Q&A: Deafheaven

By MAX EHRLICH
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As an avid reader of LA CANVAS (as I know you must be), I am sure you are familiar with the vastness of our colloquial music taste here at the Clubhouse. Everything from the latest indie rock, to our hip-hop fan boys, we cover it all—and in this case, we’d like to add black metal to the mix (surprise!).

Hailing from San Francisco, Deafheaven was founded by singer George Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy. They started off as duo which shortly there after became the full 5 piece that you see before you today. Reigning influences from various genres and formats within the umbrella of “metal”, the band has created a unique sound that is absolutely identifiable to only them. Sometime during their 2011-2012 tour, I had the chance to catch the guys in one of my personal favorite intimate concert settings: the basement of a punk house in the Northside of Chicago named The Albion House, and it was there where I experienced what I’d refer to as a musical epiphany. Either it was the cold winter night, lack of breathable air (this basement probably fit about 50 people, in a space meant for 20), the copious amounts of alcohol consumed from 40oz’s in paper bags or a true musical moment where the crowd really felt what was happening right in front of their eyes. I am pleased to say it was the latter situation (with maybe a little of the other mixed in).

From that point forward, Deafheaven’s music has drawn the jaws of spectators downwards into utter silence after each song as they flow seamlessly together, such as a classical masterpiece made up of a multitude of movements. The methodological build up and flow of each individual song provides not songs that you can “sing along” to, but songs that are genuinely amazing to listen to in themselves.

Albion House
Albion House

Fast-forward: 2 years later to 2013, the band put out their most recent album titled Sunbather. Gaining critical reviews from the likes of SPIN and Rolling Stone and general world-wide acclaim, the band has become a true example of how the hustle pays off. From the muggy and overpacked basement in Chicago to rocking the stage at FYF Fest, the band doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. During the festival, I had the chance to sit down with the band and talk shop prior to their big performance:

LA CANVAS: You guys have come a long way over the past couple years, I remember the first time I saw you guys was in a squatter house basement in Chicago.

ALL OF THEM: Oh yeah! The Albion House!

LAC: Yeah! So from there, now you are playing FYF, how does that feel?

KERRY MCCOY: It feels great, I think it has a lot to do with a lot of hard work, and non stop touring and a good healthy portion of luck.

GEORGE CLARKE: Yeah, lots of luck, definitely a lot of hard work. We’re a touring band, we do this consistently, and I think we are very mindful of our musical direction and I think if you invest enough care into it, things will sort of fall into place, with luck aside.

LAC: Did you guys think when you started that you would follow through with this genre which I see to be a mix between the melodic and metal styles?

 “Lets throw this Morbid Angel influence part in here or this Radiohead influence part in here” then we all kind of just sit there and bang our heads against the wall for a couple days.

GC: The original idea years and years ago when Kerry and I were first toying around with the idea was sort of our take on post-black metal. Since then, I think our sound has evolved a lot. I wouldn’t call us that nowadays, I think that we still have that influence a lot, but we have expanded in different directions, and at this point I really know exactly what to call it, but I still feel that we are somewhat in that family that we started out originally wanting to be a part of.

LAC: With Sunbather coming out last year and being rated as one of the top metal albums of 2013, what kind of successes have you guys seen from that?

GC: I think we mostly just had a variety of people in the crowds, people you wouldn’t see before, that maybe found out about us through Rolling Stone or SPIN, or more mainstream avenues such as that. So I think seeing people that normally wouldn’t have access to that style of music.

KM: The shows have been doing really well.

GC: The shows have been going better, more interesting, more variety.

LAC: Awesome, so being that you guys are from California, I take it you guys have been to LA more than a few times now. What are some of the things you like to do while you have free time

KM: Well, George and I live here now, so most of the stuff I do while we’re not on tour is go to Cha Cha a lot, go to Brite Spot and Alcove a lot,

GC: Good food and good drinks.

STEPHAN LEE CLARK: I like going to Hollywood Amoeba, place is huge hah, so many records there.

GC: Plus our manager, lives here, so we always have a home base to hang out at.

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 4.01.32 PM

KM: Usually when we are at home, or when in LA, which I consider to be a second home from San Francisco for the most of us, It’s just a time to relax and enjoy friends and people that we’ve gained relationships here. Nothing really out of the ordinary, just hanging.

LAC: Just to kind of wrap up, being that, at least in my opinion, your music is extremely complex and intricate, what are some of the things that go into your writing process when you guys are deciding your future tracks?

KM: It used to be me and George sitting down and working on riffs and lyrics together and bringing them to Dan. Now that we have a full band, all of us get into a room and bring various riffs to the table and get a general idea of what we are going for, i.e. “lets throw this Morbid Angel influence part in here or this Radiohead influence part in here” then we all kind of just sit there and bang our heads against the wall for a couple days. Then eventually we put it all together, and George puts his spin on that. It’s a very collaborative thing now, so a lot of heads just putting in as much as they can to get this weird product out of it all essentially.

SLC: It’s oddly very fluid

DAN TRACY: Probably from the constant touring and playing together every night for a year straight it’s easy for us to gel, and flesh songs out. We’re Cosmically in-tune.

 Purchase/listen to Sunbather digitally here or pick up a vinyl copy at your favorite local record haunt.

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