When I look back at which homegrown releases that I’ll have loved the most this year, one of the records that will stand tall and proud amongst the rest in 2017 will be Deafcult’s recent debut LP, ‘Auras’. It’s a truly grand shoegaze record and one that takes the band’s dreamy, reverberant sound to engrossing new heights from their previous five-track EP. Following the release of this immense new album, guitarist and singer Stevie Scott – one of the key songwriters for Deafcult – spoke with me about this record’s warm reception, my recent 85/100 review, how he aims to maintain the purest vision of the band’s music, how their layered songs first start off and writing for three other guitarists. Read the full interview below!
To start us off Stevie, what was the expectation for this record? Excluding my own review for KYS, I’ve seen some other very positive reviews of the record so far.
This time was really different for us as the first release was just a demo and from that, we had an actual idea of what we actually sounded like. So this record allowed us to explore things; from softer songs, fuzzier moments, and just experiment more than we had before.
Well, with Deafcult’s sound, had you or any of the other members played in similar sounding bands prior to the six of you creating this one?
No, not at all, man. The demo’s songs were written a year or so ago before we made the band. My original idea for the band was to just get six or so people together, record this music, and that would have been it, really. We’d never really considered being a real band until that release was finished. Matt, our other guitarist who had also played with me in The Gifthorse, he hadn’t heard that kind of music before, in fact.
Oh, right! So, with the shoegaze sound of the band, where you into the older, progenitor bands of this sound, like Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine?
Well, I’m 34 and I’m obviously Scottish, so growing up in high school, Slowdive were obviously a big deal. But to be honest with you man, while I do love that music, I think there’s also elements of Acid House and Stone Roses and lots of other things going on. Sub-pop bands like Mud Honey as well. There are loads of influences that we have, and of course, in me being Scottish, The Jesus And The Mary Chain were a big deal as well. They were definitely the key influence for our band, as I personally wanted to make music like them
I’m very familiar with The Jesus And The Mary Chain and I find that many bands like yourselves do take some kind of influence from them. Now, again on the style of this record, a hardcore band called Hundredth recently did a massive 180-degree shift and released a post-punk/shoegaze record called ‘Rare’. And one very big band for them was The Jesus And Mary Chain.
Oh right! I have heard of that band, someone told me about that record today actually. But that’s cool. I do think that bands like My Bloody Valentine are the first ones you think of when you think of shoegaze. But to me, they were more of a punk band and had more in common with bands like Dinosaur Jr. I just never associated them with Slowdive and Ride. I do get the comparisons, though. I mean, the way I play guitar is definitely influenced by Kevin Shields and that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean that I want Deafcult to sound exclusively like those bands. There’s so much more in the world to pull from!
For sure man! Now, when you did the Hysteria Mag interview with our own Owen Morawtiz, you mentioned about how you write the tremolo parts and then use the other guitars to play off those sections or attenuate that tremolo. And in doing that with four guitarists, does it ever get tricky working out which member will play what? Does it ever get a bit much for you and the band?
Everyone sort of has their own place. So me and Immez [Tulloch, vocals/guitar] as we both sing, we get the chord parts whereas as Kelly [Hanlon] and Matt [Bach] play the lead guitar parts. I think that whenever we write songs, it all comes down to who I think will enjoy playing them more. Matt’s a more rock n’ roll player so I give him those kinds of parts. Kelly comes from a fuzz-pop wavelength so she gets that kind of stuff alongside myself. It’s never really been a problem for us. I’ve got demos and demos of this stuff and ‘Auras’ sounds nothing like them. It just becomes its own thing.
Good to hear you guys manage it. Well with the nature of this new record, and where it comes – from memories, dreams, and so on – what comes first for you: the feelings and the emotional ideas or the music?
Well…. I think that the music comes first. The way we do it is that we don’t write words to begin with, as I’ll just go to a studio at 3am in the morning for instance, and start singing. Which adds to the dreaminess of our sound. So whatever I sing isn’t real words, and then Immez will figure out what I’m doing and she’ll harmonise with me. It’s weird, man. It’s hard for me to talk about the writing process as there’s actually so little involved.
