Welcome to ArcTanGent! To jump right in, obviously you have your new album, New Bermuda, coming out. Can you give an update on the album? Is it all wrapped up?
George: Yeah, we’re in the awkward waiting around period. Everything is finished, it’s currently being manufactured. Comes out October 2nd. Just waiting.
Not too long ago, I had an interesting conversation with The Atlas Moth, who are friends of yours, about public pressure after a successful album. How do feel about the expectations being placed on Deafheaven because of the success of Sunbather?
George: You know, it wasn’t so much of an expectation of other people, it was more internal. There was a lot of stress that went into writing this record, but it came from a point of not wanting to write “Sunbather Part 2”. Understanding the weight that Sunbather brought, we were just trying to not fall into that hole a bit. I think it’s really easy once you get recognized and get accolades for something to want to just redo it in hopes of reaching that same success.
We didn’t want to do that at all. We wanted to write a record that was different and that we felt good about. One that showed our evolution as a band. Honestly, that was hard and it was wildly stressful. I haven’t felt that kind of pressure in a long time. Again not from a critical standpoint, but from us wanting to make ourselves better than what we were.
A year ago, you released “From the Kettle onto the Coil” with Adult Swim Singles, and just recently you also released a new track from the new album, “Brought to the Water“. Both times, I’ve noticed it’s a much more heavier sound, harkening back to more traditional black metal. Was this transition on purpose?
George: It wasn’t necessarily on purpose, just what we’ve been feeling lately. We toured a lot for Sunbather, and when you tour that often and are around your guitar that often, you just naturally want to make a more guitar driven sound. You are with it all the time and you want to see what it can do. You really want to showcase more of it’s power, and I think that’s definitely what happened this time around. It happened a little bit on “From the Kettle onto the Coil” where we were just kind of feeling ourselves out. But definitely on this record, it’s a much more guitar driven, very riff-focused, and more of a metallic sound. I think that directly comes from playing it so much. You play a certain kind of riff so many times that you want to tone it up.
Your support for your upcoming tour is quite interesting. You have the Swedish band, Tribulation, for the entire tour and on the East Coast portion, Japanese post-hardcore masters Envy are joining you. I’m looking forward to the tour even though I’m sad Envy is not coming with you to the West Coast. I have a feeling Envy was a big influence on Deafheaven, since you get compared to them a lot.
George: We do, and it’s funny, because I love that band but they have never been brought up as one of our influences. At least not in any of the conversations Kerry and I have had when we were writing our early records or you know, this last one. We have never cited Envy. We have always talked about MONO or Boris or a lot of these other Japanese bands. But we are fans of Envy, we got to play with them in Japan and they are amazing live.
Envy opened for you in Japan, correct? Also didn’t Cohol open for you?
George: It was Cohol, us, and then Envy headlined and they’re amazing. They have never been directly spoken about as an influence for us so I thought it was kind of funny. Maybe it was just a subconscious thing that we took from it. People are always like, “Envy and Deafheaven,” but I have never seen it that way.
Nevertheless, I knew they were coming to the States, and were doing the West Coast tour with La Dispute already. For a moment, we thought they were just going to do a West Coast tour. When we got word that they were planning on adding East Coast dates, I was like, “Do it with us?”. They were like, “Absolutely.”
Tribulation was kind of the same way. I was a fan of the band and they played in LA. I went to see them and we hung out a little bit and met a couple of mutual friends. One of which is Sara Taylor, who is the singer for the band Youth Code. She was on tour with them at the time so I hit up Sara and I was like, “Test the waters, would they be down to go on tour with us.” She did and everything came together really organically.
It’s a tour that I really want to see. It’s a very selfish tour, but I think it gives the audience a lot of diversity and a lot of talent. I won’t speak for ourselves but between those two bands there’s a lot of talent and they will both be so good to watch even though they don’t mirror one another whatsoever.
The reception that I see as a fan is very positive. Most of the time, people are lamenting that it isn’t all one tour with Deafheaven, Envy, and Tribulation.
George: Thank you, I hope so. The plan was always us and Tribulation, and Envy would have been on the whole thing had we known they were coming to the West Coast. But when we saw the announcement with La Dispute, I’m like, “If they’re doing the East Coast, let’s get them.” We’re headlining, so it’s really weird because I do love that band. They have been around for so long and are incredibly influential. So to have Envy play before us is a bit nerve racking but I consider it to be stepping up to the challenge. I mean, with both those bands, it’s going to be tough bill to beat.
It’s a tour that I really want to see. It’s a very selfish tour, but I think it gives the audience a lot of diversity and a lot of talent. I won’t speak for ourselves but between Envy and Tribulation, there’s a lot of talent and they will both be so good to watch even though they don’t mirror one another whatsoever.
