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March 27, 2009

Iranian Garage Band Finds Audience in America

Less than three years ago, Raam, Kami, Kodi, Jam and Pooya of the band Hypernova were playing small shows in their friends’ basements in Tehran. After a taxing journey to the US, in the spring of 2007, the band landed one show at the Fat Baby Bar in New York and has since witnessed an overnight transformation to become the leader of the Iranian rock movement.

ImageWashington DC – Less than three years ago, Raam, Kami, Kodi, Jam and Pooya of the band Hypernova were playing small shows in their friends’ basements in Tehran. After a taxing journey to the US, in the spring of 2007, the band landed one show at the Fat Baby Bar in New York and has since witnessed an overnight transformation to become the leader of the Iranian rock movement.

Since moving to the United States, Hypernova has garnered major press coverage from MTV, ABC News and NPR and has played shows in front of thousands across the country in major music cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington DC,  and New York.  Just a few days after their first performance in the US, the New York Times wrote: “Performing Monday night at Fat Baby bar on the Lower East Side, the four members of Hypernova almost made it through their set before distinguishing themselves from the many other hip and hungry young talents who come to New York seeking musical recognition.” 

Reflecting on the band’s direction since their big move to the United States, Hypernova lead singer and spokesperson Raam, says, “I feel like we’re definitely doing something positive in bridging this cultural divide that exists between Iran and the US.” He added: “This isn’t just cool and fun, but also important. We can definitely do some positive stuff in the long run.”  Hypernova was conceived in 2000 when Raam and drummer, Kami, fortuitously met during “sarbazi,” Iran’s mandatory army service for men after high school.  Other band members came and left during the band’s first years, but Raam and Kami kept the group alive throughout. 

After years of playing packed shows in basements, Hypernova built up enough momentum to go international. In 2007, they performed their first concert outside of Iran at an Iranian music festival in Europe.  Here they heard about an annual music festival in the US called South by Southwest.  Raam knew this was Hypernova’s chance to burst into the international music scene.

But moving from Iranian basements to legendary New York hotspots wasn’t going to be easy. First, Raam and Kami had to convince Pooya, whose family had moved to Australia, to rejoin the band.  Next, they looked to complete the group with a bassist and guitarist, but finding musicians with passports to leave the country proved to be difficult. After an arduous search, they enlisted Jam and Kodi.  When the newly formed five-some at last made it to the American consulate in Dubai to interview for a visa, they were flatly denied.  After a series of setbacks, the South by Southwest festival came and went with the group stuck in far away Dubai.  Then, in a surprising turn of fortune, the band’s agent contacted New York Senator Chuck Schumer in a final attempt to get them to the US, though the South by Southwest festival had passed. Without any further interviews, the American consulate simply told the band, “You have a very powerful fan in the United States” and the group headed to the US on a round-trip ticket.  

Hypernova ended up in New York City to play one show at the Fat Baby bar on the lower east side. The show was immediately picked up with rave reviews from MTV and the New York Times.  The men of Hypernova have been since living out of the same suitcases they brought for what they thought would be a two-week stay. 

“It’s really been quite an adventure,” Raam says of the group’s ascending climb. “I’ve never been happier or poorer in my life.”  Hypernova released their debut album “Through the Chaos” last year.  The group’s sound has been described by Playboy magazine as “reminiscent of dark alternative-rock favorites like Interpol and She Wants Revenge” and by This Winki’s Blog as “…a more pop-oriented version of Strokes driven by Interpol-ish vibes that refuse to sadden the eardrums due to the conspicuous semi-peculiar drums and Raam’s more surfaced vocals.”  On why the band only composes lyrics in English, Raam says, “My American friends hear Persian and think we’re reciting poetry.  It’s too poetic of a language for the sounds that we play.” More than just sound, though, Raam stressed that “Rock and roll has no boundaries.”   Since their 2006 breakout performance, the band has toured solo and with legendary goth band Sisters of Mercy in packed venues across the country.  “We’ve learned so much about music from traveling, watching various artists play and just hearing peoples’ stories,” says Raam.  They may have received a lucky break early on, but for Hypernova, it’s certainly not all luck. The band practices for at least seven or eight hours a day.  When they’re not creating music, they’re listening to it. “We’re always about expanding our horizons.  We listen to and revere all kindsof music from classical to hip hop to rock and roll.  I encourage people to do the same.”  According to Raam, the band’s cohesion is largely rooted in a deep understanding of one another and their common cause. “We are all so passionate about our work and we’re willing to compromise and sacrifice to make our lives easier on each other for the sake of our band. This is like our baby, so we’re very protective of it” and “We really love each other.”  Looking back, Raam attributes much of the group’s whirlwind success to “the kids who believed in us in Iran” and “all the beautiful Americans who have contributed to our cause.” Raam explains, “We’re very grateful and appreciative of everyone who’s helped us on our path.  We take nothing for granted.”  

You can check them out at http://www.hypernovamusic.com/.

 

 

 

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