Williamsburg’s indie rock scene is rallying to help the survivors of a late-night killing spree that ripped apart a tight-knit group of Iranian musicians get back on their feet.
Lead singer Siavash “Obash” Karampour and bassist Koory Mirzeai are now the only two living members of the band Yellow Dogs after acquaintance and fellow emigre rocker Ali Rafie allegedly killed their guitarist, their drummer, and a friend to the band in a methodical, room-by-room shooting at the Maujer Street townhouse the victims shared and played music in.
“For the past two years, we’ve lived together, worked together, created together,” reads a statement in the survivors’ names on the web site of the Brooklyn Bowl, which is holding a concert to benefit for them and the victims’ families tonight. “We were living our dream. We wanted the world to discover us as we were, a community defined by our music, our friendships, our culture and our art. This is not the way we ever imagined the world would learn of our story.”
The two, along with their surviving street artist roommates and a friend and former band-mate of the supposed gunman, released another, lengthier statement last week that reflects on playing rock music in the restrictive theocracy of Iran, coming to America, and coping with the brutal deaths of their friends.
“These are the darkest hours of our lives,” they wrote. “We are in shock, awe, blinded with rage and paralyzed with grief.”
Karampour and Mirzeai were the only members of the Iranian-bred Williamsburg band not home when Rafie purportedly stormed into their home and slaughtered brothers Arash and Soroush Farazmand and friend Ali Eksandarian.
Rafie, who was a former member of the Iranian ex-pat band the Free Keys, which Yellow Dogs often performed and hung out with, allegedly turned the gun on himself after killing the three men and wounding a fourth.
In the statement, the survivors tell the story of how the Yellow Dogs and the Free Keys met in Iran in 2006 and decided to form a musicians’ collective based on artistic freedom.
“With all the limitations that we faced there, we still found a way to express ourselves and create art that we believed in,” the survivors wrote.
In Tehran, the guys built an underground music venue where they held shows that were illegal under the country’s strictly Islamic legal system. In 2010 and 2011, the crew moved to Brooklyn and rented a house together in an industrial part of Williamsburg near the Grand Street L station.
Rafie was recruited to fill in on bass with the Free Keys when the band’s regular bassist had visa issues, but the group ousted him after a few shows due to “personal and musical differences,” according to the first letter.
“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 wrote.
A few months later, all members of both bands decided to cut contact with Rafie and never heard from him again, according to the statement — until Monday morning just after midnight, when he allegedly blasted roommate Sasan Sadeghpourosko twice in the arm outside the bands’ house at 318 Maujer Street and then allegedly broke in and shot and killed the Farazamand brothers and Eskandarian.
The deaths came at a time of building artistic momentum for the tight-knit group. Eskandarian was close to finishing a memoir, Arash Farazamand had just been granted political asylum, and Soroush Farazamand was writing new songs, according to the statement on the Brooklyn Bowl web site.
“Everything we had hoped and worked for was finally coming true,” the statement reads. “The future was so bright.”
The Yellow Dogs’ record label, Neverheard, is also hosting an online fund-raiser for the survivors, with the money going toward funeral expenses, getting the dead men’s bodies shipped back to Iran, and helping the remaining band members get another apartment, according to an employee for the band’s public relations firm, Requiem Media.
Tonight’s benefit concert will feature performances by Nada Surf, Shirin Neshat, Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio, and many others. It will be preceded by a candle-light ceremony at the Cameo Gallery.
Memorial ceremony for the three musicians killed in a Williamsburg murder-suicide at Cameo Gallery [93 N. Sixth St. between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 302–1180, www.cameony.com] Nov. 18, 5 pm. Free.
“A Show for the Yellow Dogs” at the Brooklyn Bowl [61 Wythe Ave. between N. 11th and N. 12th streets in Williamsburg, (718) 963–3369, www.brooklynbowl.com]. Nov. 18, 6 pm. $15–$30.