|Deafheaven formed in February 2010 in San Francisco, California with vocalist George Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy, who previously performed in the grindcore band Rise Of Caligula together. Clarke isn't sure how he arrived on the name Deafheaven, though he is aware of its appearance in William Shakespeare's Sonnet 29. The two words "deaf" and "heaven" were combined as an homage to Slowdive.
Clarke and McCoy recorded an untitled demo album in April 2010 at Atomic Garden Studios, which was released both on cassette tape in limited quantities and digitally. The untitled demo featured four songs that combined traditional screamo with black metal and post-rock. Originally, Deafheaven didn't intend to release the material, but they later sent it out to a few of their favorite blogs. After the demo had been positively received, Clarke and McCoy recruited three additional musicians - bassist Derek Prine, guitarist Nick Bassett of the shoegaze band Whirr (formerly Whirl), and drummer Trevor Deschryver, who responded to an ad on Craigslist - to form a five-piece group, and started playing their first shows in July 2010.
Deafheaven announced they had signed to Deathwish Inc. in December 2010 - a label that was founded by Converge's vocalist Jacob Bannon. Deathwish contacted Deafheaven, and originally only wanted to give their demo a wide physical release. By this point, the group already had some new material written and asked if Deathwish could release both the demo and the new material. The first release that Deafheaven released through Deathwish was a 7" vinyl single that featured "Libertine Dissolves" and "Daedalus," two songs that were taken from the group's demo. The single was pressed in a limited quantity and sent out as a gift to random people that made a purchase from Deathwish's webstore.
Their debut album, Roads to Judah, was released on April 26, 2011 through Deathwish. The title of the album is a reference to the "N Judah" light rail that provides transportation in Deafheaven's hometown, and lyrically the album is about Clarke's "year of substance abuse and debauchery." Roads to Judah received positive reviews from Decibel and RVA Magazine, and was placed on several year-end lists including NPR, Pitchfork Media and The A.V. Club. MSN Music also named Deafheaven one of the best new artists of 2011.
To promote Roads to Judah, Deafheaven performed at Austin, Texas' SXSW Festival in March 2011, toured the United States with the Canadian noise rock band KEN mode in June 2011, performed at California's Sound and Fury Festival in July 2011, toured the US with the post-rock band Russian Circles in November 2011, and performed a European tour in February 2012. Deafheaven participated in the mid-2012 festivals Northside in Brooklyn, New York and Fun Fun Fun in Austin, Texas.
As a part of Deathwish Inc's free live album series, Deafheaven released Live at The Blacktop in July 2011. The album featured an entire live performance from January 15, 2011 in Bell Gardens, California at The Blacktop - a former loading dock converted into a venue. In October 2012, Deafheaven released a split EP with the American black metal band Bosse-de-Nage through Flesner Records. Deafheaven contributed a cover of two Mogwai songs, "Punk Rock" and "Cody", released as a single track. The two songs originate from Mogwai's 1999 album Come On Die Young. Also in 2012, Deafheaven released a remastered, limited-edition vinyl record of its 2010 demo through Sargent House.
As early as September 2011, Deafheaven announced they had begun writing new music for a potential split album, EP or full-length. McCoy described the material as being "faster, darker, a lot heavier and far more experimental" than Roads to Judah. However, in December 2012, Clarke described their new material as less melancholic and less centered around black metal, but rather featuring a more "lush and rock-driven, even pop-driven" sound at times. The new album, titled Sunbather, was written solely by founding members Clarke and McCoy - similar to the way its demo was composed, but different from Roads to Judah, which was written as a full band. The duo were also joined in the studio by new drummer Daniel Tracy, who "added his own drum style to already-constructed song skeletons." The title of the album reflects Clarke's idea of perfection. He stated that it's meant to represent, "A wealthy, beautiful, perfect existence that is naturally unattainable and the struggles of having to deal with that reality because of your own faults, relationship troubles, family troubles, death, et cetera." Deafheaven entered the studio to record Sunbather in January 2013 with Jack Shirley, and released the album on June 11, 2013 through Deathwish.
Sunbather was listed as an anticipated album of 2013 by Decibel, Noisecreep, The Skinny, Spin and Stereogum. Deafheaven's first tour in support of Sunbather will be a European/Russian tour with The Secret in April/May 2013 followed by a US tour with Marriages in June/July.