Shilpa Ray at this year's Antifolk Festival at Sidewalk. (Photo: Michael Leviton)

Shilpa Ray at this year’s Antifolk Festival at Sidewalk. (Photo: Michael Leviton)

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.

BB_Q I read that your parents banned you from listening to western music when you were growing up.

BB_A Aw yeah, that was fun [laughs].

BB_Q What do they think of your music now?

BB_A 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.

BB_Q Wow. I can’t believe your parents have never heard your music.

BB_A 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.

BB_Q Do you still listen to any Indian music?

BB_A Yeah, I still do. I like a lot of Bollywood music from the ’50s and ’60s.

BB_Q Anyone in particular?

BB_A 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.

BB_Q What is it about the harmonium that you love?

BB_A Nothing [laughs]. It’s high maintenance. It’s an instrument by default.

BB_Q What’s high maintenance about it?

BB_A It’s very organic; it’s made fully of wood. It’s not very sturdy, and it gets wacky at times. It’s not ideal for playing in a rock band.

BB_Q Tell me about your EP that’s coming out this fall.

BB_A 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.

BB_Q What news stories are the songs about?

BB_A One of the songs is about the Boston Marathon bombings. After that I wrote about the Oklahoma tornado. I have a song about Paula Deen on there, too.

BB_Q Rad. So you’re leaving in October to tour with Nick Cave?

BB_A Yeah. It’s going to be my first time in Europe, so I’m really psyched about it.

BB_Q What a great person to go to Europe with for the first time.

BB_A Yeah. He’s such a sweetheart. The whole band is sweet. Everyone is so cool and down to earth, and they’re very supportive.

BB_Q What’s it like touring with him?

BB_A A lot of fun. Half the band is on a sober kick, and it’s still really exciting, and then the other half of the band is like a bunch of teenagers.

BB_Q Which side does Nick Cave fall on?

BB_A Oh, he’s on the more controlled side of things. He’s my mentor. He’s so honest. He doesn’t mince words; it’s great.

BB_Q What kind of advice has he given you?

BB_Q 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.