A Dose Of Iranian Indie Rock
by Ciaran Thompson
February 10, 2010
These days anyone with some instruments and a brief knowledge of how to set up a myspace page can be a band. For some it is taken for granted, but for others it may be the only means of survival. Hypernova tell AUX about what it's like to start a band in Iran.
These days anyone with some instruments and a brief knowledge of how to set up a myspace page can be a band. Much like many early punk bands that learned three chords and called themselves a band, now those kids can put their music online and let others listen to it. For some it is taken for granted, but for others it may be the only means of survival. The world is shrinking and new talent seem to be turning up in the most unexpected places and taking advantage of the phenomenon that is known as the Internet. The web has afforded those who might not have, for various reasons such as political or cultural roadblocks, the chance to let the world hear and see the passion for which they are in some ways risking their lives for.
Last Friday, performing their second show at the Drake Underground in less than a week, Iranian rock band Hypernova were living proof of this idea. Taking the stage after Toronto electronic duo Beat Syndrome, the four piece band looked and sounded like any emerging upbeat alternative/indie rock band from New York, where they now call home. Having a few years of playing in the U.S., the band is comfy in its surroundings. But like any band in its early years, Hypernova started out just jamming and having fun, however a little more was at stake than simply getting booed.
“It was really intense because everything was underground and illegal,” lead singer/guitarist Raam said. “We had to make sure we soundproofed wherever we played and have lookouts for the cops or state police.”
Any type of western music, such as the one all four members loved listening to, is prohibited in their home country. The band resorted to playing secret shows in basements and other locations where they wouldn’t attract too much attention. Despite this and in ways because of this, the band’s eagerness to play increased with every show.
“It kept getting bigger and bigger and we had to always make sure it wasn’t getting overcrowded…you’re bound to get caught or someone would rat you out,” he said. “We always found ways to make sure we didn’t get caught. Our friends have been caught before and the consequences are quite dire.”
But playing music is what the band is passionate about and when they realized the amount of support behind them, they started to take it a little more seriously. “There was this one show, I think it was in 2004 where we played 50 songs over four and a half or five hours,” he said. “The crowd stuck around the whole time and danced their asses off and they weren’t willing to go home. After that show I think we all came to the realization that maybe we might be on to something. (Music) for all of us was an escape from the reality that was around us in Iran, it was the only way we could truly express ourselves.”
In the early days, one of the members of that audience was guitarist Kodi, the youngest member of the group. For him, being in a band like Hypernova was something special, no matter how much it was frowned upon. “You can’t see rock bands in Iran so when I saw them I honestly was speechless,” Kodi said. “The word musician in Iran is not defined as a job. When you say you are a musician people say ‘that’s not your job, what is your real job?’”
No matter what stood in their way the band, which also consists of Jam on bass and Kami behind the kit, had the drive to move west and do what they loved. “Nobody has ever come as far as we have,” Raam said. “We still have a long way to go, but this has never happened before in terms of music coming from Iran. We’re very proud of that fact and we definitely want to represent our culture and our country. Iran gets negative press in the media sometimes, but we just try to be good musicians, good performers and good human beings and hopefully people will connect with that.”
In Iran several genres of music have exploded including hip hop, metal, dance and rock. Hypernova has set the ground work for more artists to follow in their footsteps and achieve the dream of pursuing a career in music. “What I really love about it is these kids are playing from their hearts,” he said. “They may not be the most talented in the world, but they’re so genuine in what they’re trying to play and do that you really connect with that. And that’s admirable what they are tying to do in that sort of post society where it’s hard to be a musician.”
Hypernova’s debut album, Through the Chaos, is due out April 6th and lyrically, according to Raam, was written “in a global context, but from a perspective of someone who grew up in the undergrounds of Iran. Through the Chaos is an introduction to our lives and where we came from and where we’re going.”
Back at the Drake, Hypernova breeze through each song as if they’ve been around for decades. Here they aren’t worried about keeping the noise down or whether the police will barge in at any moment, they are here to rock and rock hard. Their passion for music has led them to the other side of the globe and for that they are blessed with the ability to play good tunes. Their story is not only inspiring to other musicians in Iran or other countries that prohibits art from other cultures, but for anyone who has wanted to do something and only seen obstacles on the horizon.