Shilpa Ray

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Shilpa Ray
GenresPunk rock,[1] blues,[1][2] garage rock, indie rock,[2] punk blues[1]
Years active2004-Present
LabelsKnitting Factory, Bad Seed LTD, Northern Spy
Associated actsNick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Warren Ellis, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Sharon Van Etten, Man Man, Nicole Atkins, Acid Mothers Temple
MembersShilpa Ray
Past membersAndrew Bailey: Guitar
John Adamski: Drums
Nick Hundley: Bass

Shilpa Ray is an American singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, New York with a blues punk sound.[1] Her music has been compared to Blondie, The Cramps and Screamin' Jay Hawkins [3] and her singing has been compared to the style of Patti Smith, Nick Cave,[4] and Ella Fitzgerald.[5] Ray is notable for combining an Indian harmonium with a "big-voiced blues-rock howler" vocal approach.[6] Her eponymous band signed a record contract with Northern Spy Records and has toured internationally.

Ray formed another band, Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers, which Boston Globe critic Jonathan Perry described as the "best-named band" in a lineup of numerous indie bands in July 2010[7].

Ray was the songwriter and band leader, and described her role in her band to being similar to being in a "democracy under a dictatorship". She has performed with Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye. They also toured extensively with Man Man and Acid Mothers Temple. In an interview, she commented about being a female artist: "I think Feminism in America went through a huge backlash during the W. Bush years. We are now going through a cool Renaissance. There are tons of amazing female musicians and artists on the scene with something to contribute and it's not cheesy, kitschy, or female centric. It's universal."[8]

Ray's band performed at the SXSW festival in 2011 in Austin, Texas and was invited to the Billboard event at the Buffalo Billiards venue. She offered advice to struggling artists: "The hardship of being an artist in this country is gender neutral. Own yourself, what you do, how you live and don't worry about the end results."[9]

After splitting with Her Happy Hookers in 2011, Shilpa toured Europe and North America with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds as a backup singer and their supporting act. She recorded a version of "Pirate Jenny" featuring Nick Cave and Warren Ellis for "Son of Rogue Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys released February 2013 by Anti/Epitaph.

A new album entitled "Last Year's Savage" was released in 2015 on Northern Spy Records.


Beat The Devil

  • Beat The Devil, 2006

Ray's first project under the moniker of Beat the Devil, combining punk rock music with Indian time signatures in a new format. Beat The Devil was released in the latter half of 2006. The group disbanded soon after releasing their first and only album.[10]

Her Happy Hookers

  • A Fish Hook An Open Eye 2009, O-Gun Records
Shilpa Ray And Her Happy Hookers

After dissolving Beat The Devil, Ray went solo with backing band members and formed Shilpa Ray with Her Happy Hookers.[11] Produced by Jay Braun and Shilpa Ray. A Fish Hook An Open Eye was released on July 6, 2009.

Her second release with Her Happy Hookers, while also the first release on Knitting Factory Records. This 7" release was a limited pressing of 500 copies, which includes a track from her second release on Knitting Factory Records, Venus Shaver.[12]

Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers put out their second full-length record, and first full length on KFR on January 18, 2011. "Teenage and Torture, both refines and expands upon the arresting qualities of their first release. The result, 'isn’t as thrown together as the first one' says Ray.” The first record was like a series of thoughts, this is one big thought. You’ll slip into a different world when you hear this.” Recorded with Black Dirt Studios’ Jason Meagher at Seizure’s Palace in Gowanus, Brooklyn, the songs on Teenage and Torture are dark, sardonic looks inside Ray’s own world and obsessions, augmented by the musical styling of her Happy Hookers — Nick Hundley on bass, Andrew Bailey on guitar and John Adamski on drums and percussion, and featuring Greg Lewis on organ, Jonathan Lam on pedal steel and Andrew Hoepfner on vocals and keys.".[13] This record inevitably led to Shilpa supporting Nick Cave on a few tours in Europe as well released an EP on his label, Bad Seed LTD.[14]

Shilpa Ray

  • It's All Self Fellatio, Shilpa Ray, 2013, Bad Seed LTD

Nick Cave released Shilpa Ray first EP after disbanding Her Happy Hookers, "It's All Self Fellatio, Shilpa Ray" in 2013 on his Bad Seed LTD label after touring in Europe and North America with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Grinderman. As well as performing with Cave, Ray's current band has performed with Sharon Van Etten, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Nicole Atkins.

Make Up EP was Shilpa's first release on Northern Spy, which included two covers, Make up written by Lou Reed, and Dinah Washington's What a Difference a Day Makes. Personnel includes, Shilpa Ray on keys and vocals, Jon Delorme on pedal steel, Alistair Paxton on bass, and Russ Lemkim on drums. Make up was released on February 17, 2015.[16]

Last Year's Savage was Ray's first full length on Northern Spy Records while also her first full-length solo record as Shilpa Ray.[14]

Door Girl is her sophomore album on Northern Spy Records.

