Deafheaven Continues to Expand Far Beyond Its Death Metal Roots and Defy Expectations on Sprawling, Romantic New Album

The band's co-headlining tour with DIIV in support of 'Ordinary Corrupt Human Love' comes to the Taft Theatre's Ballroom on Nov. 7

Oct 30, 2018 at 12:36 pm
click to enlarge Deafheaven - Photo: Corinne Shiavone
Photo: Corinne Shiavone

Deafheaven’s latest and best album, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, is yet another immersive experience, more than an hour of dynamic soundscaping that deftly moves from corrosive guitar riffage and jackhammer drumming to pensive, piano-laced atmospherics, often within the same song.

Yet there is also something different in the air this time out, a wistful melancholy that was not as apparent on their 2013 breakthrough Sunbather or its heavier follow-up, 2015’s New Bermuda.

Formed in 2010 by singer George Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy, the San Francisco-based band — which is rounded out by guitarist Shiv Mehra, drummer Daniel Tracy and new bassist Chris Johnson — has transcended its early Black Metal tag by incorporating everything from Shoegaze to Radiohead-esque experimentation into its heavier, Slayer-influenced leanings.

CityBeat recently connected with Clarke — whose delivery has likewise evolved from guttural yelps to a more diverse vocal palette — via phone to discuss what influenced the writing and recording of Ordinary Corrupt Human Love.

CityBeat: You guys recorded this one in your own backyard in Oakland this time. What difference did that make?

George Clarke: We recorded it at 25th Street Recording in Oakland. We actually did a lot of New Bermuda tracking there also. We just really like that room. Jack Shirley, our producer who we always work with, was actually in-between studios. He shut down his studio in Palo Alto (California) and rebuilt it in Oakland, but it wasn’t quite ready, and that room is closest to the setup that he uses. We were all just very comfortable with it. One of the big things about recording this album was comfort, and we wanted to be in a good headspace, so it just fell in line.

CB: Your music can be quite cinematic and immersive. Some of the songs run past the 10-minute mark. How do you go about writing the longer songs — and, given their kind of ebb-and-flow structure, how do you know when they are done?

GC: Yeah, we’re all big movie fans and soundtrack fans. Kerry and Shiv especially pay a lot of attention to soundtracks, and in some way, we are probably influenced by that. But what often happens is that Shiv will have a more aggressive guitar part that he will show everyone — a Metal riff in a certain key — and Kerry will be like, “Hey, I’ve been working on this big instrumental passage that I don’t know what to do with. It’s in that same key. Why don’t we see if we can combine them?” And then we work for a few hours to see if we can take Kerry’s idea and Shiv’s idea and put them together in a way that makes sense and has a good flow. And that just keeps happening, so it’s just that over and over and then we’ll all look at each other and be like, “Oh, shit, this song is 12 minutes long.” I would like to say that it’s part of some bigger plan, but it’s pretty natural and organic. When we’re all together and playing, we rarely want to stop, and I think that shows itself on our albums.

CB: Each of your records is different in subtle ways. How did you approach the writing and recording of this album compared to your previous output?

GC: I think every album that we do is in some way a reaction to our previous one. After we finish an album and we tour on it for two years, the last thing that we want to do is write a record that reflects that same sound, just because it feels tired for us. That being said, there’s not like a “Hey, let’s write a bright-sounding record that ups the guitar solos!” Those conversations don’t really happen. What does happen a lot though is that we share music. We are all always listening to music and hanging out and talking to each other. And then when we get to writing, I don’t know how to explain it — it’s kind of like we unconsciously decide what we are going to do based on our just hanging out and sharing.

CB: How do you think the crazy current political and social climate impacted the writing and recording of this record?

GC: I think it did, certainly. It would have been impossible for it not to. One of the initial ideas for the album was to create something that presented a bit of a different narrative. I think there has been a lot of focus on separation of people, and I wanted to kind of remind, at least our audience, that we’re all in this together and above everything else it’s important to be understanding and kind to one another. I think in some way the album definitely reflects that mindset.

When I was first coming up with themes for the record, I remember saying to the guys that I wanted this to be our “celebration” album. I want it to be focused on life and togetherness and the acceptance of the whole thing. Perhaps that was in part because, if you pay any attention to the media or the political climate right now, you’re constantly bombarded by the horrors of the world, and I needed something, at least for a moment, to remove myself from that.

CB: This album seems more romantic than the stuff you’ve done in the past…

GC: Yes! You hit the nail on the head. I love when people call this album “romantic,” because I very much get that feeling, too. I think it has a certain warmth to it and it feels more loving than our other records, and that’s definitely intentional.

Deafheaven performs 8 p.m. Nov. 7 at Taft Theatre’s Ballroom with DIIV. Tickets/more info: