Brooklyn via Tehran punk band, The Yellow Dogs were kind enough to take time out while touring to answer a few questions for us. Here’s what we chatted about with Koory, Looloosh, Ali and Obaash …
Serial Optimist: You’ve just embarked on EAST MIDDLE WEST, a cross-country tour with friends and fellow Iranian artists, ICY AND SOT – who will be revealing new stencil work as well as site-specific art installations in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago – and you’re all sharing the adventure in just a van and trailer. What are you hoping to gain from this experience? Anywhere you are looking most forward to performing?
The Yellow Dogs: Touring is always an exciting thing for us. We love to go on the road and experience different cities and meet new people. We’ve all been on several tours but what we are especially excited about this time is seeing how our new music will be received by audiences in different cities. The new music we’re playing has gotten an amazing response in Brooklyn, we can’t wait to see what other people think.
We are especially excited to play the NOISEPOP festival in San Francisco where we’ll be opening for chk chk chk (!!!) and also Chicago where we are staying/playing with our good friend Jason Ewers who’s always been so helpful and supporting.
The Yellow Dogs – “This City”
SO: We’re curious to know a little more about how you all came together. Before moving to Brooklyn in 2010, after you music was deemed illegal by Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, how long had you been playing together?
YD: We’ve been playing together for 7 years, Arash our new drummer has been in the band for one year, Ali our new singer has been with us for four months, though we’ve been playing with both of them for longer.
SO: Do you all have the support of your families? Has the attention you’ve attracted as a band effected your families back in Iran?
YD: Yes we’ve always had the support of our families and have always tried to be extra careful with matters that could effect them negatively. Thankfully our families have had no problems because of us. We have avoided using our last names and instead use nicknames.
SO: Growing up in Tehran after the 1979 Islamic revolution and Ayatollah Khomeini banning rock music must have set you a part from the influences that were more readably accessible to your musical peers on today’s Punk scene. In short, what was it like to try and get your hands on, for example, a copy The Clash’s Combat Rock? Would it be fair to say that even having knowledge of “Rock the Casbah”, which was inspired by the ban and is the band’s highest charting single worldwide, would be rare in Iran?
YD: Obviously there was only a small community of people who shared our musical tastes, among those people the Clash or other great bands are known but not so much outside of that community. As far as the content of Rock the Casbah we’ve found it rare even in the States for anybody to know what the song is saying.
SO: What does this bring to your love of music today?
YD: Because we come from a place where there is no way to see live rock ‘n roll shows, unless it is underground, you can imagine our daily excitement living in Brooklyn where we play and see shows all the time.
SO: Did you have any Iranian bands as influence, or have your tastes been strictly Western?
YD: Not really, if you’re talking about a specific band or person, but we always are open to all kind of music no matter where it comes from.
SO: How does it feel to go from playing on subpar equipment in a dingy basement to recording at Converse’s Rubber Tracks Studio last year?
YD: No matter which part of the world you’re starting a band, mostly you start with the lowest support and shitty equipment, and nothing is more satisfying than seeing your band grow and gain more fans. So it is kind of the same feeling everywhere but the difference for us was just the intensity…
SO: Has going from access only to over-priced and often crap “black market” instruments in Iran to the Candyland-like scene here in the States changed your music? Have you been exploring the different ways now at your disposal to make and record music, or pretty well stuck to your roots?
YD: We’ve always been interested in experimenting with new ways to make music and trying out different ideas. Especially recently as we’ve found our missing puzzle part which is Ali Eskandarian who joined us as lead singer. We’re going through some changes in every way of making songs and concepts and are so excited about the future…
The Yellow Dogs – “Dance Floor”
SO: Your songs thematically address oppression, consumer excess and the struggle to achieve one’s dreams in a seemingly oblique world, how do you approach songwriting as a band? Has the Brooklyn move brightened or affirmed your views?
YD: We play any music that expresses our ideas and feelings at the present moment. Of course in Iran the themes you’ve described were felt more closely by us, here it’s different and we’d love for you to hear the new songs and see what you think they’re about …
SO: Lastly, what’s the story behind the name “The Yellow Dogs”?
YD: Long story short, we just felt that should be the name, was supposed to be our name. Nothing else fits.
SO Note: Follow along with The Yellow Dogs as they traverse the US this March on their EAST MEETS WEST tour on their Facebook page.