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Broke-Ass Band Interview: Hypernova

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While I like to think of myself as this fly girl who regularly hob knobs with up and coming musicians, I think that sentence right there proves my terminally uncoolness, and the importance of having creative friends. I first heard about Hypernova, as I usually hear about these things, in a bar. My friend Aaron had recently joined their ranks and was soon leaving to hit the road on tour. While being in a band in Brooklyn, is practically considered a requisite for living here, there are certainly those who bring their own sound and background experience to this highly competitive music scene. If you haven’t heard of Hypernova, you soon will.

After releasing their debut album this past year, this Iranian band has already been popping up all over the Times, NPR, the LA Times, and many more. Upon first listen, I was oddly struck by how a born and bred band from Iran could sound so distinctly New York. With a dash of Interpol, Joy Division, and plenty of other moody rock influences, their lyrics are surprisingly hopeful and upbeat, which is a unique thing to pull off considering prior to their arrival in the U.S, they played shows in a country where it’s illegal to play rock music. While much of the spotlight has been focused on their background and how they got here, I wanted to know more about how they got “sprayed with breast milk” on stage, toured with Sisters of Mercy, and where to see them play next. But more on that later. I caught up with their lead singer, Raam via the internets, since the phone reception in Utah is less than promising.

Laura S: Is this your first U.S tour?

Raam: It’s our first US tour headlining. We’ve been on a couple bigger national tours as a support act for bands like Sisters of Mercy and IAMX.

Laura S: You think you’ll play any more shows outside the states or is the hassle with Visa’s too much?

Raam: As soon as we figure out our visa situation we will hopefully embark on an international tour.

Laura S: Considering your background, do you feel like people focus on your back-story rather than just the music itself?

Raam: Obviously our story grabs a lot of people’s attention, but as musicians we want our music to speak for itself. The story is secondary to us. We’d much rather just play our music and then have people find out where we’re from that have it the other way around.

Laura S: How long have you guys lived in NYC for?

Raam: It’s almost been 2 years. Moving to NY was probably the best decision of our lives. There is no greater city to live in at this stage for us. NY has so much madness to offer for a bunch of crazy people like us.

Laura S: Have you convinced any of your other musician friends back in Iran to move to the states?

Raam: I haven’t convinced anyone, but I have offered advice and guidance for musicians back home who wish to leave the country and pursue a career as musicians elsewhere. I have been very blessed in this journey and want to pay forward the love I have received. If it wasn’t for all the kids back home who believed in us we never would have made it this far.

Laura S: How did your home country inspire your music, what influence has living in NYC had on your music?

Raam: The fact that we had to write and perform under pressure affected our music in a way that even we couldn’t comprehend. We would channel all of the negative energy and frustrations of our lives and convert it into rock n roll. The whole process of writing and performing in Iran was quite therapeutic. It was the only escape we had from the madness surrounding us.

Laura S: What was your initial experience/exposure with American music?

Raam: My father use to listen to a lot of Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens when I was a child. I still remember the awful quality of those classic tapes he had and would play in the car forever. The first cassette I ever bought was Queen’s greatest hits.

Laura S: Since American’s are so focused on Western Music, what are some non-American bands you think everyone should give a listen to right now?

Raam: Some cool Iranian bands are the Yellow Dogs, Free Keys, Kiosk, 127.

Men in Black

Laura S: What brought you to Brooklyn, was there something about the music scene here that attracted you?

Raam: It’s way cheaper than Manhattan! But seriously the vibe is way more chill and laid back than the rest of NY. I also like the fact that almost all of my friends here are musicians or artists of some sort. It really is inspiring to be in such a creative community. I’ve learned so much.

Laura S: I know you guys recently put out an album this year, and are busy touring, are you all full-time musicians, or do any of you have jobs on the side? What was your last side job?

Raam: I sometimes work as a part time doorman in a venue in Brooklyn to make a little change on the side.  But mostly none of us really have jobs besides our music. It’s our passion. We’ve dedicated and sacrificed everything for our music.

Laura S: Do you have any horror stories from being on the road?

Raam: There are many stories that are way too graphic to share, lets just say that many of the clichés about sex, drugs rock n roll are very true. One strange incident would be this time when a woman sprayed us with her breast milk.

Laura S: Do you have a moment that you think back on as the best thing that’s ever happened on tour?

Raam: Every night is a memorable and unique experience in itself. We put our hearts out for every show whether there’s a 1000 people in front of us or just 10.

Laura S: What’s your favorite venue on the road that you’ve played so far?

Raam: Best show we’ve ever play on the road would probably be Royal Oak Palace in Detroit with the Sisters of Mercy.

Laura S: What was it like to tour with them?

Raam: It was the most amazing experience of our lives. Playing with a band that we love and admire was such an honor. After our performance we would run back in the crowd so we get go crazy for their set. We learned so much as a band going on tour with them. The band and their crew were the coolest people ever.

Laura S: Got any tips for saving money on the road?

Raam: Set very low Per Diems for each band member, that way they know they have to choose between food, alcohol or cigarettes and will spend their money wisely, leave the choice in their hands. Instead of squeezing 7 people into a single motel room try finding friends in local cities and ask to crash at their place for the night.

Laura: What’s your favorite dive bar New York?

Raam: Cameo (Brooklyn)

Laura S: What about a favorite cheap eat in NY?

Raam: Oasis (Falafel place in Williamsburg)

Laura S: If you guys weren’t playing music, could you see yourself doing any other job?

Raam: I would’ve been a goat herder back in the mountains of Iran. Kodi would probably be a DJ. Kami would have been a male escort and Jam a chef.

Laura S: And finally, what is the one thing that you think all struggling musicians need to know?

Raam: As cliché as it sounds, you just have to believe in what you’re doing and never give up. Consistent perseverance and hard work will pay off. As long as you enjoy what you’re doing, nothing else really matters. Life is way too short to worry about senseless and irrelevant things

You can catch Hypernova tomorrow night, July 15 at Thee Parkside in San Francisco.

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Laura S - Spendthrift Scribe

Laura S - Spendthrift Scribe

Laura S, left the "sixth borough" three years ago to settle in Brooklyn. After working at some daily rags, she now does writing on the side but still eats more Ramen then necessary. When she's not moving residences every 6 months, eating her way through every neighborhood, and trying every microbrew known to man, she is unsuccessfully rediscovering home economics. With her binging days behind her, she's now exploring new projects and rediscovering the city that she loves (although is still prone to sliding on her knees during a Prince karaoke set).