By Rod Whitfield
This American alternative metal stalwart is coming up towards three decades as a band, and while bassist Sergio Vega has ‘only’ been in the band for seven years or so, he has been friends with the members for much longer than that, and he remains unsurprised that Deftones have been around for so long in such a tough market. And one of the main reasons for that remarkable longevity is purely and simply the fact that the members all dig each other and enjoy hanging out.
“Not really (surprised),” he states without hesitation, “we’ve all known each other, I’m in another band called Quicksand, since ’95. We’ve all been friends since 1995. They’re all good dudes, I filled in for (Deftones’s former bassist) Chi in 1999, we’re all friends, and it’s not surprising to me at all. Time goes by, the guys are all tight, they enjoy each other’s company, and it’s all just a big hang.”
It is this that has kept the band together for so long, rather than any kind of hunger for success and rock stardom. “That’s how it’s gonna keep happening,” Vega says, “it’s not like a band that set out with a careerist mindset, and tried to be hot and stay on the curve and maximise sales. We’re friends who are passionate about music and love to create together. It doesn’t get old or go away.
“Seeing that we’re all fans of so many things, we’re always developing, and everyone brings something interesting to the table, and we just like each other!”
In fact, that concept of friendship, camaraderie and hanging out with like-minded people whose company you enjoy pervaded the entire interview. The band are set to tour Australia shortly, with none other than Perth’s mighty kings of progressive heavy rock Karnivool, as well as another great son of the west Voyager, and whilst Vega is certainly keen to familiarise himself a little more with two of Australia’s key heavy music exports of the last 10 years or so, he’s looking forward to hanging out with them even more.
“By the time we get out there, I will have had a chance to listen to them,” he foretells, “but for me, honestly, as a guy who’s come from the punk and hardcore scene, my main concern is ‘what’s the hang?’ Are they an easy hang, are they good people? That’s going to go a long way for me, I’m really biased towards people that I enjoy being around. That’s going to be the main factor for me, personally.
And the people in the two Aussie support bands that are going around the country with Deftones are likely to find the band’s behaviour to be decidedly un-rock star like.
“Yeah, I’m really looking forward to that, because we’re social,” he reveals, “we like to hang out, we’re not living in a little bubble amongst ourselves. We really enjoy other people, we enjoy new experiences, and we’re looking forward to getting amongst other people as well, their energy and hearing their stories and stuff.
“That takes up most of the time of touring, playing is but a mere facet of the entire thing.”
That may be the case, but for the fans it’s all about the show, and the band have a crowd and band pleasing set in store for their Aussie tour.
“Our sets are generally about an hour and a half long,” he informs us, “and what we play is, honestly, things that we’re excited about. We feel like, having the catalogue that the band has, there’s a lot to draw from. Our main thing is that we’re excited about it, we’re engaged in it so we play well.
“We have certain things that you know we’re going to play the song Change, you know we’re going to play the song Diamond Eyes, we’re more than likely going to play Swerve City, there are songs that are pretty much guaranteed that are going to be played. And then we mix things in and out around that, to keep ourselves excited.
“We’re excited about our new record, and we’re really appreciative of how well it did in Australia, we had a number one record there. So it’s a fine balance between keeping it fresh and playing the old stuff that people want to hear.”
One thing they don’t do is pay much heed to the fans of social media regarding which songs they should play in their live sets.
“We don’t do the groupthink thing,” he states without hesitation, “we know what’s good for us. For every one person who feels compelled to be vocal online, there’s going to be a gang more that’s just happy to be there. Usually the person who feels compelled to leave a comment is also the guy who wants you to play an old cut that nobody else cares about!
“It’s like ‘you gotta play that cut off that old demo, the crowd’s gonna go crazy!’, and we’re like ‘I’m pretty sure that they’re not, but thank you for your appreciation’!” He laughs.
“You can’t get caught up in that, it’s a bad metric.”
Almost 30 years into the band’s career, and Vega sees no end in sight for Deftones. “Yeah, it’s easy to image that (the band going for another 10+ more years), because there’s always so much good going on around it, there’s always new things to do and there’s always cool new records and bands that are exciting, and that’s always going to keep us fresh.
“We’re not self-referential, we’re fans. Our palettes are always evolving and changing, and we have a band with multiple writers and collaborators, and we’re always just excited.”
And naturally that same concept of socialising, hanging out and enjoying each other’s company is a big part of it as well.
“It’s all just a genuine excitement when we see each other. We talk to each other when we’re home, everybody has an individual relationship with each other, we know each other’s families. It’s always just fun.”
Deftones Australian Tour Dates
With Karnivool and Voyager
Thursday, 10th November
Thebarton Theatre, Adelaidde (All Ages)
Friday, 11th November
Festival Hall, Melbourne (All Ages)
Saturday, 12th November
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney (All Ages)
Sunday, 13th November
Riverstage, Brisbane (All Ages)