SCV interview with vocalist George Clarke of Deafheaven
San Francisco’s Deafheaven is a band that unlike many, has catapulted into the public consciousness in a way that few can claim experience with. George Clarke and guitar player Kerry McCoy formed the group in 2010 with a self produced, recorded and released demo. Adding in three additional musicians with second guitar player Nick Bassett, bassist Derek Prine and drummer Trevor Deschryver to fulfill the vision presented on the demo, the band signed with Deathwish Inc. after a handful of shows and the band has been touring non stop since. Deafheaven released a limited edition 7″ that collected two songs from the demo and the full length Roads to Judah followed soon there after in 2011.
Combining so many fields of raw and invigorating formats of 20th and 21st century underground rock music, Deafheaven has become a powerful presentation of the heaviest yet brightest proportions. They display an exquisite balance of beauty and chaos with crescendos that fall into dripping colors of tone fragmentation that lead to a deconstruction of sound and ultimately chaos. As momentum builds exponentially and the scene changes at the blink of an eye, not a second is wasted before machine gun blasts are augmented by an excruciating type of pain that bleeds from the guitar, bass and vocal work. With their roots seated in a vast plethora of sound in the 20th and 21st century rock idiom, definition and relation to the whole of music comes at the hands of your own entry way, but the power and sonic aura of their studio and live show presentation is undeniable.
When we hear a band who incorporates a vast plethora of worlds and compacts it into micro fragments of coagulation, it sits right at home with the content we live for. Tradition is stripped down to include new formats, new ideas and new visions of tomorrow and Deafheaven is thriving in this world of tomorrow. The San Francisco based quintet is now managed by Cathy Pellow of Sargent House and this partnership between the two immediately compelled us to request an interview. Lead singer of Deafheaven George Clarke was gracious enough to lend us some of his time and answer the questions we sent. We hope you enjoy our exclusive interview with George and get a chance to see Deafheaven live, they are touring heavily in Europe and the States in the next 2 months.
Sound Colour Vibration interview with George Clarke of Deafheaven
Conducted by Erik Otis
Just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to answer these email questions, it means a lot to us at Sound Colour Vibration. I first wanted to ask about the label who put out your last full length and 7″, Deathwish Inc. How did you guys meet the label and how has the label treated you guys so far?
George Clarke: It’s not a problem. Deathwish originally approached us after we had released our demo online at no cost. Through various blogging networks, they became aware of it, enjoyed it, and approached us about releasing material. So far, everything has been great. We’ve taken a lot of big steps since our signing with them and it feels good to know that they constantly support us in all that we do.
Now that you guys have Sargent House on your team for management, how did you come to meet Sargent House and how different has it been working with Sargent House than anyone else in the past?
George Clarke: Sargent House and us became in contact after our US tour with Russian Circles this past November. We had a few talks about what direction we were trying to pursue and the things that we wanted to accomplish as a band and it just worked out. The relationship has been short, but Sargent House has brought a lot of vision and force to the table. It’s nice having that aggression on our team.
On the record that you released last year “Roads to Judah”, I was immediately taken to the raw energy found in a lot of music I was absorbing about ten years ago, a lot of bands like Yaphet Kotto, Fuel, Orchid and many others on the Ebullition imprint and distribution circuit. I was also reminded of the surreal and dynamic crescendos of groups like Explosions in the Sky and Mono. You guys bring that together and so much more in a really unique way to us. What labels/distros and artist/band circles really caught your attention growing up and shaped a lot of the musical principles and foundations for Deafheaven?
George Clarke: Throwing these things together wasn’t intentional, but it seems to have worked out. As far as influence, it’s a pretty vast range of artists. Like you had mentioned previously, bands like Yaphet Kotto and Orchid serve as an influence. Bands like Explosions, Mono, and GY!BE are also present. I think our sound relies heaviest on influences like Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Chapterhouse, and Ride along with black metal acts like Burzum, Weakling, and Hate Forest.
Do you guys still find yourself buying records the way you used to when you were younger?
George Clarke: Not at all like I used to, but I wish. I’ve pretty much had to forfeit my entire life to pursue Deafheaven to the degree that I want to, so there is very little room for extra expenses.
I wanted to ask you about the way you guys present your music live. I have always felt bands who can extract a certain element of melodic features inside of a massively heavy live set have entrancing and almost metaphysical effects on the crowd. It has created a lot of states for me where sound enters my body in a very different way than listening to an iPod or even a good home sound system. I saw Sunn O)))) at the El Rey in Los Angeles some years back and by the end of the set there was only about 30 of us left from 300. The band bowed to us as they knew what we had endured. Do you feel the intensity and power of sound outside of what the melody or beat is becomes its own entity in performance? What have been your strongest experiences with all of this?
George Clarke: Yes, we do our best to showcase the intensity that I hope a listener feels while listening to the record. We enjoy a harsh, loud live sound. Though the melody and beat remain important, the dominance that the wall of sound provides is the emphasis of the show.
When I picked up “Roads to Judah”, I was really surprised to see the name Jack Shirley in the notes. As a guitarist of Comadre, a favorite of mine for many years, his involvement behind the scenes really intrigued me. Acting as producer and engineer along with mix and mastering work, did Jack become an extension of the album or was he a means to capture what you guys had in full vision?
George Clarke: The vision was ours, but Jack is fantastic to work with and knew the tools necessary to complete what we wanted to do. We’ve known him for years and working with him is always a great experience.
