Music

Staring at the Sun

Deafheaven's Pink-Tinged Metal

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TWENTY-FOUR HOURS after the release of his band's highly anticipated sophomore album Sunbather, Deafheaven vocalist George Clarke is hanging out in downtown San Francisco, doing interviews and enjoying the sunshine.

"Our record came out yesterday and I got really hammered last night, which was fun," he says, laughing. "And now I'm on the phone. It's not a bad day. I'm not complaining whatsoever."

Over the past two months, Clarke and his core partner in Deafheaven, guitarist Kerry McCoy, have had a whole bunch of not-bad days. Sunbather received enthusiastic, nearly universal praise upon its June 11 release ("the most ambitious metal record of the year," says Spin), and in the weeks since, it has landed on several lists of 2013's best albums so far.

"It's totally surprising," Clarke says of the hype. "When we wrote this record, we were so stressed about it. And we felt good about it when it was done, but there's no way we could've anticipated this sort of attention at all."

The interest in Deafheaven is especially notable given Clarke's vocal style: harrowing, high-pitched screams that would challenge even adventurous listeners and are intended primarily to augment the intensity of the song, he says. Clarke's is a sound imported from black metal, then blended in with McCoy's melodic and dynamic shoegaze/post-rock, resulting in something heavy and beautiful, like Explosions in the Sky binging on blast beats under a cloudburst of human howls.

For Clarke, Deafheaven is more than a band. It's an aesthetic, a brand, an artistic statement right down to the typography and fleshy pink cover art, which was designed to feel like staring at the sun with your eyes closed. It's also a stable force in his otherwise "sloppy" existence, he says.

"I've sort of prided myself on the fact that I want this band to be meticulous, and I think that we have worked in a way to where every detail enhances the entire experience," says Clarke. "Nothing is frivolous. The rest of my life is frivolous, so I need this to be something serious."

So far, so good. Deafheaven is rising fast, and Clarke and McCoy are focused on enjoying the ride.

"While we're here, let's make the most of it," Clarke says. "I don't know if it's going to be my career... I would be very fortunate if it ended up that way. But while we do exist, we're going to do everything we can to be as grand as possible."

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