Talking to some Japanese musicians, like Atsuo from Boris and Taka Goto from MONO, sometimes it’s too hard for them to come over here and headline themselves. They just can’t fill the venues in the smaller towns.
George: I’ve talked with Atsuo about that as well. We have played a ton of shows with Boris in the past and it’s unfortunate. There is such a huge and awesome scene in Japan, and we always joke that Japan does everything we do way better but no one ever sees it. We don’t know why. I mean, it’s a long way to travel and unfortunately that’s the side effect of distance sometimes. I think what it amounts to is this sort of loss of translation that Americans can feel.
If you look at the Japanese music that gets the most reception, it’s toe, it’s MONO, it’s LITE and they all don’t have vocalists. I get why Japanese bands struggle because if you look at the American scene, they just don’t handle non-English vocals very well.
George: I think you’re exactly right and hit the nail on the head. It’s just hard for Westerners to get around that sometimes. What I hope is that when Envy comes out with us that half the audience can give them the respect they deserve. The half of the audience that knows them will give them the respect, and the half that doesn’t will hopefully recognize the stylistic similarities between the two of us and will go on to appreciate them and buy their records. I really want to see a door open for other Japanese artists to come over here.
There’s a few I would love to see come over here, particularly The Novembers and downy.
George: We’ve been trying. We spoke with Cohol. We spoke with Heaven in Her Arms a lot of times, because I love that band. Any time we are in Japan, we play with them. We’ve spoken about getting them over to the States, but you know, it’s politics. Unfortunately, it is the “Can you fill this venue?” or “Can you bring enough presence to help fill this venue?”. It’s not like that all the time. What I want is for people that are there to see us, I want them to watch the whole show and open some doors. If we can do that and I can see a great show every night, then it’s a successful tour.
With the upcoming album and tour out of the way, I want to ask about All Black Recording Company, which has had two releases so far: Black Monolith’s Passenger and Creeper’s Lush. Any releases planned for this year? It has already been a year since Creepers.
George: No, and that’s partly because Deafheaven has been so busy. All Black is primarily ran by Derek Prine, a good friend of ours and who was once in Deafheaven as well. A lot of it is his vision and we do work together in a good capacity. We suggest the bands, things like that. Even though he’s at the helm of it, we can only seriously collaborate on it when Deafheaven is off the road. So that’s just were it stands right now.
While he does handle most of it, things generally start to happen more when Deafheaven is at a relaxed point, which is has been to a certain degree. We’ve been talking and there’s going to be new releases on the way. However, we take our time with it. It’s a fun project and it gives me pleasure to put out music from people that I really admire as musicians. It’s kind of a past time. It’s a fruitful one, but still a past time.
The other thing you have done through All Black is the merchandise. What made you come up with the blanket and these other unique merchandise ideas?
George: That was another thing. After we put out a couple records, we wanted to sort of treat the label as a press, in general. Like we did with the bands, we wanted to showcase unique design and artists that we love. Nick Sinehart, who designed the Sunbather record, he and I were just chatting and he was like, “I want to do a unique print series for Deafheaven.” Based on touring posters we had done but printed in really high quality.
On top of that, we did something cool. So we had the three print series from him, and he suggested the blanket. We tested for it and loved it. I was pretty amazed it could be done, getting a color gradient on a blanket is not a easy feat. We actually went through a few different companies and people that we knew that did weaving. They came out cool and I think for that particular merchandise, it was interesting and it wasn’t cheesy, you know? We could have done more.
You probably could have double or tripled the batch and it still would have sold out.
George: Yeah, and that was another thing. We wanted it to be a sort of limited item because it felt pretty special to me. I knew that the more that we did, the quality could lessen or that it could get too wrapped up in itself. I wanted to do a one time thing. It’s cool to have and it came and it went. I liked that about it.
Recently, we did a new print series with my friend, Brian Proto, who illustrates under Cloven Hoov. He’s done a lot of Deafheaven related art and is a great tattoo artist and illustrator in his own right.
Did he do Roads to Judah?
George: He didn’t but Ruben Sawyer, who did, those two have collaborated a lot. Cloven Hoov has done a lot of our merch designs. He’s done tour posters before, so we did a limited print series a few weeks ago. It’s something that I consider to be interesting in between releasing records.
Honestly, All Black is almost like my toy or something. I have all these talented friends and it’s just fun for me. It’s fun for me to own the prints themselves, like the Deafheaven series. It’s a bit self-centered but I have them hanging on my walls. The focus is more on the artists who are creating and not so much on ourselves. I think we’re just lucky as a band to have encountered so many really great visual artists, and I want to do my part to put them out there.
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