The lyrical presentation is something that on contact was very abrasive for me but when reading the lyrics I really felt the reason and purpose of why the lyrics were being presented the way they have been. Are lyrics an extension of the music or does the music stem its creation from the concepts and meanings behind lyrics created before hand?
George Clarke: The lyrics and music are written separately, but I think we’re fortunate that the two go very well together. Our guitarist Kerry and I have been best friends for a lot of years. Because of that, I think we have a great mutual respect and understanding of each other’s talents. I can connect as much with a melody of his that he can with a line or phrase of mine. The two end up synching well in the end.
Your band has been touring since 2010, has the communication level strengthened for your live performances over the last two years or did you guys all lock in right away from the beginning?
George Clarke: Touring has been interesting for us. With most bands, they have time to find finesse in their live show by playing locally. Most play locally for a long time before audiences around the country are exposed to them. Deafheaven was picked up for a record release after only playing four shows. Because of that, we’ve had to grow on the national road, fine tuning our performance and ultimately, figuring out what sort of angle to take. Some have raved about our live show while others seem confused or disappointed by it. From my perspective, it’s still a learning experience. You take stage losses and victories, eventually finding comfort in how you perform. That being said, I do think we get better and better as we play, finding strong stage communication and fluidity.
We were wondering if you had already made lead way on a new record to release in the near future and if so, will Jack be the man given engineering credits on this one again?
George Clarke: We have started writing new material and already have a timeline for its release. Further information regarding the follow up release will be issued in good time.
With “Roads to Judah”, you reached out to the very talented Reuben Sawyer for cover album art and inner sleeve art, both of which are mind blowing and really add to the feel of the album when holding the vinyl. Will you be working with Reuben in the future or do you see yourself working with different artists for your next releases?
George Clarke: Reuben did a fantastic job on Roads to Judah and we’ll continue to work with him on various projects. We do try and work with as many talented artists as we can though.
I had to ask about the very end of “Roads to Judah”, there is a beautiful solo piano section that brings the album to a close. This is a dynamic element to this record that really separates itself and one that is laid in small moments all over the record, even with the addition of acoustic guitar on the first piece ‘Violet’. Do you see Deafheaven diving more into these areas of sound for future records or will these always be small additives that show the different shades and interests that stem outside of the main pulse of the music created with the band so far?
George Clarke: Thank you. Yes, we are always aiming to expand our sound and the new material will be no different. We’ve been experimenting with a lot of different musical directions and the new material will undoubtedly showcase that.
Does the group have any plans for films, books or other projects that deviate from the norm of an album release?
George Clarke: As of now, no. I would absolutely love to work in a different medium though. Perhaps sometime in the future.
Thanks for your time, we really appreciate it and we wish you guys a lot of success in this new year.
George Clarke: Thank you, and to you as well. Hoping 2012 is a good year for everyone.
Deafheaven will be touring non stop for the next few months in Europe and then the States, all of the following dates are sourced from AMP Magazine:
DEAFHEAVEN EUROPEAN AND UNITED STATED TOUR JAN/FEB/MARCH 2012
01/24: Santa Cruz, CA @ Catalyst Atrium w/ Wolves in the Throne Room, Worm Ouroboros
02/3 – Antwerp, Belgium @ JH Kavka
02/4 – Essen, Germany @ Cafe Nova
02/5 – Hamburg, Germany @ Astra Stube
02/7 – Leipzig, Germany @ Conne Island Kafe
02/8 – Berlin, Germany @ Cassiopeia
02/9 – München, Germany @ Feierwerk
02/10 – Linz, Austria @ Ann and Pat
02/11 – Budapest, Hungary @ Trafik Klub
02/12 – Vienna, Austria @ Arena, 3 Raum
02/13 – Ljubljana, Slovenia @ Orto Bar
02/14 – Rimini, Italy @ Grotta Rossa s.p.a.
02/15 – Stuttgart, Germany @ Juha West
02/16 – Trier, Germany @ Ex Haus, Balkensaal
02/17 – Amsterdam, Holland @ Winston
02/18 – Leper, Belgium @ Ieper Winter Festival
02/19 – Brighton,UK @ The Haunt w/ Kylesa, Circle Takes Square, Ken Mode
02/20 – Manchester, UK @ The Star And Garter
02/21 – Margate, UK @ Westcoast Bar
02/22 – London, UK @ 02 Academy Islington
02/23 – Bristol, UK @ The Croft
02/24 – Paris, France @ La Miroiterie w/ Celeste
03/09 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Smell w/ DNF, Whirr & Marriages
03/10 - Phoenix, AZ @ The Trunk Space w/ Whirr & Marriages
03/11 – El Paso, TX @ Low Brow w/ Whirr & Marriages
03/13 – Denton, TX @ Rubber Gloves w/ Whirr & Marriages
3/14 – 3/17 – Austin, TX @ SXSW
03/20: New Orleans, LA @ Big Top w/ Alcest
03/21: Tampa, FL @ Crowbar w/ Alcest
03/22: Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub w/ Alcest
03/23: Atlanta, GA @ 529 w/ Alcest
03/24.2012 Johnson City – The Hideaway w/ Alcest
03/26: Raleigh, NC @ Kings w/ Alcest
03/27: Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter w/ Alcest
03/28: Baltimore, MD @ Golden West w/ Alcest
03/29.2012 Washington DC – DC9 w/ Alcest
03/30.2012 Philadelphia, PA – North Star Bar w/ Alcest
03/31: Brooklyn, NY @ Public Assembly w/ Alcest