Deafheaven‘s newest album, Sunbather, comes out tomorrow via Deathwish. It’s a record that Stereogum describes as “expansive, melodic, blinding, textured, dynamic, and moving.” For those who’ve followed the band since their arrival in 2010, the new album will come as no surprise, but for people discovering Deafheaven’s music for the first time, it will seem like a revelation, mixing as it does shoegaze, doom, and black metal for a hypnotic listen. We were lucky enough to be able to ask vocalist George Clarke a few questions via e-mail about Sunbather.
The opening track to your new album, “Dream House,” was referred to by NPR’s Lars Gotrich as having “the distant echoes of “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Do you feel the U2 comparison an apt one or not?
In a sense, yes. We are definite fans of the band and draw many influences from that era. Is it a direct, conscious influence? I’m not entirely sure. But I would definitely agree that the comparison is warranted, especially in the context that Lars was using.
Sunbather starts with that nine-minute track. Where do you go after that?
Most of our songs are on the longer side only because that’s how long we feel they need to be before they feel completed. Sunbather, as a whole, is an enormous piece of ebb and flow so the length of a single song doesn’t particularly mean anything to us.
The word “epic” gets tossed around a lot in regards to Deafheaven. Do you find this appropriate, or is their another way you’d describe the band’s sound?
It’s a word that writers generally use to describe us as having a large, emotional sound. In that sense, I don’t mind it. It’s obvious that sort of approach is vital to our sound.
The tone of your more recent material — especially your cover of Mogwai’s “Punk Rock / Cody” — denotes a step away from the double-kick roll on Roads to Judah to a more melodic bent. How does a band meld the melodic instrumentation with your blistering vocals?
This band has always had a focus on juxtaposition and while we have ventured into more melodic territories with parts of this album, the key is matching that against the vocal intensity. I find that it is the two opposing directions clashing together that helps make us interesting.
The feedback / noise on “Please Remember” almost serves as a point of delineation for Sunbather. Is it a way to divide the album, even if someone’s listening to it on CD or digitally?
Not necessarily, but with the sequencing, it tends to feel that way. The song itself is made to create a suffocating feeling that falls into a noisy dirge, then releases its tension and melts away. I think it’s fitting for the middle of the record.
Where did the found audio of the preacher, bus ride, and otherwise in “Windows” come from? It seems almost cinematic, and different from that which comes towards the end of “The Pecan Tree.”
The song was made to align the notions of a physical ‘Hell’ against one’s personal Hell. The preacher was a field recording taken in downtown San Francisco and it is placed against a drug deal that our guitar player Kerry was involved with.
Truthfully, if we’re hungover, we’ll get drunk again to play. A song like Vertigo is hard to place in a set because it’s so lengthily and we do usually have a strict set length. We haven’t begun to play that song live, but hopefully we will soon. As for the rest of them, they’re manageable.
Find tour dates and downloads for Deafheaven on their Deathwish page.