By Marjohn Sheikhi

‘Crows in the Rain is a pathway to every person's infinite inner world’

December 18, 2019 - 14:47

TEHRAN– In an exclusive interview with Mehr, the successful Tehran-based post-rock band ‘Crows in the Rain’ aptly described the band as a “pathway to every person's infinite inner world.”

Post-rock is one of those really tricky genres. The music could either be the best thing you’ve ever heard in your life and will continue to be on loop to the end of time, or it may come across as generic and repetitive and completely unmemorable and already ticked off your playlist after the first listen.

Fortunately for the Tehran-based ‘Crows in the Rain’, their music falls into the first category. Each track could easily be someone’s favorite, and I, personally, have a hard time skipping on any of them. The music, composed on piano, electric guitar, bass and drums, tugs at your heartstrings with its mournful, melancholic tone, and revitalizes your artistic calling, no matter how much or little of it you think you have.

“What has attracted us to this particular genre is its ability to represent the infinite magnificence of the smallest moments we have lived,” the band said in an explanation of the appeal of the post-rock genre that brought Crows in the Rain into existence some five years ago.
Faithful to the band’s name, each track sounds like the gentle pitter-patter of rain against the windowpane and a pleasant scent of the petrichor that comes after.

“Emotions such as sorrow, loss, grievance...have always acted as strong driving forces for our music and we find great fragility and infinite purity in these emotions.”

Bands, even the highly successful and well-established ones, are hardly ever consistent with the quality of the music they produce. That has never seemed to be an issue for the Crows in the Rain, with four albums already under their belt, and a fifth one soon to be released.

When asked about their ‘secret’, the band said: “We have a principle in our band which is no piece is released unless we are deeply influenced or moved by it when we listen to it.”

What follows is my interview with Crows in the Rain about the story behind the formation of the band, their aspirations, the process of composing a piece, and the joyful moments and challenges they have encountered along the way to be where they are today.

Q: The first time I listened to a track by ‘Crows in the Rain’, which was ‘You Are Still Here Floating’ from your 2016 album, I didn’t even entertain the possibility that the band would actually be hailing from Iran. Please tell us about the band. How and why it was formed, the members and their musical backgrounds, the visions, etc.?

A: There was no initial planning for the formation of the band. The idea behind forming a band stemmed from the friendship between Masih and Hamed. As mentioned in many other interviews, in October 2014 on a rainy day, we (Masih and Hamed) got together and played for the first time and decided to record everything we played. Hours later, our very first piece was composed and recorded entirely from improvisation. We stood by the window while listening to our first piece and looking outside; it was raining heavily while a flock of crows was flying above the house. This was the inspiration for the name of the group.

Hamed Fahimi Joo is our guitarist who has had many experiences playing in genres such as Rock, Fusion, Blues, and Experimental in other bands before. Masih Taj, who’s another member of our band, was a pianist before the band was formed; however, he did not have any professional career in music before Crows in the Rain. In 2017, after the release of the second album, Ashkan Karimi also joined the band as the bassist. He started pursuing his musical career as a bassist professionally after joining the band. Lastly, Masood Keramat is a drummer who joined us later and is currently an active member of our band. Masood has had years of experience in the field of music, playing in genres such as Progressive, Rock, and Experimental.

Q: As someone who favors dark, melancholic vibes above all else, listening to your music is a real treat that never disappoints. From your first released track ‘Forgotten Childhood’ (2016) to the latest album ‘Sorrow for An Unfinished Dream’ (2019), the traces of sorrow and suffering are palpable. Where do these acute feelings come from? And how do you keep this consistency and distinctive sound in all of the tracks you have so far released?

A: We have always strived to play music solely for the sake of music itself and what we experience in our inner world. Certainly, every band has their visions and dreams. One of our biggest and most important visions is to enable anyone who listens to our music to explore and delve into their inner world which they may suppress or ignore and to listen to and perhaps grasp an experience of that world within.

We have a principle in our band which is no piece is released unless we are deeply influenced or moved by it when we listen to it and every time we choose the pieces that affect us between the ones we have composed, we come to the understanding that these tracks are filled with the emotions that we are experiencing in ourselves. Emotions such as sorrow, loss, grievance, etc. have always acted as strong driving forces for our music and we find great fragility and infinite purity in these emotions. From the start till now these emotions have been and are still the essence of any new music we create and produce and despite all the changes along the way, we have always tried to keep the purity of this essence.

Q: What is the appeal of the post-rock genre that brought ‘Crows in the Rain’ into existence?

A: We don’t insist on playing in the Post Rock genre but till today, Post Rock has given us the best possible platform for expressing what we experience in ourselves. Apart from this matter, what has attracted us to this particular genre is its ability to represent the infinite magnificence of the smallest moments we have lived.

Q: Your band name is indeed a very interesting choice, and also very telling of the sound of your music. So are the artworks for each album. Tell us about the story behind them. Why haven’t we yet heard a track by your band with crows cawing in the rain in the background?

