK ABOUT THE POP CULTURE WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED MAKING MUSIC IN THE EARLY NINETIES. THE SENTIMENTAL POWER BALLAD WAS KING: WERE YOU EVER MAKING MUSIC THAT WAS CONSCIOUSLY IN OPPOSITION TO THAT DOMINANT CULTURE?
MORENO It's all just an organic experience where it's usually inspired by a sound — a drumbeat, a loop — and then we ask whether there's a trajectory we can go on from there. So it's like, yeah, sometimes there's a slower tempo that we will be aware of, especially when we're putting together a record where we don't want too much mid-tempo sleepiness on.
But, you know, I think we've tried to balance stuff out. Today, we're not trying to combat any sort of thing. You were talking about power ballads; can you give me an example?
CELINE DION WAS ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR ARTISTS AT THE TIME OF YOUR RISE. … GECS, HOW ABOUT YOU? WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED, DID YOU FEEL THE CULTURE WAS LACKING IN SOMETHING THAT YOU KNEW YOU COULD BRING?
LES I think when you start music with an intellectual idea, like, We're going to combat this — I think that it's a recipe for making something that you don't finish. I mean, we just like stuff.
It's always like, in hindsight, you can look back at it and be like, I see how people think that or whatever. But you know, when you're making it, it's much more of just: what's exciting you and what's making you feel good, you know?
YOU WERE ALL ONCE KIDS SCREWING AROUND, JUST MAKING MUSIC FOR THE HELL OF IT. DOES IT GET HARDER TO MAINTAIN THAT SPIRIT WITH INCREASED COMMERCIAL PRESSURES?
LES No, no. Lately I feel like I've been dividing everything into my job and what it is that we do. So, like, my job is being here doing interviews, and several other things on the day to day. But, when it comes back to it, music is what we'd do if we were doing nothing else. There's nothing that ever really dims that spark.
SHAUN AND CHINO, WHEN YOU'RE ABOUT TO START A NEW PROJECT AS ††† (CROSSES), WHAT KIND OF MINDSET ARE YOU IN, AND WHAT PART OF YOURSELVES DOES THIS BAND ALLOW YOU TO TAP INTO?
MORENO I'd say just that kind of thing you were saying about kids just experimenting with stuff. One of the funnest ways to make music is if you don't need to. This isn't a project that we feel like we have to do; we both do other things musically as well.
So this isn't do or die. It's because we want to do it and it's fun. It is harder, I guess, to be in that predicament these days, because we do have a fan base who expect things. But it's always good to kind of like — I don't want to say ignore those expectations — but just make music because you enjoy the feeling of it, and make that the first priority.
I actually feel more prolific now than I did in, say, 2003 when I had all the pressures of having a huge successful record and the label telling me that we needed a radio song — it made it not fun to make music for a few years. Luckily, I was able to grow way past that.
LES It would suck to make music if you don't find it fun. It's such an intensive process. That's why I don't understand when you hear about turmoil within a band.
I WOULDN'T USE THE WORD "TURMOIL" FOR DEFTONES, BUT IT SEEMS YOU DID MANAGE TO MAKE CONFLICT A PRODUCTIVE PART OF THE BAND'S CREATIVE PROCESS. IS THAT RIGHT, CHINO?
MORENO I think a lot of that narrative is glorified a little bit. You know, that narrative of [Deftones guitarist] Stephen [Carpenter] being such a metalhead and me being into Morrissey. But it all comes back to the fact that we get on very well, although we are two different people for sure.
We do both love a lot of the same stuff — it's not like this dichotomy it's been played out to be. I will say that it is challenging; but a challenge is part of what I think makes things level up. If it wasn't challenging, at times, it would probably get boring, and it'd probably be very linear.
Shaun and I achieve the same thing here. We level up and build upon each other. I always feel like I want people to humble me a bit and show me things from a different angle. I mean, I have very little interest in making music by myself. I have all the gear in my house, but I rarely touch it myself. I'd rather listen to music or collaborate. I love throwing something at someone else and then seeing what they throw back.
LES It's funny because I love working by myself, and Dylan does a lot of stuff by himself too. But I can sit here forever working on something and think maybe this isn't such a good idea, or whatever.
But there's something about when you send it to your friend and they're like, "Well, what about this?" And you think, I would have never thought of that, that's a grandmaster chess move. I mean, it sounds so fucking obvious when you say it like that, but there's something about having a different creative force on something that is really rewarding that you just don't get when you're working by yourself.
