Interview with George Clarke from Deafheaven

deafheaven201521So far this decade, metal has found itself in an identity crisis. All sorts of influences are coming into play with progressive, doom, black, thrash and stoner metal still present in the metal realm while other acts are trying to resurrect the glam days of the ‘80s. There are also metal bands forging their own path by incorporating different elements into a highly amplified sound. One of those bands is Deafheaven from San Francisco; they possess an interesting blend of black metal, shoegaze and post-rock to create music that’s hard to pin down. They’ll be bringing that blend to Fete Music Hall in Olneyville on Saturday, November 19, with British extreme metal legends Carcass and Richmond, Virginia, act Inter Arma.

Before the show I had a chat with frontman George Clarke about the band’s origins, all the screaming and growling he does, working with producer Jack Shirley and plans for next year.

Rob Duguay: Deafheaven began as a two-piece with you and guitarist Kerry McCoy in 2010. How did you and McCoy meet and what forged your songwriting partnership?

George Clarke: Kerry and I have been friends for a long time — since we were 14 years old. When he started playing music along with me doing the same, we jammed together a lot during our teenage years. Both of us moved to San Francisco when we were 20 for lack of anything better to do. We started writing some songs and those songs became the first Deafheaven demo.

RD: Where did the two of you grow up?

GC: We grew up in Northern California, about an hour and a half outside of San Francisco. I kind of grew up all over, but we met each other in a small town called Modesto.

RD: Deafheaven is a five piece band, so how did you and Kerry go about finding members for the first incarnation of the band? Did it ever get difficult to get people on board or was it fairly easy?

GC: It was hard at first; we were trying out a lot of people. We got our first band together, which featured Trevor [Deschryver], who was our drummer at the time, Nick Bassett, who was our guitar player, and Derek Prine who was on bass. Then we went through a lot of changes and by the time we went through those changes, we were gearing up to write our second album, we were looking for another band. We were kind of an established act, so it was a bit easier to find the second band at that point. That was in 2012; we got Dan Tracy who was friends with and playing music with this guy Shiv Meara so we asked Shiv if he wanted to join and we were roommates with our friend Stephen Clark who plays in a lot of bands as well so we asked if he wanted to join on bass. They all agreed and that is the lineup that we have today.

RD: You do a lot of screaming and growling on vocals; do you do any vocal exercises before a show or do you just go at it on the mic and whatever happens afterward is just par the course?

GC: Yeah. At this point it’s like any other kind of singing. My voice is trained to where I don’t strain it or blow it out. I don’t do any vocal preparations or anything, it’s just something I can control while I’m performing at shows.

RD: You don’t feel hoarse after a show in the morning or anything of that nature?

GC: No not at all.

RD: That’s good. Everything that Deafheaven has released has been produced by Jack Shirley, who also plays guitar in the bands Comadre and Everybody Row. A lot of bands usually float around from producer to producer with each release, so what has kept the band working with Shirley this whole time?

GC: Part of working with Jack Shirley is that we both grow together. Throughout the years, he’s grown a ton as a producer and we’ve grown a ton as a band. We’ve always had a really good relationship with each other, he’s incredibly easy to work with, he puts in good ideas and he knows exactly how things should sound. If we give him an idea he knows how to execute it and it’s a really positive working environment. It’s hard to envision us working with anyone else at this point.

RD: The new record New Bermuda has incredible production quality. It must be amazing for such a massive sounding band to be in the studio while Jack captures everything. After this current tour with Carcass and Inter Arma does Deafheaven have any plans for the end of the year or will the band be taking a break from live shows?

GC: We have some touring planned for next year that we have not announced yet. We’re playing the Roadburn Music Festival in The Netherlands in April and we’ll also be doing a show at The Echoplex in Los Angeles in January. Other than that I think we’ll just start to focus on writing new material.

Grab tickets to Carcass, Deafheaven & Inter Arma @ Fete Music Hall on November 19: ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=6861765&REFERRAL_ID=twfb&pl=fete; Deafheaven’s Website: deafheaven.com

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