Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Interview: Deafheaven

San Francisco is a fertile breeding ground for all sorts of artistic and creative minds. Weakling, Leviathan, Ludicra, Asunder, Slough Feg and Grayceon are just a few past and current metal bands that call the bay home. Since I started this blog, I've seen Dispirit (ex-Weakling, Asunder), Pale Chalice and Deafheaven make some of their first public appearances. These bands prove that the high standard of quality and creativity in Bay Area underground metal still continues. I've been listening to Deafheaven's self-released demo pretty regularly since I got it and I wanted to ask them a few questions about the band, getting signed to Deathwish, and their highly anticipated new album. This is my first ever band interview. I really enjoyed it and hope to do more in the future.

Introduce yourselves. What are your names and who plays what?

G: My name is George and I sing.

K: My name is Kerry and I play guitar.

The band has quite a unique sound. It contains the aggression and vocal approach of black metal, the melody and atmosphere of shoegaze, and the energy of hardcore. Was the idea to form a band to encapsulate these different elements, or is it simply an amalgam of everyone's influences?

G: We are influenced by a variety of aggressive and non-aggressive music. There was no conscious decision to create the music in a certain way. The songs just came out how they did and we were satisfied with the outcome.

K: We wanted to write something that was sort of showed everything that we are really into, but also try and make it as original as possible. At the same time, we also just wanted to write good songs, and things just came out the way they did.

What sort of themes does deafheaven explore? What can you tell us about the title "Roads To Judah?"

G: I focus a lot on self-loathing, regret, and nostalgia, but we are not bound to those themes. The lyrics are a collection of writings over certain periods of time that are blended together to create an overall emotion. Each song represents a certain time in my life, reflections on that time, and the emotions tied in. For Roads to Judah, the lyrics span the last year of my life. People may look too deeply into the title 'Roads to Judah', but actually, it refers to the N Judah train in San Francisco where I would do most of my writing on the way to work every day. With a lot of chaos in my life happening at the time, walking to the train was the only alone time that I had to collect my thoughts.

K: Musically, I'm incredibly into anything that will make a person saddened by what they're hearing. I'm also very much into layering textures of guitars on top of riffs to accent these emotions in a song or part. Anything depressing, ethereal, or angry.

The self released demo contains acoustic elements. Are these passages used as a break from the intensity of the tracks preceding it, or simply as a means to explore different melodies using different sound?

G: The acoustic passages are not to necessarily serve any purpose or heighten the intensity of the other tracks. They were just used because we liked the texture. The demo is less a fluid piece of music and more a collection of songs.

K: Exactly.

Will Roads to Judah have any acoustic elements?

G: We use some acoustic layering, but overall, no. Roads to Judah will not.

The cover of the demo shows what appears to be a frostbitten hand. What does this symbolize? Who is handling the artwork for the new album?

G: Honestly, not much thought was given to the demo artwork. When we created the demo, we had no intention of having it become what it is today. So, after we had recorded the songs, a friend came to us with the image. Liking it, we decided to use it. If it symbolizes anything, it's that we didn't want something typical. When people saw that image, I'm sure that musical association isn't what they imagined. For the new album, M. Boyd has taken the photos that we will be using and R. Sawyer for Rainbath Visual will be doing the rest.

I know one of your guitarists plays in another really cool band called Whirl. Is anyone else involved in any other projects outside of deafheaven?

K: Nick is in Whirl, and our drummer is in a doom/post metal band called Temple of Saturn.

I've seen you guys play at the Sub Mission Gallery and the Five Points art house. Are these kinds of alternative spaces and art galleries the ideal venue for a deafheaven show?

G: We enjoy playing all types of venues, as each gives us something different. However, in order to maximize the intensity that we hope to get across on the records, small spaces like those are ideal.

K: Small spaces with small or no stages are what we love.

Signing to Deathwish has created a lot of interest in the band which is great. Where you guys looking for a label at the time you got signed, or was that not really a priority? Getting signed to Deathwish was kind of a serendipitous thing right?

G: At the time we were approached by Deathwish, we were not actively looking for a label, but did have a couple offers on the table. After speaking with Deathwish for awhile, it became clear that they were the best option to take.

What are some of your favorite bands? Which ones have had an impact or influence on the new record?

K: On the record, musically speaking, we are mostly influenced by depressive, atmospheric, and Norwegian black metal, but the idea was to take that sound and mix in the dreamy subtleties of shoegaze and post rock while also incorporating the rawness of 90s screamo.

You've just finished your first West Coast tour. Are there any good stories from the road or any shows that were particularly memorable?

G: I think the most enjoyable thing about touring is just being able to meet new people and experience different areas of the country. As far as the shows went, the San Francisco show was our first time headlining and it stands as the best show we've played so far. Los Angeles and Seattle rank in amongst the top as well. Every area was a good time though.

14. Do you plan to tour the country more extensively once the new album comes out?

G: Yes, we definitely plan on touring as extensively as possible. More news with that will be announced as the year continues.

That about wraps it up. Thank you so much for your time. We'll be looking forward to the new album and of course more shows.

G: No, thank you. Always a Pleasure.

K: Thanks a lot.

Look for Deafheaven's first full length, Roads to Judah this Spring on Deathwish Inc.

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