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Deafheaven: A Lighter Shade of Black

By Callum Doig

Put the corpse paint and the Satanic rituals aside for the moment, as Californian blackgaze quintet Deafheaven make their return to Australian shores in June, to perform at Vivid Live at the Sydney Opera House. Extra shows have already been added in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. I spoke to guitarist Shiv Mehra about the tour, and his excitement after the overwhelmingly positive reception they received on their last appearance in the country.

“We love Australia. We loved our last tour we did there for Sunbather, and it’s especially more awesome that we get to perform at the Sydney Opera House. It was really surprising to be treated so well. All of the shows were really well received and so positive. It was a great tour, and that’s why we’re looking forward to coming back.”

With their tour dates set on the dawn of the Australian winter, Deafheaven are feeling quite pleased with the fact that their music will fit the cold atmosphere that will take place in June. But, according to Shiv, it turns out that Australia’s parallel to the environment that it shares with his hometown.

“Where we live, it’s usually hot, most of the time. But, we also love the cold weather, and it’s great that we get to play during your winter there. Australia actually reminds me of California in a weird way. It’s got a mellow vibe, the people are humble, and the weather is great for most of the time there. So, it always feels like home when we get to Australia, because of the Californian vibe.”

With Vivid Live’s lineup announced, it was a surprise to see that Deafheaven, a black metal and shoegaze inspired band would be taking part in the festival, especially at our very own Sydney Opera House. Shiv and the rest of the band can’t believe that they’ve received such a great opportunity.

“We just can’t believe it, because it’s gonna be mind-blowing. To be able to play in one of the most iconic landmarks in the world is a big honour, especially as a band that plays blackgaze music for the most of it. I also like Melbourne a lot. It’s probably my favourite city over there.”

Moving onto the subject of touring, Deafheaven have been familiar with a handful of festival shows they’ve performed at in the past. With the upcoming show at Vivid Live, Shiv and the boys know exactly what they’re after as far as Deafheaven gigs are concerned between headline shows and festivals.

“You know, it’s really dependant on the show and festival. Personally, I like playing our own headlining shows, because it’s a very community vibe and everyone is there just for you. With festivals, it’s more of the case of people stopping by to see bands they’ve never heard before. They can be exciting as well, depending on where and when you’re playing. The whole vibe that you get onstage when you’re playing your own headline shows is a lot more intimate, and it kind of helps create a better vibe for us.”

As far as performances are concerned, Shiv Mehra doesn’t think too much on the ability to thrive on putting on some kind of onstage persona with Deafheaven. Instead, it’s a very natural process for him and everyone else in the band.

“We don’t really see much of ourselves getting into some kind of niche. We play just how we normally play, but our vocalist George Clarke can really help get that excitement rushing through when we play live. It really comes out when we’re having fun onstage. There’s no whole reason to this whole pack, I feel that the mentality of the theme with black metal involved just really comes naturally.”

Shiv promises that the band will be performing New Bermuda in its entirety, with a few tracks off Sunbather being added into the set for their Australian tour.

“I’m certain that we’re playing all of New Bermuda and a few from Sunbather. You can definitely expect that, because we’ve doing it that for all the shows we’ve been doing so far. When you play a new album, you don’t know how the crowd is gonna react to it. But, they’ve been treating it very well and really connect to it. I really like how the vibes keep going on within each song we perform, and it makes a lot more fun and stimulating. It’s a bit of a challenge for us as well, because some of the parts of the songs can be a little more challenging to play, but it’s still exciting for us at the same time.”

After receiving numerous accolades for Sunbather, Deafheaven had no idea whether or not the follow-up would be as successful as Sunbather was in 2013. However, Shiv Mehra felt that the band just let everything come to them naturally during the writing process for New Bermuda. And even though that they’re somewhat different from each other, Shiv believes that there still may be some kind of connection between both records.

“There’s that pressure that comes into making a new album. After we made Sunbather, considering how successful it was, we were all feeling stressed out about the pressure we felt about whether or not the next album would be just as good. But, the thing is, we’ve been together for so long as good friends and we’ve always had the same tastes in music. We eventually came to the point where we stopped thinking about what people were thinking of us, and everything we did just came naturally when it came to writing, which helped a lot.

“But I’m glad to see that New Bermuda has an equal balance of love with Sunbather. And they’re different, conceptually. Lyrically, George writes the basis of all the lyrics, and Sunbather was about his experience of moving to Los Angeles and starting a new life from scratch. I think it has a lot to do with the experiences in life. He probably has some kind of connection with them that tie together, as he’s writing about all of our experiences. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next one will be linked with Sunbather and New Bermuda.”

Deafheaven kick off their Australian tour on 2 June at the Sydney Opera House during Vivid Live celebrations.

Deafheaven Tour Dates 2016
2 June – (VividLIVE) Opera House, Sydney
3 June – Corner Hotel, Melbourne
4 June – Crowbar, Brisbane
6 June – Rosemount Hotel, Perth

Tickets available HERE

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Callum Doig

Growing up around tracks at the young age of eight from Rage Against the Machine to Queens of the Stone Age and At the Drive-In, I found my love for heavy music develop quicker and quicker, as I got into countless bands in genres from Alternative, Prog, Stoner and Math Metal over the years. Being part of the music journalism industry since 2013, I’ve had the honour to review the legendary Soundwave Festival twice, Unify, and the last ever Big Day Out, as well as interview big names such as Zakk Wylde, Matthias Jabs, Richard Patrick, Greg Puciato, Mikael Akerfeldt, A Nameless Ghoul and many, many more. With metal and rock music playing a massive part of my life since I was young, and eventually became inspired to pick up multiple instruments, I couldn’t have picked a better genre to influence me into getting involved in the scene, regardless of what the position would be. Heavy music has done more for me than anyone or anything else, and I intend to stick around for more and more as the years go by.
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