Interview with YIPPEE KI YAY Records

What got you interested in music? Did you grow up in a family where music was prominent, or did it catch your ear over time? What kinds of bands did you find yourself listening to growing up, and in what kind of ways would you discover new music?

I actually grew up in a traditional family where music wasn’t an important thing to follow as a career. I have siblings who played Iranian traditional instruments, although any other types of music were strange to their ears. I can remember my brother got familiar with some heavy metal music and he kept listening to them. It was the first time I felt my connection with music from other countries. Metallica started to become a complete match with my emotions and then there were other bands like ACDC and also Run DMC. There was no store, like now, to buy your favorite music. So it was too difficult to find your favorite artists. All I had was copy of randomized selections on cassettes and videotapes.

When did you begin to play music, and were there any primary motivators for it?

Since the time I started to listen to music and watched the bands playing instruments on videotapes, I felt the love for playing and electric guitar was growing enough to become a dream. So I can recall myself making an electric guitar with my badminton racket and I used to spend a lot of time playing guitar on it, rather than playing badminton. I think of nothing but my life difficulties and limitations as better motivators.

To my understanding, I’ve heard that is tricky—possibly dangerous—to be a musician in Tehran, let alone a psych rocker. What is the climate like for music in Tehran, and have you experienced any difficulties? If so, what kind of things have made it a little difficult?

That’s right. There are different types of filters any musician needs to pass before their sound is published officially for the audience. The scene is strictly under control by Ministry of Culture and Islamic which is responsible for restricting access to any media that violets Islamic ethics or promotes values alien to the Iranian revolution. I believe if you pass the filters you can not call it a piece of art anymore. Following this we are treated like criminals who are like threats to their ideas. We have been kicked out of the studios for performing so-called “illegal” music overtime. There is no place to rehearse and if we rent any basement we need to keep it as low as possible. other stuff such as recording process, finding instruments, a professional producer, financial support and income are the other main difficulties to mention.

Do you play any shows in Tehran? If so, are there other bands to play with and what are the audiences like? If not, what are some of the reasons why?

We are not able to perform legal live shows and if we do it underground, there is always the fear of getting arrested which we witnessed happening to our friends. So we do not take the risk, though our sound is also unknown for people. To be honest if everything goes well we still dislike to perform for the audience who are sitting on plastic chairs and can barely understand what we are playing.

I feel like the music you make sounds super influenced by your surroundings. Has your environment had some influence on the development of your sound, and what other bands really inspired you to explore the realms of garage and desert psych you’ve worked on in this album?

Our sound is mainly influenced by our conditions in Iran. Besides, I've always loved surf music, which the influence could be heard clearly in the album. I got inspired by some of my favorite artists like Bo Diddley, Captain Beefheart, The 13th Floor Elevators, RL Burnside and Brian Jonestown Massacre. Danny Lee Blackwell of Night Beats was also a great impression. So there was a time I felt like I needed to create my own sound, which finding took a long process. As we have never been in the music scene, we had no other option but to follow everything on the Internet.

Who else is in the Psychic Bloom band with you? How did you meet, and did you have a clear idea of the style you wanted to pursue with this band? If not, how did the sound develop? If so, how did you begin to work toward this goal?

I banded up with an old friend of mine who I hooked up again in college around 10 years ago. In the beginning, we covered different styles like indie, post punk and shoegaze. After a while, as we got more professional, it all led to the debut album, Psychic Bloom. As the process of leaving Iran is taking too long, my friend had to leave the band and follow his own career.

What was the writing process like? Once you had a pool of songs, did you know how you were going to record them?And how did you got about the recording process? Was it a DIY thing, or did you go to a studio?

Everything was kinda shaped in a basement where we had rented to produce the album. I wrote all our plans on a whiteboard and we started to check every step gradually. In the first place, we had about 20 songs which we mostly focused on the songwriting. After picking the best of them, we worked more on details of our selections. Not having a drummer as a fixed member and a place to record made this gap between the process of songwriting and recording. We managed almost everything in our bedrooms.

If DIY, where and how did you record these songs? What kind of instruments and pedals did you use in the recording of your self-titled album, and what process did you use to record? What was the trickiest thing about recording?

As we didn’t have recording equipments, the trickiest thing was to get out our favorite sound. We actually recorded everything, like vocals, guitar and organ lines in our bedroom. For the drums we used one-mic-recording technic which was done in a remote and under construction building around the city. We were enough lucky that there was a rock scene before Iran’s Islamic Revolution so we could hardly find vintage instruments and equipments like a Fender Quad and Twin Reverb amp, Fender 69 Jaguar, Yamaha YC10 organ, Greco Violin Bass and Hofner 182 bass guitar. We had just started to record the album when my 69 Jaguar was unfortunately stolen and I had to find someone to buy me a Danelectro 63 and a Squier Jaguar from overseas to continue recording the album, which each of them costed me more than double. The pedals used in the album are BOSS DD7 delay, VOX Delay Lab, Big Muff Tone Wicker, Big Muff Germanium 4 and VOX V846-HW Wah. All sounds are recorded by a SHURE SM58 mic and mastered through an old AKAI GX 210D. Unlike our willing, we had to mix the album digitally. The final result was not of our best interest, but we have had good feedbacks for the recording.

