Deftones and Incubus | Keeping It Fresh

Deftones-Incubus 75Rather than ride the tides, Deftones shifted the floors of the ocean that made them.




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The first time I heard anything about Deftones, it was something heavy. Not heavy in the musical sense. It was burdensome. A classmate in a communications theory class in college chose the lyrics to one of their songs to demonstrate the application of some particular scholar’s take on the significance of human communication. The classmate compared Deftones to Nirvana. Therein lay the weight.

It was 1996, and to me and millions of other young adults who’d gone through our early teens as Nirvana fans, comparisons to that band (who we were mourning) truly meant something. I discovered that my classmate and I listened to music with different ears, but in essence what drew him to Deftones—their passion, their chemistry, and their artistic honesty—would be the qualities that kept me interested long enough for them to finally reel me in.

It’s a testament to Deftones’ range and strength that they are so many things to so many people.  In the 20 years since Adrenaline was released, the band has seen the world change professionally and personally. They experienced the tragic loss of bassist Chi Cheng and yet found it in themselves to carry on, raising funds to support his medical expenses, honoring him, and ultimately continuing to perform and record.

Deftones forged ahead, growing in every sense and aspect of their lives and creativity. Now on the cusp of the release of their first album in three years, they are touring the U.S. with Incubus, who are at similar crossroads. In Deftones and Incubus lie two bands who once heralded in a new generation and direction for rock music, now firmly established as veteran artists who are looked upon by new bands as formative influences. Because of this, it’s easy to listen back to any Deftones albums and find a contemporary band doing some approximation of it, not much having changed. That is to say, Deftones did so much with what they had at their disposal musically early on in their output that in a way, their massive and moving wall of sound has achieved a sort of sonic transcendence. This has allowed them the freedom to evolve musically without worry of being lost in the malaise of ill-conceived trends. Rather than follow the course of a trend line, they generated the force the trend line measured. Rather than ride the tides, Deftones shifted the floors of the ocean that made them.

I was able to get a chance to talk to Sergio Vega, their current bassist. Vega is also a member of an arguably equally influential (yet underground) rock band called Quicksand that sounds just as relevant and vital today as they did more than 20 years ago.

The first thing people probably want to know is where has everybody been? What have you been up to? What’s up with the new album?

We’ve been working on getting our new material completed and playing some shows here and there. The songs are in their mix phase while we’re out and about with Incubus, DFA 1979, and The Bots.

It’s interesting to see the influence of Deftones on bands that have followed, be it directly or indirectly. How does the band react when they hear a band like O’Brother or Balance and Composure tapping into a sound along the lines of what Deftones made popular?

We as a band have a wide range of influences that are constantly evolving. If a band is into what we do and have incorporated aspects into their palate of influences, that’s rad!

Has having been in Quicksand—and having been a part of projects like Dark Sun Riders—manifest in the continued growth of Deftones’ sound over the last few albums (as well as all the other side projects everyone has been working on and releasing)?

Collaborating with Deftones is a really awesome experience as is collaborating with Quicksand. Being around people who all have distinctive musical voices really impacts my own writing style, and hearing what everyone is into as far as their listening tastes is huge as well. We all have our style, and we’re always morphing every idea until it is Deftones.

Has the ever-changing landscape of the music business impacted how you all are approaching the release and promotion of your music? Has it lessened the pressure to rush out releases?

The only difference I really notice (besides the shift from purchasing to streaming) is that once you play a new song live, it’s essentially released.

The idea of touring with Incubus seems like a great pairing, as both bands have managed to outlive the trends that were associated with them when they broke big in the mid-90s. You could say that the bands were a very dissimilar recombination of similar core ingredients. How has that played out as far as the flow of the sets and shows? Is there any competitive impulse?

Incubus and Deftones have been friends for years. We are having such a good time hanging out with everyone, DFA 1979 and The Bots included. Music isn’t competitive. Ping pong, however…

It seems that as bands are hitting their 20 and 25 year anniversaries of their debuts or biggest records, they are inspired to recapture that energy, or head off in new directions as they commemorate those anniversaries. Has that registered with the band in any way? Any big plans now that Adrenaline is turning 20?

We’ve never felt the need to recapture anything as we’re always super inspired by new things. It keeps it fresh.

What does the future hold for Deftones?

The near future will show our new material and weave those songs into our live set. I’m definitely hyped about that! | Willie Smith

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