San Francisco outfit Deafheaven enjoyed a breakout year in 2013 following the release of their critically acclaimed opus ‘Sunbather’.
Mixing the gauzy textural haze and dynamics of shoe-gaze and post rock acts such as My Bloody Valentine and Mogwai with the ferocious blast-beats and tremolo picking that heralded the arrival of the first wave of European Black Metal, Deafheaven moved beyond the realms of cult act to find a wider audience on the back of the critical consensus.
We Are Noise caught up with them beforehand to take acclaim, mounting expectations, labeling and the new wave of Black Metal currently emerging from America.
For the benefit of our Irish readers coming fresh toDeafheaven, can you start with a brief introduction and how the group came to be?
Kerry McCoy and I began the project in 2010, eventually signing with Deathwish Inc. that year and have released two LPs and one split since then.
You guys have had a pretty rapid rise to prominence – you went from relative obscurity to singing with the renownedDeathwish label. How did that come about? Do you think it might have had any effect on how the band evolved, giving that ye essentially did so in the public eye?
Tre McCarthy approached us with releasing a record and we agreed. It definitely made us grow up quickly as we had to develop our early stages in front of audiences without serving time as a ‘local’ band for very long.
Deafheaven tend to be viewed as being part of the new wave of progressive American Black Metal bands (along with Liturgy and Wolves in the Throne Room among others) that also take influence from the post-rock scene. From the groups own perspective, do ye feel more musically connected to the early wave of European black metal, whose views and aesthetics certainly differ greatly from your own, or do you identify more with the shoe-gaze and post-rock groups?
We are influenced by both styles of music to a pretty equal degree by this point and choose to not identify with any group in particular
Do you think there’s any specific reason that this new wave of Black metal groups with similar aesthetics have emerged from different corners of America at the same time? I imagine ye have had to deal with purists on either side of the genre spectrum…
For whatever reason, I think that a lot of creativity has been produced from the base level influence of the black metal genre and through shared ideas and experiments, a lot of bands have come to find their own way in the style’s evolution.
The music of Deafheaven requires commitment and resolve, not only from the musicians themselves but from the listener too. The structural complexity, sonic depth, sheer weight and absolute expansiveness of the music is equally guttural and transcendental in its impact. Can you explain the process behind its evolution?
It typically begins with assorted riffs that, once developed, are pieced together in to one fluid piece of music. Other than that, we just write what we write and structurally put things together in a way that we deem most impactful
In four short years the group has come from nowhere to become one of the more critically acclaimed heavy, experimental rock groups out there. What, if any sort of effect do these plaudits have on the band and is it balanced in any way by the burden of expectations the group now faces? Did you as a group have any specific goals or expectations when ye started out?
People have raised us onto a pedestal that we could have never expected. It’s flattering, but yes, there is a bit of pressure at times. Our only intention ever was to make music that we’re happy with and play shows with artists that we like.
Following on from that, the notions of ‘Wealth verses Lifestyle choices’ (Dream House) seemed to inform some of the lyrical output on Sunbather. Given that the nature of the music industry has changed inherently over the past 15 years (and with it the meaning of terms such as ‘commercial success’ and ‘selling out’), what do you envision the future has in store for the members of Deafheaven as you get older and priorities change?
I don’t have any idea. I only hope that we don’t settle and end up pursuing anything that we are truly interested in and happy with
Finally, this is your second time in Ireland (following on from the tour with Russian Circles) – any particularly memorable moments from the last time you were here?
Belfast was a good drunken time, Limerick at the old pub was fun, pretty drives…