Last night at Pianos, as Shilpa Ray howled along to a harmonium and bounced between tough swagger, sweet laughter and charming stage banter, it became apparent that not only is the bluesy punk singer one of Brooklyn’s most unique and moving performers, but she’s pretty much the epitome of cool. It’s no surprise that, earlier this year, legendary musician and all-around badass Nick Cave asked the Greenpointer to join him on tour as a back-up singer in The Bad Seeds.
This October, Ray will be back on the road with the post-punk pioneer, not only singing in his band, but as an opening act supporting a forthcoming EP titled It’s all self-fellatio, Shilpa Ray (something someone told her backstage at a Bad Seeds show). We caught up with Ray after her set at Pianos, where many years ago, she performed with a band for the first time. After you’ve read the B+B Q+A, check out Ray’s video for “Nocturnal Emissions” below, and be sure to catch her at Brooklyn Fire Proof on September 7.
They haven’t heard it yet; it’s too personal. My sister hasn’t either, and she’s really rad. It wouldn’t be something they would be offended by, I just think watching me on stage would freak them out. My cousin started coming to shows very recently.
They’ve heard me sing before. I’ve been singing since I was six. I went through all the classical Indian training and they were there for that. I love it — my mom is my mom; she’s not prying into my stuff. As long as I tell them I’m happy then they’re totally relaxed about everything.
R.D. Burman. Even psych-rock bands will site him as a reference because he’s the shit. If you were ever to get a great fusion of psychedelic rock and Indian music in a film forum it’s R.D. Burman. He fucking kills it every time.
Nick made me do it. I went on tour with him and he was like, “Well, if you’re going to go on tour with us in Europe, you have to put something out.” And I was like, “I got this record.” And he said, “No, no, no. Let’s not fuck up your record, let’s put something separate out.” and I said, “Okay.” Then he said, “I want new material,” and I’m like, “Shit.” [Laughs] This was in April, so I got back here in May and just started writing. I just finished a record, so I didn’t know what the fuck I was going to write about. I ended up just reading the news and writing about that.
Stuff about arrangement. It’s really fun when someone hears your songs and they’re like, “No, this is the part that’s important and this is where you should draw back.” For me, arranging is one of the hardest things to do and when you’re in charge you have to be a good arranger. That’s one of the things you get better at as you age. When Nick’s talking to you about your shit, a) it means he cares and b) he’s going to tell you exactly what he thinks about it, and it’s the most amazing feedback you could ever get from a teacher. I couldn’t ask for anything more.