The life of a professional musician, particularly a touring musician, is an interesting dichotomy. In one distinct instance your lifestyle is considered fast-paced, highly scheduled and, to outsiders looking in, quite glamorous. Yet unless you’re Mick Jagger, the routine of everyday life – outside of band commitments – is often highlighted by its routine and indicated by its anonymity. Life off the road serves almost as a curtain, which hides the impressive creative feats that are evident when said musician is performing.
San Francisco’s Deafheaven are a band that can appreciate this notion. Highly regarded among listeners and similarly praised among critics, the group’s trajectory has only been a positive one. A quick moment of digression, though, we’ll still the claim the band as from the Bay Area, even though a significant portion of the members now reside in Los Angeles because, you know, ‘Beat LA!’ and all.
With their Australian tour on the horizon (honestly, this is a worthwhile purchase, if ever there was one, punters), we caught up with vocalist George Clarke during his downtime in between tours.
“When I’m at home, I settle into domestic life and pay bills that I’m late on, and have dinner with people I haven’t seen,” Clarke says, simply.
See, the life of the contemporary musician does have its relatable and basic qualities, too. However, it’s the music, and the upcoming tour we inquire about on this occasion. The return to Australia is a treat for us fans; the fact that the band is due to perform at the Sydney Opera House is just as exciting for the group.
“It will be an experience to say the least, I’m very much looking forward to it. I think it’s quite an opportunity, and an honour,” Clarke enthuses.
Time is a relative concept, but one thing is certain, the older you get, the quicker it seems to move. Just prior to our chat, Deafheaven celebrated the fifth anniversary of their debut (and, this writer’s personal favourite) album, ‘Roads To Judah’.
“It was a very exciting time,” Clarke observes. “It was stressful in a way, but that’s never going to go away. We were very young. We’ve grown and changed so much since then, personally and professionally. It’s definitely a stamp of that part of my life.”
— Deafheaven (@deafheavenband) April 26, 2016
Equally, Clarke is reflective when framing the band’s career so far, and each albums personal connection. “I consider those three records [‘Roads To Judah’, ‘Sunbather’ and ‘New Bermuda’] to be a trilogy in a sense. I suspect the following record will deviate from [them], as the first three records all kind of revolved around my transition to adulthood.”
Furthermore, the reception between the band and audience is of observed importance as well. “I’m always a bit surprised but very humbled by people that connect with what we do, lyrically. In the way that I’ve experienced the bands I love, lyrics can definitely travel with a lot of meaning. I’m happy that what we do affects certain people in the same way,” Clarke surmises.
Moreover, Deafheaven’s diverse and often hard to define sound (even within metal’s endless stream of sub-genres) opens the group up to much opportunity. As mentioned before, the band will perform at the Sydney Opera House, as part of VIVID (and their headline tour) this June. Similarly, the quintet recently performed at Coachella, with hardly a metal band to see (or, hear) in sight.
“Rancid was probably the closest thing to the bands that kind of sound like us, and [that] band sounds nothing like us,” Clarke laughs. “We were pretty [much] on the outside, but it was fun. It’s fun to see different walks of people, and to see the community on a broader scale, not just [from] a metal side of things. We were probably the odd man out. It was both challenging but enjoyable at the same time.”
Remaining on the topic of touring, the band has also done respective tours with noted, and influential, peers. Most recently, Deafheaven shared a bill with Lamb of God, Anthrax and Power Trip. Clarke affirms that the experience was insightful, if not inspiring, providing reason to feel optimistic about his band’s longevity.
“We got to see people that have being doing this [for a long time], people who feel passionate about what they do, [and] continue to do that decades after they started. That whole thing was very inspiring. It’s good to know that if you work hard and you stay consistent, your band will continue to flourish years later.”
Another interesting topic that is permeating the practice (and survival) of contemporary bands today is the concept of crowdfunding. Ne Oblivisicaris got a healthy dialogue going with their Patreon campaign. Essentially, though, it’s an ‘each to their own’ proposition. For Clarke, the infancy of Deafheaven was marked by hardship, which has provided resolve and perspective.
“I think everyone has their own way of going about it. If a band wants to use some kind of funding campaign with their fans, to keep them going, I think that’s fine. With us, though, we took the more traditional route, which was homelessness and being in debt, and touring 250 shows a year and just climbing out of that debt, and trying to make ourselves stronger,” Clarke says.
Now, if we haven’t made the point already (we have, but we’ll make it again), us Aussies are looking forward to hearing ‘New Bermuda’ in a live setting. Accordingly, we probed the vocalist on what he is anticipating about the return visit. “I’m really looking forward to going back to Crowbar in Brisbane. I’m [also] looking forward to going to Perth, and lying on the beach, hopefully.”
Additionally, the tour package has a well-selected yet eclectic mix, with the likes of High Tension, Hope Drone and Sanzu rounding out the respective shows. “We wanted something that was going to switch it up, and have a bit of variety for the audience. I think it will be well rounded, and a good time,” Clarke endorses.
There you have it, folks. “A good time.” Here’s to counting down to June.
You catch Deafheaven on their Australian tour this June. Tickets are available via Handsome Tours.