Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hypernova

Thursday, November 12, 2009



by Josh S. Henaman

photos by M'Lou Elkins

It has to be said. You just can't get away from it. And we're pretty sure the band members themselves are probably tired of seeing it reiterated over and over in article after article, headline after headline… and we're going to be the first to disagree with it.

Hypernova is not an Iranian band.

Okay, on the surface that is not exactly true. The band IS from Tehran, Iran and if there ever was a poster child for being an "underground" rock band, try honing your craft under a regime where the threat of arrest and physical harm for even humming a hook from Western music was a distinct possibility. It was in this atmosphere that Hypernova forged their sound, perfected their licks and built a reputation for pure rock.

In the U.S., about the only experience the majority of Americans have had with a society in which music was outlawed under penalty of imprisonment or death was in watching the antics of High School everyman Ren McCormack in Footloose. Needless to say, we've been pretty sheltered if the only example we can pull is a pop culture bit o'cinema starring Kevin Bacon.

So why are we going as far to say Hypernova is not an Iranian band? If the show at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Hollywood was any indication, Hypernova is so much more.

Amidst an orchestral trumpeting anthem, the guys of Hypernova walked onstage one by one to face a steadily growing crowd of Goths there to see headliners, The Sisters of Mercy. With the whirl of guitars and frantic drumbeats, dapper lead singer Raam hugged the microphone close and started with "Somewhere Far Away." In a deep baritone cry, Raam held the mic in a death grip and for that first song didn't venture from that one spot. With lyrics such as, "This world is not for the feint of heart," the lack of audience interaction on the first song almost seemed to say that Raam was keeping this song close. It was for him. It was for the band. And it was an homage to everything they have been through. Once the song ended, Raam finally acknowledged the audience with a slight bow of thanks.


After that brief bit of tribute to their past, Hypernova opened up to the here and now with "Universal," a somewhat poppy, finger-snapping riff that the Hollywood crowd embraced in a frenzy of applause. If you were to say Raam played to the crowd as a cool and confident frontman, you would then have to point out guitarists Kodi and Poya as the band's chaotic side. For every smooth slide that Raam gave the audience, the two guitarists followed it up with battling energetic grinds to the forehead. Their camaraderie quickly became apparent during the song "Sinners," and the members showed that they are destined to riff and play off each other much like the greats of rock history.

That's not to say bassist, Jam, and drummer, Kami, didn't play their part. It's hard to imagine "Somewhere Far Away," without the soul-crunching bass or the cymbal crash of "Universal." As much as Raam and Kodi bounced off each other, Kami and Jam filled in the gaps and brought it all together.

On tour with the Sisters of Mercy for the better part of a month, Hypernova is promoting their upcoming release, "Through the Chaos." With highlights of their live performance being, "Lost in Space," "Viva La Resistance" and the final song, "Fairy Tales That Don't Have Happy Endings," it looks and sounds like the album is going to make a few Best of 2009 lists.
One standout of the evening was the haunting "American Dream." Starting off with some post-60's groovy grind that had an end-of-summer vibe, the song showcased Raam, now on guitar. Simply put, "American Dream" has an opening that feels like a gut punch of reality to anyone with even a bit of knowledge of the band's past. The song itself felt more personal than any other and with the opening lyric, "I know I'll never go back home again," it brought to the forefront that no matter what, you can never go back to how it all began. Everyone has a story and everyone knows how they came to be where they are. The song itself is a warning against becoming the cold, plastic and easily packaged product for the consumer at the expense of your beliefs. "Is this what we really want?" The band seems to ask itself that very question.


And it was that song, "American Dream," that truly cemented the belief that Hypernova isn't simply an Iranian band. They're a band that is going to show the world it doesn't matter who your influences are and it doesn't matter what side of the street you picked up that guitar on. All that matters is you do what has to be done in order to get where you need to go.

"All I ever wanted was to rock and roll."

That lyric says it all.

Biography:

The modern political underground crunch dance-rock band Hypernova were hatched in a most unlikely locale -- Tehran, Iran. Between their debut in 2000 and their international breakout in 2004, the ensemble had been performing to a growing audience, albeit under strict veils of secrecy in their homeland. In Iran, the vast majority of the population is in their twenties, and listening to Western music is illegal since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad banned it in December of 2005. Bassist Jamshid and lead vocalist/guitarist Raam met at a military camp in Iran. Raam, whose vocal style has been linked to Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, lived in Eugene, OR, for several years in the 1980s before returning to the Middle East, and formed the group with drummer Kami, second guitarist Kodi, and rhythm guitarist Poya. Though suffering from a limited access to the music they enjoyed, they were influenced by Sisters of Mercy, the Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, the Kings of Leon, the Ramones, NOFX, and Queens of the Stone Age. With an aspiration to be heard in the United States, their dream became a reality In 2007, where a casual application over the Internet garnered an invitation to play at the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, TX. But legal issues blocked their visas and prevented their appearance in Texas, and they were stuck in Dubai.

Their consolation prize was a onetime appearance at the club Fat Baby in New York City on the Lower East Side, made possible with help from New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer. From there, despite marginal attendance, the ball started rolling for Hypernova, as editors from MTV and The New York Times heard and touted them, as did ABC News, Telegraph UK, and NPR, who all conducted interviews with the bandmembers. Eventually they moved to Los Angeles while splitting time in New York City; produced a limited-edition EP, Who Says You Can't Rock In Iran?; worked on their debut album, Through the Chaos, produced by Herwig Maurer; and explored further performance opportunities. In 2008 they toured as the opening act for their idols Sisters of Mercy. Critics have compared them to Bauhaus and Interpol, and they have been featured on the VH1 television network. Interestingly enough, Hypernova sing their lyrics in English.

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