‘Never judge a book by its cover’ may well be just another line of advice passed down from generation to generation but sometimes, it can’t help but be true. If any band have fallen victim to that old mantra, it’s Californian black-metallers Deafheaven.
Back in 2013, the band broke out of the pack with their third album ‘Sunbather’, but it drew more attention than perhaps even the band would’ve imagined. Boasting a cover of pastel pinks and orangey hues, it seemed to perfectly contradict the unabashed darkness that the album held within and, against all odds, it gained both critical acclaim and mainstream success across the board.
Now, just two years later, the band have returned with a fourth effort ‘New Bermuda’ and, as frontman George Clarke, it was an album that felt to be both comfortable yet challenging. “I think that we had figured out our sound a bit more,” Clarke confirms, on the other end of a phone line in the band’s home of San Francisco. “We were a little bit more confident with our songwriting going into this record and also, we had been playing with the band that we currently have, for the the last three years.” When ‘Sunbather’ had been written, it was just Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy behind it all, but for their newest full-length, it was a much more collaborative effort. “This is the first time we’ve written an album with those guys, and we’d gotten to the point where we really comfortable and we could go through ideas quicker. It was really stressful for a minute but it came together and I think that has a lot to with the fact that, after so much touring, we’re better players, we know what we want to do and we’re more cohesive with each other.”
“We were a little bit more confident with our songwriting going into this record"
— George Clarke
After the success of their third album, the band soon found themselves constantly on the road. Having played close to 200 shows during its cycle, it's unsurprising to discover that the group had honed their musical relationship, but that doesn't mean that their forthcoming full-length didn't present a challenge or two.
“There was definitely a lot of pressure,” Clarke admits. It didn't, however, seem to stem from the acclaim they had been met with, or the temptation to transform their sound so as to become even more widely-accepted. “I think we're always going to sound 'like us' to a degree. I think we do have our own sound but we just didn't want to write the same record. It wasn't really anything about critical pressure or anything like that, it was more about self. We had this record that got a lot of attention and accolades and I was just thinking, 'Can we do something different and still produce the same amount of love and attention?' That was a challenge.
“It was really about being as immersive as possible, and working hard and thinking about stuff, and over thinking. It was about paying attention to every detail and giving it 100%. I think that's what we did and in that case, we're a bit more confident. I feel like we were very thorough with this record and I think we achieved what we were going on for, which was a different sound than 'Sunbather'. It;s kinda in two parts; there's a lot of pressure, you're nervous and you're scared but you know how much you care about it and that fear gives you confidence in the record itself. You know that you need to have that.”
Deafheaven's new album 'New Bermuda' is out now on ANTI-. Taken from the September issue of DIY, out now.