Musical style[edit]

A report in the San Francisco Examiner describes Ray's New Jersey upbringing as an Indian American from an immigrant family as contributing to her having a "scrappy" demeanor.[17] As a youth, she was mistaken for an Iraqi and "pelted with beer cans" by hooligans.[4] She dealt with restrictive parents who banned Western-themed music[4] and learned to play the harmonium and piano beginning at age six.[18] In her high school years, she became a stealth Goth and listened to music by punk rock bands such as The Cramps, Stooges and Joy Division.[17] In her twenties, she moved to New York City and worked as a solo artist, singing a cappella at first and later accompanying herself on the harmonium.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Shilpa Ray currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.[19]


  • Music critics from the New York Times have focused on Ray's lyrics and voice. Jon Pareles described Ray's act as combining punk rock band shtick with a touch of Goth burlesque but with music which deals with the "contradictory pressures women face" such as being "cosmetically perfect but authentic".[3] Another Times critic, Ben Sisario, summed up Ray's act in four words: "that scream is primal!"[20] Critic Jacob Brown described Ray's voice as a "honey-toned wail" along the lines of Patti Smith merged with Nick Cave.[4]
  • Critics in The Guardian described the music as "grinding blues, sleazy jazz, and bracking rock with punk immediacy and pop appeal."[5] Shilpa Ray was "like a vulgar Ella Fitzgerald" singing songs with a "wall of distortion and thunderous, pounding rhythms."[5]

In other media[edit]

Television series[edit]

Song Show title Episode title
"Liquidation Sale" Being Human (US) All Out of Blood


  1. ^ a b c d "Happening Wednesday". Los Angeles Times. March 23, 2011. Retrieved May 19, 2011. Blues-punk outfit Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers will open.
  2. ^ a b M. Tye Comer (March 19, 2011). "Billboard's Friday SXSW Show Ruled By Indie Rock". Retrieved May 19, 2011. SXSW 2011 hit ... But if you were a fan of indie rock, there was no better place to be than Billboard's sold-out event at Buffalo Billiards. ... bluesy New Jersey ensemble Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers ...
  3. ^ a b Jon Pareles (January 27, 2011). "Falling in Love, Longing and Leering". The New York Times. Retrieved May 19, 2011. ... There’s a lot of shtick in Shilpa Ray’s act, much of it borrowed from a couple of CBGB-era bands, Blondie and the Cramps. ...
  4. ^ a b c d e JACOB BROWN (February 23, 2011). "Shilpa Ray -- Good Time Girl". New York Times. Retrieved May 19, 2011. ... Since escaping her conservative parents (her father banned Western music in their home) and moving to New York about nine years ago, she has hauled the unusual instrument to gigs to accompany her honey-toned wail of a voice. ...
  5. ^ a b c "Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers at SXSW 2011". The Guardian. March 2011. Retrieved May 19, 2011. Shilpa Ray and her Happy Hookers play grinding blues, sleazy jazz, and bracing rock with punk immediacy and pop appeal. The result? Something like a vulgar Ella Fitzgerald, channeling Nick Cave and PJ Harvey, and singing her songs before a wall of distortion and thunderous, pounding rhythms. The band reads like a who's who of recent NYC rock luminaries including members of Creaky Boards, Soft Black, Kapow!, and cult rock producers The Negatones. Live shows are already a notorious commodity -- and audiences have been screaming as loud as the band does.
  6. ^ a b Tris McCall (January 14, 2011). "CD reviews: The Decemberists, Shilpa Ray, The Multi-Purpose Solution, Carl Orff". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved May 19, 2011. Big-voiced blues-rock howler Shilpa Ray ...
  7. ^ Perry, Jonathan (2010-07-02). "Indie-pendence day". Retrieved 2019-01-18.
  8. ^ Shilpa Ray, in an interview in NPR, 2011[3]
  9. ^ Shilpa Ray, 2011[3]
  10. ^ "Beat the Devil". April 16, 2007.
  11. ^ "Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers : A Fish Hook An Open Eye".
  12. ^ "Store - Knitting Factory Records".
  13. ^ "Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers - Knitting Factory RecordsKnitting Factory Records".
  14. ^ a b "Shilpa Ray – Northern Spy Records".
  15. ^ "Shilpa Ray, "Pop Song for Euthanasia" - New Music - Impose Magazine". March 3, 2015.
  16. ^ "Last Year's Savage – Northern Spy Records".
  17. ^ a b Tom Lanham (May 11, 2011). "East meets west with harmonium-playing Shilpa Ray". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved May 19, 2011. ... in her New Jersey childhood, when — mistaken as Iraqi — she was regularly pelted with beer cans by white hooligans.
  18. ^ "Shilpa Ray, Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers". NPR. May 19, 2011. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  19. ^ "Shilpa Ray: Last Year's Savage Album Review".
  20. ^ Ben Sisario (March 19, 2009). "SXSW: More Four-Word Reviews". The New York Times. Retrieved May 19, 2011. Four-word reviews, Wednesday night. Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers: That scream is primal!

External links[edit]