Blackgaze poster boys Deafheaven have already embarked on their biggest ever US tour in support of their latest album Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. Now, as the tour swings over to Europe, we were invited backstage at their Manchester show to chat with drummer Dan Tracy, as support act Inter Arma threatened to drown us out with their monstrous soundcheck!
Deafheaven have achieved a remarkable feat in that you’ve managed to bring an extreme subgenre like black metal and make it appeal to an audience that don’t necessarily listen to metal. Do you feel a sense of pride that you’ve been able to do that?
Yes, I feel a sense of pride. I think that it’s awesome that people can check out extreme metal through us when they might not have otherwise. I think extreme music needs that to stay alive. [Musicians] lose fans, they lose shows, so keeping that interest alive is very important.
We get something from everybody. On the past couple of tours, we’ve noticed that our crowds have got more – for lack of a better word – “normie” I guess. We’re definitely noticing some “norms” rocking out that you wouldn’t ever see at an extreme metal show otherwise! It’s a really positive thing, it’s awesome!
There are a lot of black metal fans who want everything to be trve, kvlt, edgy and controversial. Do you feel that Deafheaven is instilling positivity into black metal?
I don’t think that was ever the intention for us. We aren’t trying to change the genre at all. We are just doing what we personally enjoy. The past year or so has been a transformative year for the band. We try to focus on the positivity in things. We toured quite a bit in previous years. A little too much I would say, which takes its toll on a band and on your system. We’re partying all the time, so we kind of learned to mediate that somehow and find a happy medium between partying and working. That has definitely translated into us feeling a lot more positive about the direction that we are heading, as well as our longevity and happiness.
Speaking about the longevity of the band, the new album, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, pushes the non-black metal elements of Deafheaven’s sound even further to the forefront. Do you feel that those black metal parts will always be there, or can you imagine making a record without them, such as how Ulver and Alcest have done?
Well, I wouldn’t want to put any constraints on our future sounds at all, but I do feel like the blast-beats and screeching are very indicative of our sound and a staple of our formula. I do enjoy playing drums fast, so that’ll probably be a thing forever! [Laughs]
So there’s a term often attached to Deafheaven called “blackgaze” (an amalgamation of shoegaze and black metal), what do you think of the term?
It doesn’t bother me. The whole thing about genres to me is a little silly. It’s a little unnecessary to place a band into genres. I can see the appeal of it, I guess some people love to categorise things. But if it helps spread the word of our music then why not?
If anything, Deafheaven is a band made of many genres and doesn’t need to be pigeonholed.
Sure, I mean bands like Alcest and Amesoeurs have been doing something similar forever.
So we’re in Manchester… We noticed that when Kerry [McCoy, guitar] was picking albums for the Amoeba Records interview video, he picked a lot of Manchester musicians (Johnny Marr, Morrissey, Oasis). Was that just a coincidence or does Deafheaven have a love for Manchester music?
Oh of course, all of us have loved Britpop for years. It has a huge influence on the new record. If you notice in songs like ‘Honeycomb’ and ‘Canary Yellow’ there’s definitely some kind of Oasis-y parts and Pulp-y parts. That’s a lot of what we have been listening to and paying attention to in the past year. I think Kerry and Shiv [Mehra, guitar] have definitely translated that into the new sound.
Is it safe to say you like a lot of British bands like Mogwai, Slowdive…
…My Bloody Valentine! Of course. I’d say the majority of our influences are from [Britain].
You’ve just done one of your biggest tours yet across the US, and now you are taking on Europe, do you guys ever get any time off!?
We’re pretty stacked right now. So we had three weeks off between that tour and this tour, and as soon as this tour is over we have two days off, and then we’re starting another full US tour doing the smaller cities with DIIV. We’re right in the middle of a pretty intense touring schedule right now and we don’t really get much time off until Thanksgiving!
Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is out now on ANTI- Records.
Words: Chris “Frenchie” French