Music So Heavy You Might Go Deaf

Staff Writer: Hannah Johnson  

Deafheaven are an American band formed in 2010. Originally based in San Francisco, the group began as a two-piece with singer George Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy, who recorded and self-released a demo album together. Following its release, Deafheaven recruited three new members and began to tour. Before the end of 2010, the band signed to Deathwish Inc. and later released their debut album Roads to Judah, in April 2011. A follow-up album, Sunbather, was released in 2013 to wide critical acclaim, becoming one of the best reviewed albums of the year in the United States. In 2015 the band released their third album, New Bermuda, and in 2018 their fourth, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love.  

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Even back in the day, Deafheaven still drew in a crowd like no one’s business.

 

Deafheaven’s musical style has been described by Rolling Stone as a “boundary-pushing blend of black metal, shoegaze and post-rock”. McCoy has cited various other influences on the band’s sound, including alternative rock and early thrash metal, and said they do not consider themselves a black metal band, as although influenced by the genre, they do not have “the ethos, the aesthetic or really the sound of one”.  In a 2017 interview with Red Bull Music Academy Daily, McCoy stated: “The whole shoegaze/black metal, or post-black metal thing, was being done ten years before we were a band.” 

Formed in February 2010].  in San Francisco, California with vocalist George Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy, who previously performed in the grind core band Rise of Caligula together. Clarke isn’t sure how he arrived on the name Deafheaven, though he is aware of its appearance in William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29. The two words ‘deaf’ and ‘heaven’ were combined as a homage to Slowdive.  “Seeing them live was a total life changing experience, you think youre just going to hear some loud screaming and sparatic drumming, then you are hit with some of the softest melodies your ears will ever hear.” – Anthony Scott, junior at Kennesaw State. 

Clarke and McCoy recorded an untitled demo album in April 2010 at Atomic Garden Studios with Jack Shirley for about five hundred dollars, which the band couldn’t afford at the time. Because the duo didn’t own an electric guitar or amp at the time, the demo was written on an acoustic guitar and recorded with equipment borrowed from the studio. The untitled demo, which was released digitally and on cassette tape in limited quantities, featured four songs that combined traditional black metal and post-rock. Originally, Deafheaven didn’t intend to release the material, but they later sent it out to a few of their favorite blogs.  After the demo had been positively received, Clarke and McCoy recruited three additional musicians—bassist Derek Prine, guitarist Nick Bassett of the shoegaze band Whirr (formerly Whirl and drummer Trevor Deschryver, who responded to an ad on Craigslist—to form a five-piece group and started playing their first shows in July 2010. 

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George Clark posing very mysteriously for a gloomy, grey picture. This really catches the “essence” of what Deafheaven is really about.

 

 Deafheaven announced they had signed to Deathwish Inc. In December of 2010—a label that was founded by Converge’s vocalist Jacob Bannon. Deathwish contacted Deafheaven, and originally only wanted to give their demo a wide physical release. By this point, the group already had some new material written and asked if Deathwish could release both the demo and the new material. The first release that Deafheaven released through Deathwish was a 7″ vinyl single that featured “Libertine Dissolves” and “Daedalus,” two songs that were taken from the group’s demo. The single was pressed in a limited quantity and sent out as a gift to random people that made a purchase from Deathwish’s webstore. “My friends got me into Deafheaven a while ago and I thank them all the time for opening up my world.”- Michael Smith, sophomore at Kennesaw State. 

Their debut album, Roads to Judah, was released on April 26, 2011 through Deathwish. The title of the album is a reference to the N Judah light rail that provides transportation in Deafheaven’s hometown, and lyrically the album is about Clarke’s “year of substance abuse and debauchery.” Roads to Judah received positive reviews from Decibel and RVA Magazine, and was placed on several year-end lists including NPR, Pitchfork and The A.V. Club. MSN Music also named Deafheaven one of the best new artists of 2011. 

