But Rizz and her bandmate, guitarist-programmer Matt James, didn’t actually grow up listening to those bands, and describing VOWWS as goth is somewhat unfair in spite of the sonic connections. Rizz and James were nurtured on ’90s alternative. (Before that, Rizz was first drawn to music by a strong compulsion to record music cues from TV shows and even the jingles that played on commercials, using a tape recorder.) When the pair sits down to write songs, it starts out not in the digital realm, but with acoustic guitar, keyboards and vocal melodies. Both Rizz and James insist that, although they have an obvious affinity for electronic gear, the focal point of their music consists of songs, as well as the human element that drives them, however “broken” (James’ description) the arrangements end up.
No surprise, then, that “Structure of Love II” unites two seemingly likeminded but distinct sensibilities. Of course, Rizz and James were influenced by Moreno’s work with Deftones, so it follows that they in turn absorbed some of his influences in ways they perhaps weren’t even aware of. Moreno certainly sounds like he’s in his natural element on the slower and dirgier yet somehow more delicate remake, the uptempo drumbeat of the original replaced by an airy electronic pulse courtesy of producer/former Nine Inch Nails member Danny Lohner. Overall, the new version lands closer to the witch house vibe of Moreno’s electronic vehicle Crosses or even classic trip-hop like Portishead and Massive Attack.
VOWWS, which are now based in Los Angeles, were taken by complete surprise when, prior to their relocation to the States, Moreno tweeted a track from their self-titled 2013 debut EP -- without tagging them. That caught the attention of the band’s friends, who later alerted them when Moreno name-dropped VOWWS on Triple J, Australia’s national radio network. When they listened to the broadcast, Rizz and James were flabbergasted to discover that Moreno actually had attended one of their gigs.
“At that point,” says Rizz, “we were like, ‘Holy shit, we should follow this up.’ ”
In November 2018, Moreno handpicked the act to appear on the Dia de los Deftones festival in San Diego. With “Structure of Love II,” he becomes the third distinguished guest vocalist to grace a VOWWS track, following in the footsteps of synth-pop legend Gary Numan and King Woman/Miserable vocalist Kristina Esfandiari.
“Obviously,” says James, “we’ve got very limited resources, but we’ve got the freedom to be able to do things like release an album and then revisit the songs and see how you can stretch a song to fit different personalities. If we were on a label, they’d have a template to how you do things. And once we got people like Kristina and Chino involved, it’d be like ‘Now we’ve got to delay the fucking album,’ and that could be a momentum killer. At least this way, we get to continue to foist ourselves on the world in any disjointed way that we can. But there’s a beauty to that. In the same way that imperfections in music can give it life, experimentation in terms of how you put music out there [can be the same way].”
Listen to “Structure of Love II” below.