EAST WILLIAMSBURG — The surviving musicians from the Iranian expat band The Yellow Dogs vowed Wednesday to honor their slain guitarist, drummer and guest vocalist by playing "more passionately and with more intensity than ever before," in their first statement since the band members were shot dead.
"We will not let this disgusting brutality define us or become our story, but instead respond by creating music more passionately and with more intensity than ever before, embracing the freedom that we all dreamed would one day be ours back in Iran and play to honor those who should be playing next to us," the surviving members Siavash "Obash" Karampour and Koory Mirzeai wrote.
"That is who we are, and that is what we stand for, and we will strive to honor the lives of Ali, Arash and Soroush for the rest of ours," they said, referring to brothers Soroush and Arash Farazmand and singer Ali Eskandarian, who were gunned down on Nov. 11 by disgruntled musician Ali Ahkbar Mohammadi Rafie.
Rafie, the former bassist for the Fee Keys, another expat Iranian band that fled artistic repression in Tehran for New York, crept into the group's Maujer Street home via a third-floor landing with a high-powered rifle and unleashed a fusillade.
"These are the darkest hours of our lives, we are in shock, awe, blinded with rage and paralyzed with grief," they wrote Wednesday afternoon. "Everything we had hoped and worked for was finally coming true...the future was so incredibly bright.
"We would like to express our deepest condolences to the families of [the slain band members], and will together share our sorrow," they added.
The Yellow Dogs said that after a rift, they had not spoken with Rafie, who went by Rafi, in over a year.
"It became clear very quickly that he was not a natural fit within our group of friends, and his personal views conflicted with our approach to our art and to the world," they said, without going into specifics. "Both bands severed ties completely with Rafi and in the 14 months since then, we’ve had no contact with him at all."
The two bands were born out of the same underground music scene in Tehran.
The Yellow Dogs and Free Keys "met in Iran in 2006 with a shared vision of building a strong artistic and creative community."
They "built an underground venue together [to] play shows, and forged strong bonds of friendship, love and support," the members wrote. Then the Yellow Dogs came to America in 2010, followed by the Free Keys in 2011. The Free Keys cut ties with Rafi in 2012.
"Free Keys enlisted new members and started to move in a new direction artistically, a decision that allowed drummer Arash to join his brother Soroush to play drums in the Yellow Dogs," they wrote of Arash Farazmand, who had previously been in the Free Keys. "With both bands’ lineups complete, we were excited about continuing to work and create music together."
"We wanted the world to discover us as we were: a community of musicians defined by our music, our friendships, our culture and our art," they wrote. "This is not the way we ever imagined the world would learn of our story."
The members are currently planning a memorial service for the musicians. A relief fund has been set up to help the surviving band members.