Well, even so, the end result is amazing, man! But what you just said then about singing sounds and the notes rather than the actual words, that reminds me a lot of how Metallica’s James Hetfield and Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath write their vocal parts. They sing these almost-gibberish melodies first then from that, they work out what lyrics best associate it.
FINALLY! Someone has put me in the same category as Metallica and Rise Against! [Laughs]. Seems like great company to keep.
Oh, for sure mate! Now, one thing I touched upon in my review was that the album becomes more repetitive for me the further it goes along. Did you have anything to say about my comments or any ideas on how you may combat that kind of repetition?
Well, that’s your opinion first of all. Though, at one point, I thought that the album sounded like 12 different bands. I read that you wrote that and thought it was interesting, actually. To be honest man, I don’t really care [laughs]. I think it’s really cool record! The actual songs are what they were.
Oh, dude, it’s a very cool record! Repetition aside. I will say now that I do admire the almost nonchalant nature of how you view your own music, Stevie.
Well, I just see bands all the time where they have all of these goals, aims and trying to please everyone and I’m like “What’s the point?” We recorded our demo, put it out on vinyl and it sold out. It showed me that you’ve gotta do what you truly feel. Because if you don’t feel it, who else is gonna feel it?
Exactly right. That lack of heart can show through so much sometimes. I don’t think that’ll be an issue that Deafcult has, but even so, are you ever worried that people may not notice the emotion here?
For me, I do care about what I’m doing with this band but I don’t really care about what others think about it. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Do you think as the band grows and gets bigger, you’ll start to care more? And I know that that’s a tricky question, as you can’t really know until it happens.
Well, when you become more aware of your situation, you can start to destroy it. It was one thing figuring out what we sounded like and knowing who we were, but it’s one thing to dissect it… and then to dissect it to death. So you jut have to switch off and just make the thing – whether people like it or not. I just don’t think it should be part of the process, like I shouldn’t sit down and think, “I wonder what old mate down the road thinks of this?” That doesn’t appeal to me at all. It would seem a bit… false.
It can start to dilute your own vision in a way?
Yeah! So just let it happen. There’s too much fucking weird shit in the world to care about, you know what I mean?
Well, I cared enough to write words about your album! [Laughs].
[Laughs]. I’m not saying no one should care. But worrying about what people think of the songs I write doesn’t bother me. I listen to music and sometimes, the music moves me and that’s what matters.
Fair enough. Because when you’re in that creative expanse, appealing to everyone leads you to appeal to no one. And as you probably noticed, ‘Auras’ moved me greatly in my review. On that, though, do you guys ever have old memories or feelings come up from your own past when you listen back to this record or play it?
Yeah, playing these songs, I still feel the same way now as I did back then. The way we make these songs is very… subconscious. But sometimes those subconscious thoughts can be the most revealing as when I look back at some of the lyrics I’ve written I think, “What are you doing dude? You’re getting pretty deep here”.
I will say though, I really liked what you wrote in your review too. When I read that part about your past I thought “Fuck yeah!” That’s exactly what we’d like to provoke in people.
Aw, well thank you! I mean, ‘Auras’ is a very personal record, so shouldn’t my critical analysis also come from some kind of personal and emotional place?
Yeah, totally. When I was talking to Owen the other day for Hysteria, I asked him how he did it, like, wouldn’t you just feel like you’d keep reusing jargon or buzzwords. He said there were and are ways around that, and to be honest, I hadn’t really thought that much about it. But then I read your review and thought “Yeah, shit, there you go!”
[Laughs] Well, I try my best and Owen’s right; there are plenty of ways around such approaches. And I think on that somewhat indulgent note Stevie, we’ll leave it there, mate. Thank you so much for your time tonight.
No worries, thank you mate!
PC: Nico Ford. Deafcult’s ‘Auras’ is out now via Hobbledehoy Records and it’s exceptional! Pick it up here. Catch the band on the following upcoming dates:
Friday, July 21 – The Brightside, Brisbane
Friday, August 4 – Red Rattler, Sydney
Saturday, August 5 – The Hamilton Hotel, Newcastle