Our palms were sweaty, our knees were weak, and we were nervous. After our interview with Shaun Durkan , I (Jon) mustered up the strength, greeted and introduced myself to the lead vocalist of Deafheaven, George Clarke. I inquired about the interview and he happily obliged. Guitarist Kerry McCoy sat next to him, idly scanning his Twitter on his phone, and bassist Stephen Clark was chatting with other bands nearby. With our questions ready, and an iPhone quietly recording, we interviewed one of our favorite bands about record players, DIY shows, high school, Shannyn Sossamon and touring.
PNG: So how’s the tour been?
George: Tour’s been good, we’re about four and a half weeks in. It’s been a longer run because we’ve been in cold weather for the most part, but uhh, the crowds have been responsive, and people in the package have been really cool. We’ve been hanging out with Intronaut every night and enjoying those guys especially. And I guess, you know, full speed ahead.
PNG: Why’d you guys decide to go to Spillover MF and not South By So What?!? with BTBAM and all those other guys?
George: Uhh that, uh, that festival wasn’t really, I dont think it would’ve been beneficial for us to play it. We’re kind of a really strong outsider, and we probably wouldn’t have done too well. I think that this [Spillover MF] is more of our crowd and we have friends playing and, for us it was just the better option.
Michael: You probably chose the better choice too. I’ve been to South By So What?!?! for two years in a row and it’s just a bunch of scene kids. (laughs)
George: I just, you know, not my thing.
Michael: Yeah, to each his own. So, what’s it like being on Deathwish Records?
George: It’s cool. Tre’s a cool dude, you know, they support us about everything we need and have a good attitude about it and are open to everything we do creatively, and that’s all you can ask for: loads of support and open-mindedness.
Michael: It seems like one big family. I know Nick from Touché Amoré did the artwork for Sunbather, am I right?
George: Yeah, us and those guys have a good friendship. There’s certain bands on the roster that we connect with really well, that we’ve sort of grown together with. And uhh, it’s a good thing.
Michael: Do you have any other best friends on the Deathwish roster?
George: Uhhh, I think we’re friends with Oathbreaker people, who are great, uhhh, (to Kerry) who else? Yeah that’s probably it. We’re good friends with the Touché guys, that’s who were closest with, and umm Nick Basset plays on a Deathwish band and he’s played with us for a while. He’s a good friend of ours.
Jon: Kerry, how do you approach riff-writing, because the riffs on Sunbather are just sticky…
Kerry McCoy (left) and Jon Birondo (right) at Club Dada in Dallas
Kerry: I write it on an acoustic guitar first, to make sure it’s decent and then I put it into a loop station and keep adding to it until I have a full song.
Michael: How do you approach pedals?
Kerry: I fake all of it, I don’t know anything about petals. I have like a tap-tempo, digital delay, and a chorus and a reverb and I bullsh*t my way through the rest of it.
Michael: True (laughs).
Jon: So Sunbather was named Metacritic’s Number One album of the year. How did you guys react to that?
George: It’s cool. Umm, the thing about critics is that it’s something that holds weight, but really doesn’t. I’m flattered by all the positive criticism, but at the end of the day, it’s just one person’s opinion. What matters to me is getting out and playing shows for people that are really invested in the band and just connecting in that way, but it’s cool. It’s interesting.
Michael: So it’s like “Take it with a grain of salt?”
George: Very much so. I don’t like to read our press, when we get some things it’s cool, though. I appreciate it, it’s awesome.
Jon: How was the 285 Kent show? I’ve been watching those videos for the whole week and-
George: It was great! It was kinda crazy, we didn’t play until 3 in the morning, so it was hectic and long, but it was fun and good people put it on and promoted it. We’re always happy to work with people that want to work with us.
Michael: Do you prefer DIY venues or smaller venues than big ones? Does it matter?
George: I used to. I used to prefer smaller… stages. But as like our music has become more technical and we have to… you know, there are certain things that need to be heard, and there has to be a certain sound on stage. I do like playing something with a better sound system, more clarity. I think it’s better for the audience overall. But both have their advantages. Right now, I’m kinda enjoying the stage. Its fun.
Michael: So like house shows aren’t fun anymore?
George: No, I mean house shows will always be fun. It’s just if I had the preference, I wanna.. uhhh, one of the important parts of this band is sounding good. And I want it to sound like the record sounds. And in a live setting you just need a certain amount of muscle to be able to do that, and house shows, you know, just can’t provide that. House shows are really fun; they’re the funnest shows you can play. So, if and when we do them, it’s a great time, but I feel like in order to give to the audience what we want to give we need to sound how we need to sound.
Jon: Cool! What’s music, nowadays, that’s not metal, music that fans would be surprised that you like listening to?
George: I don’t know, we’re pretty open about our musical taste. I don’t know anything people would be surprised about. Stuff I’ve been listening to lately: Lots of Grouper, Active Child, lots of Spins, Nick Cave, and… yeah those three records. I’ve been sitting on them for a while. I’ll keep it at those three, it’s easy, Grouper, Active Child, and Nick Cave.