To promote Roads to Judah, Deafheaven performed at Austin, Texas’ SXSW festival in March 2011, toured the United States with the Canadian noise rock band KEN mode in June 2011, performed at California’s Sound and Fury Festival in July 2011, toured the US with the post-rock band Russian Circles in November 2011, and performed a European tour in February of 2012. McCoy said that Russian Circles “took us under their wing” while on tour and taught them how a band ought to behave. He said, “The three rules of any successful band are to write good tunes, be excellent live, and to not be an asshole while doing that. We were always striving to do that, but [Russian Circles] hammered it into our heads.” Deafheaven also participated in the mid-2012 festivals Northside in Brooklyn, New York and Fun, Fun, Fun in Austin, Texas. “I saw them play live earlier this year with Drab Majesty at the Masquerade. Holy crap I almost cried when they started playing Canary Yellow. Beautiful stuff, man.”- Rachal Mcall, freshman at Georgia Tech. 

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Deafheaven at the Masquerade reaching out to the crowd. Giving them all a show to remember.

 

Their debut album, Roads to Judah, was released on April 26, 2011 through Deathwish. The title of the album is a reference to the N Judah light rail that provides transportation in Deafheaven’s hometown, and lyrically the album is about Clarke’s “year of substance abuse and debauchery.” Roads to Judah received positive reviews from Decibel and RVA Magazine, and was placed on several year-end lists including NPR, Pitchfork and The A.V. Club. MSN Music also named Deafheaven one of the best new artists of 2011. 

To promote Roads to Judah, Deafheaven performed at Austin, Texas’ SXSW festival in March 2011, toured the United States with the Canadian noise rock band KEN mode in June 2011, performed at California’s Sound and Fury Festival in July 2011, toured the US with the post-rock band Russian Circles in November 2011, and performed a European tour in February of 2012. McCoy said that Russian Circles “took us under their wing” while on tour and taught them how a band ought to behave. He said, “The three rules of any successful band are to write good tunes, be excellent live, and to not be an asshole while doing that. We were always striving to do that, but [Russian Circles] hammered it into our heads.” Deafheaven also participated in the mid-2012 festivals Northside in Brooklyn, New York and Fun, Fun, Fun in Austin, Texas. “I saw them play live earlier this year with Drab Majesty at the Masquerade. Holy crap I almost cried when they started playing Canary Yellow. Beautiful stuff, man.”- Rachal Mcall, freshman at Georgia Tech. 

 In addition to new drummer Daniel Tracy, who was a part of the band for the recording of Sunbather, the band recruited bassist Stephen Clark and guitarist Shiv Mehra for 2013 tours. Founding members Clarke and McCoy said previous band members parted ways due to difficulties with life on the road and earning little-to-no money. Deafheaven’s first tour in support of Sunbather was a European/Russian tour with The Secret in April/May 2013 followed by a US tour with Marriages in June/July.  In 2014, Deafheaven toured Australia in January, supported Between the Buried and Me with Intronaut and The Kindred in February/March, toured Asian and European tour in May/June, the US with Pallbearer in June, a second European tour in August, and a North American tour with No Joy in September.  

In 2013, Deafheaven members Daniel Tracy and Shiv Mehra formed a psychedelic rock side project called Creepers with Varun Mehra and Christopher Natividad. That year, the band released a self-titled EP, and in 2014, it will release its debut album Lush through All Black Recording Company —an indie label founded by George Clarke and former Deafheaven member Derek Prine. 

On Aug. 25, 2014, Deafheaven released a new single titled “From the Kettle onto the Coil” as a part of the cable network Adult Swim’s 2014 weekly singles series. Clarke described the song as following a similar formula to songs composed for Sunbather and wasn’t a strong indication of what the band’s third studio album might sound like. 

In July 2015, Deafheaven began teasing their third studio album for a possible October 2015 release through Epitaph Records’ sister label ANTI- with a short video featuring new music clips, studio footage and views of a rocky coastline. On July 28, 2015, the band announced their third studio album, titled New Bermuda, which was released on October 2, 2015, through ANTI-. New Bermuda was named the 12th best album of the year in 2015 Spin magazine. 

The band started working on the follow up to New Bermuda in January 2018, when they announced they were in the studio working on a new album, scheduled for release later in the year. On April 17, 2018, the band released “Honeycomb”, the lead single to their fourth studio album Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. On June 12, 2018, a new track from the new album titled “Canary Yellow” was released. The album was released on July 13, 2018 through Anti- Records. It received widespread acclaim from critics. 

All photos compiled from creative commons 

 

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