When following up an award-winning black metal album titled Sunbather, Deafheaven didn’t expect to find itself in some serious shadows. Yet that’s where New Bermuda finds the band. Sonically, the five-piece did what it does best—merge post-rock, gloomy metal, and shoegaze into one style—but lyrically, it ditched the sun for a harrowing tale of the isolation and suffocation that come with adulthood.
“We’re not the first band to approach writing heavier music this way, and I’m sure we won’t be the last,” singer George Clarke says over the phone. “Any number of Cure records make me want to be creative again. So do Smiths records, Low records, or even going back and listening to the first couple Mogwai albums. People make this big deal about us bringing together different styles, but it doesn’t feel very forced or even anything experimental. It’s just the way we like to do it.”
Over the phone, Clarke’s voice sounds pleasant, soft even, compared to the shriek of his on-record scream. It’s easy to picture him writing the meditative, dark, harrowing music that he belts onstage each night. Given his experiences that shaped the album, what he said is most certainly true for bands going through mental crossroads, if not the future of music as a whole.
New Bermuda details Clarke’s move from San Francisco to Los Angeles and his dive into real-time adulthood. “It’s about taking on responsibility and living with someone romantically for the first time, how that shapes your personal relationship with that person and the way things go around you,” he says. “I felt myself feeling very complacent and a bit suffocated at times, really trying to reconcile this whole ‘next stage’ of my life. I went from someone who lived in a six-person squat essentially to this set mobility and stability.”
Out of all of adulthood’s dreary facets, it’s the medial tasks that affect him the most. “Honestly, up until this point, I lived a very minimal life that focused on having a good time and refuting responsibility,” he says. “Any time I’m gone for an extended period of time and I come back, at least for the first couple weeks I enter a sort of depression, especially with not working when I’m home. When you’re out, you have all this purpose. You’re working towards something and for people and sharing your art with people and having life experiences. Then you come home and a lot of that shuts down. You’re walking the dog. You’re opening mail. You’re creating tasks for yourself to get out. LA is so spread out—to the point where you feel isolated. That always kind of depresses me. You start to realize when you’re gone for a month that your life at home continues and evolves without you.”
As painful as that adjustment was, Clarke used his move to Los Angeles for the better. New Bermuda bathes in its own introspection. For Deafheaven fans, that’s perfect. They identify intensely with the band’s lyrics, often more so in a live setting. So while those recorded fadeouts and piano interludes create an emotional atmosphere, it’s Clarke’s coarse words, not the overlap of post-rock and metal, that gives the band their lasting depth.
“We try to entertain crowd engagement, but the content itself is purely personal,” he says. “I’m happy people can hear certain things and pick up on certain lines to appreciate them in a way that I do, but this band has always been very self-serving. We’re a selfish group with very selfish songs.”
For such cathartic live shows, the five need to be. Bands people have the strongest connection with aren’t those who leave lyrics open-ended for molding, but those whose specificities and narratives belong to a developed character. “People can feel themselves in the words,” Clarke adds, and I find myself nodding, already making space in those he’s said over the phone.
DEAFHEAVEN + ENVY + TRIBULATION. TUE 11.3. ROYALE, 279 TREMONT ST., BOSTON. 7:30PM/18+/$20. ROYALEBOSTON.COM.