By Steven Jenkins
Not many bands have made such an impact and re-defined an entire genre like Deafheaven have. Since the birth of this San Francisco based group in 2010, people have been left utterly gob smacked by their unique style of music, which can only be described as blackened metal infused with a very modern post-metal feel.
Known for their astonishing live performances and their divisive sound, we spoke to the vocalist George Clarke about their new album New Bermuda, which will be out worldwide on October 2nd. George tells us what it’s like to experience the pressure of making an album better than the last one.
“With this album we wanted to take a different approach and we wanted it to also sound like us no matter what. We didn’t want to imitate our last album Sunbather and I think we were successful in accomplishing that. I’m very curious to see what people think of it.”
“I mean there’s definitely a pressure. It’s not really from the media per se but it’s more like personal pressure I guess? We didn’t’ expect Sunbather to get the attention that it did. So when we went it to record we thought the easiest route to go would be to write another Sunbather, to take those kinds of riffs and that kind of mindset and maybe make a bastardized sequel. We took on different influences of ours and we created something we’re pretty proud of.”
With just five tracks and almost fifty minutes of pure blackened metal bliss, the frontman tells HEAVY what they wanted to achieve with the sound and approach towards New Bermuda.
“On Sunbather there were these interludes and they kind of happened after each larger and more pronounced track. It was cool and it definitely worked for us at the time, but we felt that it was a bit too lofty I guess, a bit too airy. We wanted to make a record that was more to the point and more concise, trim the fat so to speak while maintaining interest. We also wanted it to sound faster, heavier and just do our thing. A lot of the record was written very organically and I think we just went with our gut on a lot of it to be honest. It felt right play this records in a different way and that’s kind of what we went for.”
In early 2014, Deafheaven came to Australia and blew minds all over our country with their incredible live performances. George seemed very eager and excited about returning and he mentioned just how much fun it was for the band.
“Oh my god, that was the best trip! I love Australia so much actually. The shows were amazing and we had so much fun. We went to Brisbane and played Crowbar, which is now one of my favourite venues. I remember Melbourne was fantastic and we played with Whitehorse, which was great. Sydney was awesome, Perth was awesome also and all the shows were really cool. Overall it was a very positive experience.”
2013 saw the release of Sunbather, which was critically acclaimed upon its release and branded as an instant classic. Receiving 10/10 reviews almost everywhere you looked, the album saw Deafheaven and their non-metal, pink album cover that could be mistaken for a summer session chill-out CD (also featured on a keynote advertisement for Apple), which can only be good for them right? This time they’ve gone for a more, um, well, lets just say heavier approach to the album artwork.
“Yeah, it was a concept that I’ve had for quite a while. I knew from the very beginning of this band that I wanted an oil painting based cover. I knew I wanted it to have a lot of character and look sculptural. I had the idea for the face but originally it was going to be a man sitting at the piano actually. Nick Steinhardt (guitarist from Touché Amore) took the art direction and everything for it and he went to school with Allison Schulnik who painted the cover. So when I told Nick about my ideas for the cover art he mentioned her and we got in contact and she had her own ideas and I trusted her opinion. I’m over the moon about it, it’s a gorgeous piece of work and it came together very fluently.”
2015 has been an absolutely stellar year for heavy music. As we come rolling full steam ahead towards the end of the year, I asked George what releases he’s enjoyed so far.
“Looking back on it, what an amazing year for music. The new Cruciamentum LP is amazing; it’s probably the best death metal album this year. Leviathan with Scar Sighted from earlier this year is another one. The new Chelsea Wolfe album Abyss has also been a heavily listened to record also that I can’t seem to put down. I could go on, there’s been a lot of outstanding music put out this year.”
It’s always interesting to know what actually drives the musicians and singers to create an album. Whether it’s a concept album or just a bunch of mates having a great time making music that they love. I thought I would find out if New Bermuda had a theme to go along with the ground breaking and near perfect music that comes along with it.
“The album really deals with feeling complacent and stagnant in an area that you’re unfamiliar with and sort of dealing with your own personal frustration. I think when comparing it to Sunbather it is a much darker record, I think the themes show a lot of emotion and frustration, a lot of that comes out in the music which is a lot more purging this time around.”
Will we see Deafheaven return to Australia in the near future? Well…
“Yeah absolutely, that is the plan. Hopefully fingers crossed it will be sooner than later.”
New Bermuda is out on 2 October via ANTI.