Grammy Nomination Interview // Billboard

Full article via Billboard

Famous major-label acts like Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica and Slipknot have long dominated the best metal performance category at the Grammy Awards. But this year the field is more in tune with the underground: Four of the five nominated acts are signed to independent labels, including first-time nominee Deafheaven (ANTI-). The San Francisco band, which formed in 2010, earned a nod for its Ordinary Corrupt Human Love track “Honeycomb,” an 11-minute primer on its experimental sound.

Back in December, how did you find out you were nominated?

George Clarke (vocals): I was on a flight to New York and had a layover in North Carolina that was only about an hour long. When I landed, I turned my phone back on and had a text from a friend: it was a screenshot of the nominees, saying congratulations. I could hardly believe it. I called Kerry immediately.

Kerry McCoy (guitar): I was in Paris with a friend at lunch. I was texting George about random stuff and then he called me. He knew I was in Paris so he knew it was like, 25 cents a minute – not cheap. I thought it was an emergency. So I answered and he asked me if we got nominated for a Grammy. I was like, what? No, it can’t be! I didn’t have Internet out there so I couldn’t verify it until we got back to the apartment. It was surreal but really awesome.

I’m sure you weren’t really expecting it, but was the chance of a nomination on your minds at all?

Clarke: Not really… I think we were all still on a high from how fun the touring had been and how the album was received. For us, that’s really enough.

I will say that given who’s been nominated the last few years – Baroness, Code Orange, Mastodon – it did seem like someone at the Grammys was paying more attention, which thought was very cool. I thought our category needed to be shaken up the past few years, and it has been. I’m happy to be included in a new wave of attention to younger, heavier artists.

How did “Honeycomb” come together?

McCoy: It was one of the first songs we wrote as a band after I had gotten sober [in late 2017]. I had this burst of creativity. I was listening to a ton of Pulp, Oasis, and Dinosaur Jr, stuff like that at the time. That big, Oasis-like middle section was the first thing we had come together. I took rough sketches up to Oakland and the whole song came together within a couple days. [Guitarist] Shiv [Mehra] had a bunch of leads he threw on there immediately. Chris [Johnson] added the great bass and [drummer] Dan [Tracy] was doing his stuff. It sounds easy – not technically easy – but easy in the way music feels when it’s written by people who enjoy it.

Clarke: It exemplifies the celebratory feeling we had with this record.

The Grammys don’t typically recognize music like Deafheaven’s; why do you think they’re coming around now?

Clarke: I don’t have an answer to that… In our community, there are a lot of hardworking people who sacrifice a ton to release records like this, to stay on the road. Perhaps together we’ve drummed up enough attention for these major outlets to recognize. We just try to make meaningful music and work hard.

It felt like Deafheaven helped lead a lot of non-metal people and publications to open up to metal, especially around your 2013 sophomore album, Sunbather.

Clarke: If we played a part in being a gateway for major outlets to cover [artists] of our caliber, that’s really positive.

You mentioned Baroness – they were nominated in 2017 and Deafheaven is about to go on tour with them. Did they impart any Grammys wisdom?

Clarke: When I was in New York I had dinner with a couple of those guys who live out in Brooklyn. It was fun. They gave me a rundown of how it was, the overall weirdness of it all, how funny certain aspects are. We’re essentially foreign to this whole world, so they way they described it was just to enjoy the experience. To fill those weird shoes. They seemed to have a lot of fun and I think we will, too.

What are you going to do that day? Are you going to walk the red carpet?

Clarke: Honestly, we have no idea how it works, but from what we’ve been told thus far, yes. We’ll be doing the red carpet. We’re taking our moms. From my understanding, it’s the whole thing. We’ll be dressing up and being fancy for a night.

McCoy: My mom is talking about having her friends style her and everything… She’s pumped.

Did you notice that four of the five metal nominees – Between the Buried and Me, High on Fire, Underoath and Deafheaven – come from independent labels?

Clarke: We did! That’s something I wanted to speak on, too. These are groups of musicians who have been working, grinding for an extremely long time, some of which we’ve had the pleasure of touring and playing with before. It’s really cool that whoever is running this Grammy committee is giving these artists recognition.

McCoy: Of all the bands that are nominated, we’ve been along for the shortest amount of time. And we’ve been around for nine years!

Why do you think it takes metal bands so long to get noticed?

Clarke: Metal is not typically the most commercial genre. It hasn’t been for a while. And that’s okay. Metal is gonna be fine on its own. It has an extremely dedicated, built-in community. It has extremely dedicated musicians. And it’s never gonna go away. It’s really cool to be recognized, but I don’t think metal relies on the Grammys’ attention. And I think the Grammys know that, too.

McCoy: It’s not something that everybody listens to. I’m sure the people at the Grammys are just as much regular people as my mom is. And my mom doesn’t really listen to metal except for us [Laughs].

You mentioned 2018 nominees Code Orange; what are some other younger metal bands you’d like to see the Grammys recognize?

Clarke: I’d love to see Inter Arma or Power Trip.

Aside from the Grammys, what are you most excited for this year?

Clarke: Just getting out in general. We’re a band that thrives on touring and thrives on seeing fans all over the world.

McCoy: Even though we’ve done it so many times, we can’t get enough of it: figuring out set lists, hanging with friends, seeing what the health food stores in random parts of the country are like.

Does a band like Deafheaven earn most of its livelihood from touring?

Clarke: For a band like us, yes. Touring and merchandising are our bread and butter. We see income from little things here and there, but touring is where we make our money.

Things worked out really well for you in that respect.

McCoy: We always used to say it felt like a scam because we used to spend money to tour. And now we get paid to do it. We keep wondering what the catch is!

Are you thinking about your next release or working on new music?

Clarke: Not heavily but it’s always being talked about. The thing about our band is we’re all very good friends, so we talk all the time. Kerry and I are always sharing little ideas of where we might want to go. Or little riffs here and there. Shiv is the same way. So on that level it’s kind of a constant thing, but no, as far as right now we haven’t sat down and planned anything.

The whole [Grammys] thing is weird for us, but we’re enjoying it. It’s a great way to start the year.