Deafheaven’s George Clarke on Insecurities and Negotiating Fan Compliments
Photo courtesy of Sargent House

Photo courtesy of Sargent House

Deafheaven’s new album Sunbather finds the California two-piece revealing their most personal thoughts to the entire world via screams, howls and an onslaught of punishing guitars. And for the band’s lead howler George Clarke, the time couldn’t have been any better to receive a heaping of universal acclaim. For years, they’ve been playing basement shows to just a few converts. At one point, Clarke even had to move back in with his parents. Yikes. Hive caught up with Clarke to talk about revealing his private life on Sunbather, scoring booze while underage, and how certain fans love to compliment the band.

People usually say that Deafheaven is a bay area band, but you are actually originally from Modesto, California, correct?

Yeah, that’s right.

Well, I’ll tell you, I’ve been to Modesto and there is not a whole lot going on over there. 

No, there is not! It’s one of those towns that you grow up and think about leaving all the time and then you finally can.

Have you ever been to the one IHOP in Modesto?

Ah, yes. There’s an IHOP off the Orangeburg exit, I think. Yes, I’ve definitely been there.

Aside from going to IHOP, what would you do to amuse yourself in Modesto?

When you are kids, you do all sorts of dumb stuff. You would write music or do stuff that interests you creatively … or party. I think we definitely did a lot of drinking at that time.

Ah, but you were under 21 back then, correct?

Yes, that’s correct.

So, then, how did you get access to booze?

One thing was you could just wait outside a liquor store. Then, say if you see a homeless person. You offer to buy him a forty if he’ll get you one, too. Also, I hung out with older people a lot of the time.

So, your message for the youth of Modesto is that if they want to party, they should hang out with older people?

I don’t know if I necessarily advocate it, but that’s definitely what I did.

Sunbather has been called Deafheaven’s most personal release.

We explored more personal things on it. Even from a musical standpoint, we did things that interested us more than before. In all aspects, it was a more personal record.

If it is so personal, is it ever scary that you’re revealing so much of yourself to your audience?

I just write about what interests me. In this case, it’s the human experience and human condition. It’s a way to not only explore what I’m doing, but why I’m doing it. So, I don’t really mind talking about it. I don’t know if I’d say that it is cathartic. I guess ultimately, it’s just interesting to me.

Speaking of personal things, the song “Sunbather” ends with a text conversation between you and a young lady that you were trying to woo. What happened between you two?

Nothing. Now, we are totally fine. It was just a strange interaction. For some reason, the conversation piqued my interest. I really liked how the conversation went out. It kind of ended in a poetic sense.

It seems to me that some guys that make extreme and wildly different music are real Don Juans. But, many others just fall apart around girls. I’m curious as to where you fall on the spectrum.

I mean … you know … I don’t think that I have a problem talking with girls at all. Yeah, I guess that’s it. I don’t really have a lot of nerves when it comes to that.

I’m a little surprised by that because you once said that you deal with issues of insecurity.

I think everyone does, one way or another. I deal with it on the record, but I’m also just commenting on it, and observing it. I’m interested in analyzing things. So, yes, I’m still dealing with it, though.

Sunbather has been described as an analysis of the concept of perfection.

That’s right. It deals with idealism and perfection and the pursuit of perfection.

I’m curious as to why you’re currently interested in investigating that, right now.

A lot of the record centers around what a person is lacking, whether it’s insecurity or personality or what you’re lacking tangibly, like wealth or all that. What is preventing you from obtaining it? Why is perfection worth being sought out?

What do you think that you can improve on and what do you think you are really good at?

I don’t know. I don’t know if I can really tell anyone what I could improve on, commenting on myself. What am I good at? I care for people. I care in a way that stands out through our personal relationships. I felt that being able to analyze these types of things as a whole is what I am good at doing.

Sunbather has received a ton of accolades. Are you the type of person that is influenced by praise?

For any musician to a degree, when you write a record, you’re at least questioning how it will be received. In that sense, there must be some sort of an influence. But, I’m not thinking of other people when we write a record. Records are the most selfish things that we have. I’m enjoying that people can connect with it in a certain way, but it’s not really a thought when making the record.

But, in contrast to the praise, I believe you are a veteran of the “German Compliment.”

Yes! That’s true.

What exactly is a “German compliment?”

It’s really a critique. But, it’s said in a way where you’re almost unable to get offended by it because you know that they’re telling you in your best interest. They really just want you to know for the next time.

What’s one of the most memorable German compliments that you have received?

Like, if you are watching the merch, they’ll come up to you and be like “Can I get a record? I think it is really good. But, I didn’t really like you live. You weren’t that good tonight. Can I get a picture with you?” It’s just the German honor. It’s no nonsense. It’s a critique. They buy tons of merch, take a ton of photos, and give you an insult.

Sunbather is out now on Deathwish.

Deafheaven’s George Clarke on Insecurities and Negotiating Fan Compliments
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