A: We talked about the story behind our band’s name earlier but regarding the sound of rain and crows, these elements were included in the first track ever recorded and the name of the track is “Crows in the Rain” which has not been performed live or released anywhere till today. Perhaps in the near future, this piece, along with other pieces will be released.

Q: You performed several live concerts in Iran. How were the experience and feedback? When will be your next concert in Iran?

A: For our first concert, we had serious concerns about selling out the tickets but in just an hour and a half, we were sold out! In that concert, we played the tracks that were supposed to be released in the third album and our audience had never heard them before. The feedback we received during and after the concert was remarkably positive and a surprise to us and that became a motivation to have another concert at a bigger venue, the main hall of Azadi Tower with 300 seats available, in less than a month. Later we also had concerts at the University of Tehran, Evan Shams Hall, and Niavaran cultural center.

Yet, from the first day of forming this band, we decided to dedicate ourselves to creating music regardless of its career-wise successes or setbacks and we didn’t draft a set plan for any of the events and concerts or other sides of this journey in advance. This is still a core principle to us and makes us genuinely excited and enthusiastic about every event we have as if it is our very first concert. This has allowed us to connect with our audiences on a much deeper level.

When we are performing live on the stage, where there’s less distance with our audience, expressing our emotions in the form of music with them feels as if we are sharing our world with them and they are sharing theirs with us and I think this builds up this strange and unique atmosphere in the room that creates a distinctive experience for each and all of us.

Our next concert will be after the release of the fifth album, in winter 2020. Based on what we have planned, we’ll have a concert in Tehran and some other cities in Iran as well. Information on the time and the venue of these concerts will be announced soon.

Q: Have you performed in any other country? Do you have any plans to? What about working with a foreign musician as collaboration?

A: Yes, we’ve had offers to perform in other countries such as China and some European countries such as Germany and Switzerland. Besides, we are planning for next year’s events. We’ve also talked to some foreign bands and international record labels for future collaborations which we’ll inform our audiences about this news soon.

Q: How do you describe the experience of being a non-mainstream musician in Iran? How has living in Iran influenced your musical development? Do you face any particular challenges for reaching your targeted audience, and if yes, how do you overcome them?

A: We were well aware that Post Rock is not a mainstream genre in the music industry around the world since the beginning; hence, this has never been a serious concern to us. For sure we’ve faced many challenges in our way due to the restrictions implemented in Iran. Challenges particularly with regards to the limitations in the music industry of Iran and communicating with the audience; Nonetheless, these challenges have prompted our growth and development in many ways too. It’s also worth mentioning that the cultural context of our country and society has created a distinct effect on our music too.

As mentioned, Post Rock, in many parts of the world, is not a well-distinguished genre but particularly in Iran, there have never been any attempts to promote a platform for this genre or any other non-mainstream genres to be introduced and publicized on a big scale. This, however, has never acted as a setback for us; therefore, we don’t feel the need to overcome this hindrance and any progress we’ve ever made, small or big, has always brought us joy and delight.

Q: Your latest album, ‘Sorrow for An Unfinished Dream’, judging by the name of some of the tracks, seems to be built on the true story of the Japanese girl Sadako, who tried to make a thousand origami cranes to be granted a wish, which in her case, was to live through her disease Leukemia caused by the radiation in the wake of Hiroshima bombing. Tell us more about the album, and why you decided to focus on this story in particular.

A: We used Sadako Sasaki’s story as a shell to develop and express the emotions we experienced during composing the tracks of this album. Each track has a special meaning to each of the members of our band and Sadako’s story truly gave us a unique approach to articulate our mind. It’s worth mentioning that we have always had a special interest in the Japanese culture and we composed a track called Hiroshima which we included in that album (named “This is our cry" in the tracklist) and this helped us significantly in shaping the concept of the album.

Q: How do you go about composing a track? Tell me about the process, the inspiration, and the challenges. Which member(s) is in charge of coming up with the idea and the general sound of each track?

A: All of the tracks we have ever composed have been based on improvisation. We always gather together and one of us starts playing based on whatever emotions they are experiencing at that moment and the other members slowly join and start playing along and develop the piece that’s being crafted. This process continues until the end of the piece. The entire course of composing a piece is generated through an empathetic and telepathic process between us as a group; hence we can’t consider any singular member of our band to be the sole composer of any track.

Q: Where are you planning to take the band next, music-wise? Are you working on a new album?

A: We certainly have short term and long term agendas; however, we’re not restricting ourselves to these plans and we try to navigate our path through this journey with an open mind and flexibility. Currently, we’ve finished recording the fifth album, mix and mastering have been finalized and if all goes according to plan, our fifth album will be released this winter. Our vision is to move towards a purer and more exclusive genre with its distinct signature inscribed to Crows in the Rain. The atmosphere, melodies, and emotions in the upcoming album are dissimilar to any of our previous pieces and perhaps this album is the beginning of a new chapter for Crows in the Rain.

Q: If you could describe ‘Crows in the Rain’-- its sound, its visions, its concept -- with non-musical terms, how would you do it?

A: Crows in the Rain is a pathway to every person's infinite inner world.

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