SHAUN AND CHINO, I'D LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT THE LEGENDARY FEATURES ON THIS ALBUM: RUN THE JEWELS' EL-P AND THE CURE'S ROBERT SMITH. HOW DID THOSE COME ABOUT AND WHAT DO YOU THINK THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS ADDED TO THE PROJECT?
LOPEZ Those kind of came together towards the end. For the track with El-P, it was something that we pretty much had done. It's just a really driving kind of beat and in a way Chino's rapping like a Beastie Boy, rapping with shouting. And then he mentioned El-P, which was kind of surprising.
It was right around the time when [RTJ4] was out and I was listening to it a lot. We hit up El-P and at the time we had a spot for him in the song. I just found an El-P a cappella and placed it in there just for reference. I remember when I put it in there and it just felt so good. It took a while for him to come back, but he did eventually. And then the Robert Smith thing…
MORENO It was kind of a last-minute thing. The song ["Girls Float † Boys Cry"] was pretty much done. I mean, I didn't think I'd sing. I sang a demo of it, whatever. But then I thought it'd be a neat idea to work with him on this.
The initial idea was just to have his voice as a kind of Easter egg, coming out of nowhere. So, I sent him the track with me singing the demo. A few weeks went by. Then one night, it was like, 11 o'clock, he emailed me a version of him on the song and said he was in the studio right then. I loved it. Hearing his iconic voice emceeing something that I wrote was just so rad.
THE CURE AND DEFTONES ARE TWO OF THOSE BANDS THAT HAVE JUST SEEMED TO HIT WITH EVERY GENERATION. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
MORENO I was in Starbucks this morning and the barista asked me if I was Chino. She took off her apron, came up around the counter and begged to FaceTime her friends, saying they loved [Deftones'] "Cherry Waves" — they'd heard it on TikTok.
She was sweet. Her friend was in the car with her mom. It's just crazy how the younger generation have come to it. A lot of these kids were not born when we were first doing music.
DO YOU HAVE ANY THEORIES ON WHY YOUR MUSIC IS LANDING WITH TODAY'S YOUNGER GENERATION?
MORENO I think I attribute it to TikTok. I don't use it. But I think it's because we're not force-feeding, like we don't go on TikTok and push it. It's one of those things where people discover it for themselves. I know for me, when I discover things and when they're not solicited, it makes me love it more.
LES Speaking as someone who isn't necessarily on TikTok but has come into the Deftones fandom in the last 10 years, it's really nice to hear a band continue to make moves that feel like it's what they want to be doing.
You know, in the age of reunion tours and things like that, a lot of it feels contrived or opportunistic or like you gotta make a TikTok. But, you know, something that feels genuine in this landscape — and this is not to get, you know, too sappy or anything because he's sitting right there — but I think that sort of "This is just what we want to be doing" attitude just resonates with people.
LAURA'S RIGHT. DEFTONES AND ††† (CROSSES) HAVE BOTH SURVIVED SCENES THAT ARE NOW BEING TREATED LIKE A NOVELTY AND I THINK THAT'S BECAUSE YOU'VE NEVER APPEARED OPPORTUNISTIC.
MORENO I would say, for anybody who's an artist, that you want to stand on your own, you know what I mean? I think the goal is to have your own identity and stand apart in some ways from your contemporaries.
You know, it's not a thing where we felt like we were better, we just wanted to have our own identity. Even with ††† (Crosses) early on, when we were talking about the witch-house thing, it was like, we put out this record and I think a lot of people didn't listen to it, more or less, because they saw the [witch-house] logo.
SIMILARLY, GECS, I'M CURIOUS TO KNOW WHERE YOU STAND WITH THE TERM "HYPERPOP" — A GENRE THAT WAS COINED BY A PLAYLIST-MAKER FROM SPOTIFY IN AN ATTEMPT TO GROUP YOU IN WITH A SCENE THEY THEMSELVES HAD CREATED?
LES Yeah, it was a term coined by someone other than ourselves, so they would have to explain what it means. I guess it's a collection of similar sounds from a group of people on the internet, and we have fit into that in varying degrees.
We've always said that if somebody is able to hear our music and be like, Oh, what is that? And then they find that term, and find other new artists then that's awesome.
MORENO It's just like that with the witch-house thing. You know, I liked some of the witch-house stuff, whatever, but we definitely weren't aiming to join any sort of specific scene or be a part of it. I've always felt like with music, there's always more places to go.
AWESOME. BEFORE WE GO, DOES ANYONE WANT TO ADD ANY FINAL THOUGHTS OR GIVE ANY FINAL PLUGS?
BRADY Give gecs a Grammy! Listen to Crosses!