Deafheaven: "Genre-Mixing Was Definitely a Goal"
Some names tell you all you need to know about a band: Slayer. Dee-Lite. Metallica. Pearl Jam, eh, not so much. But Deafheaven? Definitely. Black metal (Deaf) + heaven (shoe gaze) = a slew of critical acclaim and year-end "best of" nods for the band's 2013 Sunbather, their second LP since forming in 2010.
Reid Haithcock Deafheaven
See also: The 10 Best Metal Albums of 2013
Deafheaven frontman George Clarke, who founded the band in San Francisco with guitarist Kerry McCoy (guitarist Shiv Mehra, drummer Daniel Tracy and bassist Stephen Clark complete the lineup), cut his heavy-rock teeth on Bay Area thrash. "That's originally how I got into more extreme metal, in 7th grade," Clarke remembers. "Metallica being the entry level, then Slayer and Vio-lence and Exodus were my gateway."
In creating the sound that would become Deafheaven, the singer's vision was strong: "Genre-mixing was definitely a goal starting out. It took a while for us to find our exact sound, which you only get through playing and naturally developing."
The key to making the music and band genuine, he believes, is the "ability to hear subtle similarities. I can hear a shoegaze riff and think, 'Well, if you set that up and kept the same chord progression and put distortion over it and put this kind of blast beat on it, that could be a metal part.' It's having the know-how to see and feel little things like that." Still, Clarke acknowledges that "practicing with transitions and making sure you're fluid" is crucial. "It's always going a be a risk, because people generally think some things shouldn't be mixed."