Deafheaven's George Clarke: My life is much more balanced these days

Categories: Q&A
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Courtesy of Deathwish

Every so often, a surprise makes its way onto the Billboard Charts. In 2013, that surprise was Deafheaven's critically praised Sunbather, the second studio album written entirely by the group's two founding members, George Clarke and Kerry McCoy. The album is a modern interpretation and juxtaposition of elements of black metal, post-rock, and shoegaze. It eventually became one of 2013's most acclaimed albums.

Despite their almost immediate success -- just after releasing their first demo, they were picked up by Deathwish Inc., a label formed by Converge's vocalist Jacob Bannon -- Deafheaven manage to maintain a sense of modesty while continuing to place the majority of their focus on ensuring that their music reaches the maximum amount of listeners possible. They recently returned from a series of performances in Australia, and have already embarked upon a U.S. tour. Gimme Noise enjoyed a chat with vocalist George Clarke as he prepared for their sold-out show this evening at the Triple Rock.

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How did you and Kerry McCoy get started playing music together? You were in Rise of Caligula together before Deafheaven...

We've been in multiple smaller bands together. We met when we were 14. It's like anything else: It kind of started with a really shitty freshman year, sophomore year garage band, and went from there.

What kind of bands did you play in during high school?

Kerry was always in punk bands. I was in like one metal band as a sophomore in high school, and then Kerry and I got together, I think senior year of high school, and started playing together, and that formed the band that was before Deafheaven. When we decided to actually take things seriously, we started writing material for Deafheaven.

Did you have a friend who introduced you to metal or did you seek it out yourself?

A little bit of both. The group of friends that we all hung out with were all equally as interested in that sort of thing, so we would all look through magazines and buy CDs without hearing them -- that whole way of going about it. My junior/senior year, we all exchanged everything, and that's when more of the shoegaze stuff started to get introduced.

How long did you play in Rise of Caligula together?

Just a couple years. We weren't living in San Francisco at the time; we were sort of stuck in small towns. I hold that band sort of on par to being just one of the run-of-the-mill local bands. When Kerry and I moved to San Francisco, we decided to push through to kind of what we're doing now.

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Reid Haithcock
Deafheaven

Did you go to San Francisco with this as a goal?

No. Actually, we were just sort of bored with what we were doing. There wasn't a plan to start a band -- we didn't even have a band when we started this project. It was more like a hobby until it started getting picked up on, and then we decided to be serious about it.

So you formed Deafheaven, and released a demo. Then your first album, Roads to Judah, was released in 2011. Did you bring new members into the band before or after the Deathwish signing?

Before the label offer, we were asked by a local promoter to play a show, and it wasn't really something that we had thought too much about before. We had a couple months to sort of pull a band together, so we got a couple extra players and started slowly doing shows, and I think after our fifth show, Deathwish contacted us about releasing the record.

You've said Roads to Judah was about a rough year that you had. Can you talk about that a little bit?

It was just sort of right around the time that we were living in this house that was just kind of crazy. There were a lot of people living in it. It was just ridiculous. We had parties every night. Everyone was doing every drug. It was a really crazy party environment that left me exhausted by the time it was done.

How old were you?

Twenty-one.

Were you also working at the time, or going to school?

We were working at these terrible jobs, and just scraping by and stealing food, just being shitheads.

So the concept of the album is...

It's just kind of living excessively and getting nowhere. It's like wasting a year in a blacked-out, drugged-out, exhausted state of mind.

Is that something that you've continued to struggle with?

No. My life is much more balanced these days.



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