Interview By Joshua T. Cohen
Pictures by James Seibert (Full Deafheaven Gallery Here)
We recently caught up with the Bay Area’s genre defying band Deafheaven, who have stunned music listeners and concertgoers alike with their emotional delivery of uniquely crafted aggressive music that incorporates influences as far-reaching as black metal and shoegaze. Deafheaven is about to embark on a US tour supporting the mighty Russian Circles (tour dates listed below), as singer George Clarke touches on tour preparations, current band happenings, equipment picks for their current Roads to Judah release on Deathwish, his current playlists, and much more. Enjoy this quick Q & A style interview and check out Deafheaven streaming tunes below the interview. Without further ado, let’s hear from George.
Joshua BTS: Greetings. Thank you for taking some time with Blow The Scene readers from around the world with this interview. Please begin by introducing yourself and your weapon of choice of San Francisco’s Deafheaven.
George (Deafheaven): My name is George and I sing for Deafheaven.
Joshua BTS: Your latest recorded effort, Roads to Judah is a continuation of your original approach to extreme music with a fundamental basis that draws from a vast amalgamation of influences. Everything from shoegaze to black metal seeps through in the song writing. But before we dive into the music composition, I’d like to focus on lyrics. I understand that Roads To Judah refers to the N Judah train in San Francisco where you did much of your writing on your way to and from work. Your live interpretations are exceptionally emotional, which I believe is one of the most compelling elements of Deafheaven. Do you find this raw and somewhat universal emotion allows the band to connect with an audience that may not be accustomed to your direct influences?
George (Deafheaven): Lyrics are an important part to Deafheaven. When I wrote for Roads to Judah, I had no intention of an ‘universal message’, but I am glad that people responded to them in the way that they did. I talk about things I feel. When listeners connect, it only accents the emotion that the music is providing.
George (Deafheaven): I don’t ride the same train as I used to, but the lyrical content remains the same. I write the way I write.
Joshua BTS: I am interested to know how much time per week you dedicate to rehearsal and song writing? It would appear the amount of craftsmanship and detail that goes into your writing process is somewhat elaborate.
George (Deafheaven): Honestly, we should practice a lot more than we do, but we have began writing for another record. All I can say is that I’m excited for it.
Joshua BTS: What does the song writing process look like for Deaf Heaven? Is there a main songwriter or do you split the responsibilities equally?
George (Deafheaven): Generally, our guitar player Kerry comes up with riffs. From there, we edit and construct then move together as a full band. Our other guitar player Nick throws what he has in, our bass player Derek adds unique touches, and our drummer, Trevor, fills in and enhances our own percussion ideas.
Joshua BTS: Are you currently planning any forthcoming releases or setting the groundwork to move in that direction?
George (Deafheaven): We have been working on new material
Joshua BTS: Do you approach new songs while simultaneously looking at what you have already established with your fan base? Or do you approach each song / release as its own separate entity?
George (Deafheaven): Songs are written as we see fit. While we loosely have a decided sound, the evolution of our musical tastes will undoubtedly provide some influence on our new songs
Joshua BTS: You have an upcoming tour with Russian Circles which should make for an engaging billing. How did you come to link up with Russian Circles and how do you believe this tour will compare to your prior tours?
George (Deafheaven): We’re very happy to have been given the opportunity. From my understanding, we made it onto a list of acts that Russian Circles would like to tour with. From there, we pushed hard until we had been approved and since then, have been working on a new set list that will allow us to differ from other things we’ve done on previous tours.
Joshua BTS: Breaking out any tracks that you haven’t touched live yet from your prior releases? And can fans expect you to test the water with any new material on this tour outing with Russian Circles?
George (Deafheaven): The set will be different, but no new material will be played.
Joshua BTS: I always like to throw in a question or two for the gear-heads. Any pieces of equipment, whether it be mics, guitars, drums, etc., that you find pivotal in capturing your live sound?
George (Deafheaven): Absolutely. We rely mainly on vintage gear to push our boundaries of sound. For those curious, we usually use two V4s, a Soundcity, an Acoustic 220 and a VTM 60. Both guitars run through Emperor 4x12s, and the bass is run through an Acoustic 2×18.
Joshua BTS: Are there any elements of your sound that you capture in the studio that you find challenging to recreate live?
George (Deafheaven): Initially, we ran into a few issues that we thought would be difficult to re-create live, but they were mended. The transfer from studio setting to live setting is smooth.
George (Deafheaven): Nothing extraodinary. We all have jobs, go to school. Typical lives
Joshua BTS: When on the road- Are there any off-day trips or special stops that you are looking forward to? Any favorite food establishments?
George (Deafheaven): We try and fit tourism into our schedule, but for the most part, touring is a full time job from the time we get up to the time we go to sleep. There’s never a point in the day where you find yourself with excess time to plan mini side-vacations. Hopefully in the future though.
Joshua BTS: What does your current playlist look like? Any bands out there that are really exciting you at the moment?
George (Deafheaven): Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Alison’s Halo, Death In June, Greymachine, Tamaryn, Bauhaus. Sort of the norm. A lot of friend’s bands have me excited. Early Graves, Bosse de Nage, DNF…
Joshua BTS: When on the road- Who amongst you has the oddest tour habits? Any urine bottle collectors or adrenaline junkies in the group to make the drives more entertaining?
George (Deafheaven): Everyone in this band is disgusting. Thankfully I have tour to show me that.
Joshua BTS: Thank you for taking time with Blow The Scene readers from around the world as we look forward to keeping up with your future endeavors. Any final thoughts?
George (Deafheaven): Thank you to everyone who has supported us and continues to support us. We’ll see you soon
“Violet” is the opening track Deafheaven’s 4-song, 38-minute full-length debut, Roads to Judah, out via Deathwish, Inc.
Download Deafheaven – “Violet”
DEAFHEAVEN – ON TOUR W/ RUSSIAN CIRCLES
Wed/Nov-02 – Houston TX Fitzgerald’s Downstairs
Thu/Nov-03 – Denton TX Rubber Gloves
Mon/Nov-07 – New Orleans LA One Eyes Jacks
Tue/Nov-08 – Atlanta GA The Earl
Wed/Nov-09 – Newport KY Southgate House
Thu/Nov-10 – Columbus OH Ravari Room
Fri/Nov-11 – Detroit MI Magic Stick
Sat/Nov-12 – Toronto ON Lee’s Palace
Sun/Nov-13 – Buffalo NY Soundlab
Mon/Nov-14 – New York NY Bowery Ballroom
Tue/Nov-15 – Hoboken NJ Maxwells
Wed/Nov-16 – Philadelphia PA First Unitarian Church
Fri/Nov-18 – Cleveland Heights OH Grog Shop
Sat/Nov-19 – Grand Rapids MI The Pyramid Scheme
Fri/Nov-25 – Portland OR Doug Fir Lounge
Sat/Nov-26 – Seattle WA Neumos
Mon/Nov-28 – West Hollywood CA The Troubadour
Tue/Nov-29 – San Diego CA The Casbah