Latest release: New Bermuda (ANTI-)Website: www.deafheaven.com
California shoegazers Deafheaven have been invited to Australia to perform at VIVIDLive at the Sydney Opera House, so to make the trip worthwhile they are playing a full tour with Melbourne noisemongers High Tension in support. Loud caught up with vocalist George Clarke.
George, Deafheaven will be in Australia once again soon. What memories do you have of your last tour here?
I remember being in Brisbane and swimming, partying and meeting people, playing with Whitehorse in Melbourne at the Corner Hotel… going over to Perth and going to the beach and enjoying ourselves. I think it’s a rare treat to be able to go down there so I enjoy every minute of it.
It was pretty amazing for a band like yours to get the kind of reaction to their music that you received for Sunbather. How would you compare that to what people have been saying about New Bermuda?
I couldn’t really believe it, but it seems to have gone over well also. We got a lot of good press and the reviews were fantastic and the record sold quite successfully. The initial leak hasn’t lessened it and it’s still selling quite strongly and people have been responding to it well. Since then we’ve been playing the biggest headlining shows of our career and I’m very grateful and very humbled by the whole experience.
I know that you don’t consider Deafheaven to be black metal but apart from some influences in the sound it seems strange to me that you would attract that label. Why do you think that happened?
I think we have a huge influence (from black metal) and we aren’t afraid to talk about black metal bands that we like. But I agree. I don’t think we are a black metal band and I think the whole argument of genre and labelling is a tired discussion and while we still experience that from time to time, it isn’t as bad as it used to be and hopefully, eventually, it will fade out and people will not worry about the argumentative details.
Especially considering how the metal crowd can be with labels and expectations, is it a frustrating thing to be referred to as black metal?
I used to be frustrated by it a bit. I never really cared for the ambiguity of it. I think it can lead to a confused concert goer if they haven’t heard your band before and they see on a flier “black metal band from America” and they’re like, “Hey, a black metal band, let’s go” and they go along and feel like they’ve been tricked when all along we weren’t calling ourselves that in the first place. But at this point now most people know what we do so it’s not something worry about so much anymore.
You’ve been accused of being a hipster band as well, simply due to the fact that you were a very underground band that’s become quite popular. Has that affected you at all, going from that level of obscurity to being very well known?
No, not at all. To me, growing as a band is always something exciting. Introducing yourself to an audience that is not necessarily a fan of your type of music is a stressful thing at times and can be a frustrating thing at times too, and I think that makes you stronger as a person and stronger as a band, so I’ve always seen that as a positive thing. It’s not something that I have a problem with. I love our fans to death, especially our old fans, especially old core fans, but I don’t want to be afraid to play for new people and I don’t want to stagnate at our own shows. As a musician and as an artist it’s important to challenge yourself and our story is that a growth in popularity is about challenging yourself.
Do you feel any pressure to expand your frame of reference and take your music in a different direction, and if you were to do that, do you think there would be much negativity from the fanbase?
No, I’ve never felt pressured to change our sound in order to get more popular or get more fans. I think that I we’d wanted to do that, we could’ve done that on New Bermuda and instead of doing that we present music in a much different direction and we still came out ok. I think that it’s important for you that at your own shows you’re free to do exactly what you want to do in a place where the people who follow you are. We have always been about doing our own shows and touring constantly and working really hard, and that will get you fans in a better way than changing your sound to do it commercially.
There are always people who haven’t heard your band before. Running out of people who might be hearing Deafheaven for the first time isn’t a reality. Having a fanbase is not a finite resource.
Of course not. And I want new people to constantly find our record and it’s something they haven’t heard anything like before and that this is the record that shows them a whole new world – and I think there’s nothing but positivity in there.
So if someone was coming down to the Opera House to see Deafheaven for the first time, what can you tell them to expect?
Umm… love! I think there’s a certain professionalism about it. I pride myself on the fact that we try to play our songs really well live, so I think you’re going to get a good show with good live sound and I think that there’s a lot of emotional to our live show. I give a lot of myself and I think there’s a lot of involvement from the audience and there’s a lot of reciprocation. They give us a lot of their energy and I give them a lot of mine and I hope that makes the experience worthwhile.
See Deafheaven on tour with High Tension in June:
2/6: Sydney Opera House, Sydney NSW*
3/6: Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC (+ Hope Drone)
4/6: Crowbar, Brisbane QLD (+ Hope Drone)
6/6: Rosemount Hotel, Perth WA (+ Sanzu)
* VIVID LIVE – High Tension not appearing