How did you hear about Weiner Records, and how did the cassette come about?

I got to know Burger on the Internet and noticed there was a service like Wiener which gave us the chance to release our album on cassettes in the States. We thought the idea of cassettes and Psychic Bloom was so exciting.

Are you excited that people around the world are discovering your music, and what is that feeling like?

There is not such feeling better than seeing someone connected to your emotions and this is what I'm exactly seeking for. I’ve always dreamed of sharing this with people on stage to see the reactions through their eyes.

What are your biggest goals for Psychic Bloom moving forward?

Going to The US and having the honor to tour in all over the States, especially in my favorite place Texas, is my initial goal. I would like to perform in festivals like Levitation and Desert Daze which could be any musician's ultimate dream in this genre.

Do you have another album in the works? If so, who will be releasing it and when might it be coming out?

Of course! I’m working on my second album which I’m asked by Sean Bohrman to do it in always-cool Burger Records. As my main goal stays with hitting the States in the first square, I can’t really predict any release date now.

What is the trickiest thing about organizing potential tours to Europe or the US?  

Iran’s diplomatic relations with The US and European countries is in its worst condition for about 40 years and it’s making it too dificult to apply for any visa program from Iran. So Iranians are faced with the most complicated conditions for visa process. And personally, Due to Iran’s bad economy, I can not cover the expenses of a mere trip to overseas which is timely and also too expensive.

Do you think music has the power to connect people? And if so, how?

Absolutely! Music is one of the best ways that connects different countries with different cultures regardless of any nationality and race. Music provides a basis that any one from any part of the world could feel connected to your emotions and this is the most beautiful gift I have found in this short period of time.

The governments of the US and Iran don’t have the best relationship right now, and a lot of people here in the US don’t really know there are lots of cool people like yourself doing fun, amazing, and creative things all the time. What are your thoughts on the power of music and art as a means of forging a stronger bond between the people of the US and Iran regardless of either nation’s government policies? 

Iranians and Americans used to have a friendly connection before the revolution of Iran. I believe peoples of Iran and USA could have a good bond again and any misconception is caused by governments. The culture, artists and also people of the States have influenced me a lot through my career and I think they can feel the connection with my music too. Like the US, Iran has a rich culture and history which can be shared between the two nations. Rock N’ Roll brings us together.
A snapshot of pre-revolution Iran reveals a patina of a middle-eastern Laurel Canyon; a velvet painting of a bohemian paradise of reality beyond our western expectations, informed by the mysticism of Rumi and opium-smoking mystics, drinking from the waters of a California beach that never existed and found only in magazine cutouts and American cinema.

Iran’s psychedelic-era is now gone, hidden in roach-infested basements, under the veil of an artistically forbidden society. In a post-revolution haze, Aref Ahmadi, 28, found a dusty ’69 Jaguar electric guitar, a pre-revolution relic locked away because of its rebellious DNA, and began strumming through Metallica licks, channeling the depressive burden of being silenced by Iran’s overbearing school system, where he was ridiculed for his long hair and half-shaggy, half-annihilated aesthetic.

Following in the footsteps of musicians the Islamic Republic erased from history, Aref reemerged from his bedroom as “Hashill Ah,” a gold-dipped psychedelic sun child who had discovered some arcane truth in records by 13th Floor Elevators, Zappa, Captain Beefheart, and Bo Diddley (all banned in the Islamic Republic). With a few trusted amigos, he began writing a quasi-Persian western that imagines Hashill riding the desert sands as a drifter with a six-shooter as his side on a caravan he calls Psychic Bloom—a floral rebellion he’s planted in the belly of his hometown, Tehran, the capital of Iran, where he’s a kind of indigenous refugee, for now, because of Trump’s “travel ban.”

In a psychic prison (where the Islamic Ministry of Culture will not allow him to release music or play it live) Hashill discovered Weiner Records in 2017, a subsidiary of Burger Records, and published music he wrote using entirely vintage pre-revolution instruments—the only tools at his disposal. Within days, he had ‘Psychic Bloom,’ a self-titled 12-track LP of lithium haze blending California surf-rock and UFO punk—a talisman he describes on “Sacred Sun” as a “flaming star.” It’s a familiar but mutated sound that’s found its way from the west all the way to Tehran, in the bedroom of a self-made cowboy who writes about having a “pistol by my side” on “Dead Valley Star,” a bluesy western-punk epic, or paints an image of a forbidden trail on tracks like “Lucky Day” and “Drifter,” metaphors of his dream to hitch a ride on a stagecoach from Tehran to Texas.

Psychic Bloom is based in Tehran, Iran, where the “light is buried by dirty sands,” in a cosmopolitan fortress of pollution, anxiety, and soul-searching, where Hashill is using his surf guitar to find ride a visa and break through the walls between east and west. Rock and roll is his jet plane; battering-ram; caravan and currency to freedom as the first Burger Records signing from the Islamic Republic of Iran.