Michael: So those are the three big ones right now?
George: It’s like on a daily basis, I’ll probably hear each of these records like once a day, or every other day. I mean so much time in the band, and I kinda like soaking in a record, and so we have a good month sink them in.
Michael: Do you have enough space in the van for a record player?
George:For a record player? Oh no, oh we wouldn’t anyway… Having a record player in your van would be really inconvenient, and I would worry about it too much. No I mean everything’s just digital in a car.
Michael: Oh yeah I assumed it was vinyl…
George:Yeah… spinning record… its just the terminology I use…
Michael: Aight, I understaynd. So what do you guys aim to do the rest of 2014?
George: We’re touring a lot! The main goal for this year is to tour as much as possible, play as many places as we can play, and hopefully at the end of the year when we calm down from all the shows we can start focusing on writing new records.
Jon: Are you planning on coming back to Dallas?
George:Yeah, I don’t know… were doing a US in June. I want to say Dallas is gonna be there. I know Austin is and I think Houston is so I’m gonna assume Dallas. Right now I don’t know, I won’t know for a few weeks, but yeah, I mean I love playing here. We played here last summer, and it was awesome, and I’m happy about tonight. We’ll keep coming back.
Michael: So you guys just came back from SXSW, right?
George:No, no we’ve been on a full US tour, but we didn’t touch South By this year. It just couldn’t fit in to our plans. We’ve done South By for two years, and maybe we’ll do it next year, but for this year it just wasn’t in the schedule.
Michael: So, what was it like in the past?
George:It’s a s**t show. It’s really chaotic and suffocating, and really, really fun but really really tiring and there’s always something eventful happen. It’s a huge party that you have the responsibility of playing multiple times over the course of the couple of days that it lasts. Its fun. We’ve had wild times.
Michael: I haven’t heard anyone say it’s relaxing all over the place. So…
George: Its just really… Intense. It’s always intense.
Michael: So what were you guys doing when you were in high school?
George: Not paying attention. Going to shows. Drinking. Girls. All the things you kind of like want to do but shouldn’t do… I guess that was kind of my high school. It was good.
Michael: Do you have like a favorite high school concert memory?
George:I went to so many. I mean when I was like 16 I went and saw Mogwai with Interpol and The Cure. Probably the first Curiosa Festival. That was one that sticks out.
Watch Interpol perform “Roland”
Michael:Oh wow! (To Jon) That is YOUR lineup…
Jon: I love ALL those bands. That sounds great!
George:Yeah, it was really tight, and The Rapture opened, and then came other people. Oh yeah and Cursive played. Man that was a fun… that first Curiosa was sick! And then just punk shows, like northern California, like Bay Area, punk shows. Like everyone… that’s just what you did. I could name off a million bands that, you know, wouldn’t matter this way or that way, but were really fun to see back at that time.
PNG: Do you like to be active, when you’re at a punk show, like stage diving and s**t?
George: I mean like… I’m 25 now. I went to that American Nightmare reunion and stage dove then, and cracked the back of my head open, and I was bleeding a ton, and I went to the bathroom in the venue and I looked in the mirror and thought “eh not anymore… too old…” I mean not too old, but too old for me. I prefer just watching a band now. But yeah back in the day yeah… I got so f***ed up like we’d always leave shows with bruises, and cuts, stuff like that, or worse. It evolves.
Michael: Is it like, “I don’t have the same kind of energy or tolerance for pain?” or…?
George:I just don’t care as much, truthfully. That’s what the kids are for, and I think everyone has their moment when they want to do that, and yeah, I just don’t care enough. I’m on the flipside now where I really like enjoying watching a band perform, and I enjoy the performance, rather than the interaction of it. I like to see the way bands play, and how well they play, and things like that. Focus on that, focus on the songs, rather than just being as wild as I can and seeing flashes of the band in my periphery.
Michael: How was the American Nightmare show?
George:It was fun, it was fun. I was never like a huge… like I was never really into that band like super hard, but their drummer is a dude that we know and he hooked it up and I recognized some songs from when I was younger. A lot of friends, old friends, it was fun. They were good, they played really well, and I got a little too ecstatic at one point… front flipped and payed for it. Pretty bad.
Michael: Did you have a group of friends that you went to shows with in high school?
George: Uh… Yeah, Yeah. I think everyone does, right?. I think I went to a couple shows by myself, but only knowing that there were going to be people there with, but yeah there was always like a good group.
PNG: Yeah, all our friends like country, so we’re kind of like on our own.
George: Yeah that’s grand stuff. It happens,
PNG: I guess going to a Catholic private high school doesn’t’ help. But (laughs)-
George: It doesn’t, no you gotta go to Downey High in Modesto. Yeah Modesto’s where the cool kids are. If you wanna get high in the bathroom and talk about f**king nerve agents or something like that, go to Modesto.
PNG: Is that where you went?
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2…