Time for a nap

Deftones side project Team Sleep gets ready to saw a few logs of its own

A graphic from Team Sleep’s upcoming Maverick release, which got bumped from July to “sometime after next year’s Deftones album.”

A graphic from Team Sleep’s upcoming Maverick release, which got bumped from July to “sometime after next year’s Deftones album.”

Most side projects are abysmal, lacking scope. Perhaps they’re done for ego, or money. That isn’t the case with Sacramento’s Team Sleep, which features extremely gifted Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno and the drumwork of Hella’s Zach Hill.

After a successful West Coast tour, Team Sleep’s self-titled debut will be released by Maverick, Deftones’ longtime label, next year. Although the band’s members have busy schedules—Hill is also working with Primus’ Les Claypool; Moreno is busy writing songs for the next Deftones opus; DJ Crook and guitarist Todd Wilkinson are working on a yet-to-be-named project—Team Sleep managed to find time to write and record its CD, some of which was mixed by Terry Date, the noted record producer who’s worked hard-rock alchemy with Deftones, Soundgarden, White Zombie, Pantera and others.

“Terry is very subtle,” Wilkinson says, “and he really doesn’t get involved too much in song structure—mostly just sounds.”

Wilkinson, a guitar player from Sacramento, played his first proper live shows on the band’s last tour. He’s one of Moreno’s best friends, dating back to their high-school years. “I started playing when I lived with Chino about 10 years ago,” Wilkinson recalls. “He showed me how to play a few simple songs—mostly Smashing Pumpkins. From there, I experimented on my own. Using a four-track [home recorder] has influenced the way I play a lot; instead of learning how to play well, I learned how to layer parts. I’m influenced mostly by moods, not any guitar stuff specifically.” Wilkinson cites Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Jr., Built to Spill, the Cure and Elliott Smith as influences.

The first shows of Team Sleep, which may tour later this summer, featured as support act a reunited Phallucy—a band that included Deftones drummer Abe Cunningham. Like any good tour, the shows had high and low points. “Knowing that certain people would be at the L.A. show made me nervous,” Wilkinson says. “It bugs the shit out of me, because I really shouldn’t care what they think, but I let it get to me still. Also, I had a lot of family there. I’m sorry for being so vague with the ‘certain people’ and ‘they,’ but I think you can imagine to whom I am referring.”

Not really. The usual crowd of L.A. music-biz hangout artists? Madonna?

“The best show was, for a number of reasons, San Diego,” Wilkinson continues. “It was the night after L.A., about midway through the tour. We woke up in San Diego and parked at the beach on a warm day. Everyone felt as though the pressure had been relieved, and we had fun all day. The club was a little corny, but it was a fun show. Because we were relaxed and confident, we got loose. I think that made us perform better.

“The worst was Santa Cruz,” he adds. “Sonny [Mayugba, guitarist for Phallucy and Daycare and editor for snow/skate magazine Heckler] kept trying to get me to play a solo during the last song. I did, and it sucked. It was getting close to Christmas and we were burned out. It was still fun, though—we just lacked the energy.”

Wilkinson says that all of Team Sleep members now live in Sacramento, now that DJ Crook moved here from Los Angeles. “It’s hard to get us all in one room at the same time,” he says, adding that occasional collaborations still occur. “I’m trading tapes with Dan [Elkin] from Pocket for Corduroy,” he says. “Me and Crook are working on other stuff that may or may not become Team Sleep. I’m lucky because I have many friends who are both cool people and not involved with other bands but, however, good musicians.”

The band’s chosen moniker is said to describe the band’s ethos and soundscapes. It evokes a bond between the members, based on Wilkinson’s humble beginnings as a high-school pal of Moreno’s. “The vibe of the music is somewhat sleepy,” Wilkinson says. “And I suppose that we are a team.”