November 19, 2018
A CONVERSATION WITH ELIKA OF ETERAZ
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Eteraz has been playing shows throughout this year and released their first demo, “Evil Hardcore” this past July. Elika’s aggressive lyrics encapsulate a slew of emotions I’ve wished for years to hear sung in Farsi. The demo is a transcription of a Middle Eastern American experience that’s unembellished and unapologetic. They were kind enough to share their feelings and fill us in on what Eteraz has been up to since they formed earlier this year.
Pirouz: Let’s go through the basics first. How and when did you all get together, and when did you start writing songs?
Elika: Ok let’s see… One day I was hanging out with my friend Pris and she asked me if I wanted to sing in a band she was starting, and I was like, “Yeah I’m down! I wanna try and sing in Farsi.” She seemed really stoked about the idea too. She’d been jamming with JL, at this time JL played drums and Pris played guitar, and they already had two songs they were working on. It was my first time trying to do vokillz for a band so I felt extremely insecure about it (and still do). It took us a while to find a bassist but when we finally found Hallie it felt like everything was coming together, but then JL just ghosted on us haha! Luckily we found Riley. I saw them play a show last November with MIP and I asked them to jam with us and they were so down, just exclaiming how awesome drumming is and how everyone should drum. Now they’re like one of my closest friends, and I love them so much.
For a while there it was just the four us, but around this past July I was hanging out with my friend Bee, and we kinda talked about her joining the band. So now we have a second guitarist, which is SO COOL. It’s the five of us now, and I love the other four a lot and feel so fortunate to be in a band with all of them.
P: When was your first show?
E: Our first show was last February. At this place called the Photon Factory. That place was the from the future, it was so weird… but we played with one of my current favorite Seattle bands, PAIN BOYS.
P: Did you have any influences in mind when you started singing?
E: Honestly Discharge and SIAL, haha.
P: Two greats, that's a good mix. But you do it all in Farsi. The difference between you and, hopefully I’m wrong about this, hardcore played within a 500 mile radius of you is that all your lyrics are in Farsi.
E: Yeah! So actually I don’t think that’s true. I mean it may be currently true, but JÆNG was from Olympia.
P: Did Kaveh write any lyrics in Farsi? I never asked him when we met. I was sad when I heard they were gonna break up *
E: I’m not sure if Kaveh sang in Farsi to be honest. But yeah they were seriously so good!!!!
I feel like as second generation Iranian artists we should be cognizant of any political implications of incorporating visual, musical, and literary elements of our culture into any practice. Whether we like it or not the act of speaking our languages in a public space is politicized. That goes for speaking any language, dialect, or vernacular used by person of color in America (while being a person of color in America), many of which should take precedence over Farsi in this context. We’re subject to the behaviors of demographics which have for centuries occupied ancestral lands, commodified, sexualized, and dehumanized our people and cultures, and they’re still dangerous and uninformed.
In Eteraz you’re getting into peoples faces and screaming “I hate you.” In the second song [on the demo] you offer your blood. You’re showing a level of rage that other Iranian artists in and out of punk don’t show enough of, and without exploiting a listener’s orientalist leanings as compromise for a lack of content. There’s something else to be said about being second gen and making art in the US as opposed to undermining a system from within a country or while in exile, and that deserves a longer conversation… we protest with art, we denounce war, we poke fun at Kim Kardashian and stamp Louis Vuitton logos across traditional dress, but we don’t smash our work across an abuser’s face. You do. It’s the angriest demo I’ve listened to in a while without feeling like it’s cartoonishly predictable. What were you thinking and feeling when you wrote your lyrics?
E: I was thinking a lot of things. Shortly after starting Eteraz I left another band because the dynamics were so fucked. I always feel like I’ve been treated differently because of the color of my skin, or my gender. People in bands have treated me differently; for example my mental illnesses to them are threatening, but if a white person in a band has a similar mental illness the empathy is there all of a sudden… they’re so “fragile.” Fuck America’s “melting pot” and fuck capitalism, this whole world is toxic. I was thinking, “I’m not who you think I am or who you want me to be.”
I am constantly heartbroken by the society we live in, and am losing my faith in humanity. A lot of my lyrics are about the end of world, apocalypse scenarios, death, and hopelessness in dark times, and a big FUCK YOU to all the white people that have gas-lit me, and don’t pay reparations.
P: Do you have a favorite line from your songs?
E: Hmmm… I think it’s a toss up between the third and fourth songs [on our demo]. I think my favorite line is in the second song, “Do you want my blood? The fuckers do!” This line stands out to me because I constantly feel used, especially by white people, even by my own friends at times. sometimes I feel like so many people drain me of my resources its like they’re sucking my blood. So… “Khoonamo mikhay? Jakesh ha Mikhahand! !خونمو میخوای؟ !جاکش ها می خواهند”
P: When we were connected through Kimyia (of Khiis and Primary) a while ago, you mentioned how writing lyrics was sort of your way of practicing the language while living somewhere without Farsi speakers.
E: Haha yes, and honestly it has helped!!! SOOO mission accomplished!
P: I wanna ask some things about being in Olympia… what brought you there?
E: The reason why I moved to Olympia is a long story, that I’d rather not get into. But here I am! And I have amazing friends out here who are extremely supportive in the ways they can be. It’s been fun, awkward, lonely, and the list goes on!
P: That's fair. Are there bands from your town that you would tell people to listen to right now?
P: What will you all be up to for the rest of this year?
E: Well we are playing a gig with Exit Order in December which I’m really excited about. Working on making some more merch at the moment, writing new songs which will hopefully also be recorded in December, and then doing a West Coast tour down to TJ in January, getting away from the grey skies.
* We asked Kaveh whether JÆNG played any songs in Farsi, and several songs were recorded but not released.