Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers

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Shilpa Ray
Shilpa Ray And Her Happy Hookers.jpg
Shilpa Ray And Her Happy Hookers
Background information
Origin Brooklyn, NY, USA
Genres Punk rock,[1] blues,[1][2] garage rock, indie rock,[2] punk blues[1]
Years active 2004-2011
Labels Knitting Factory Records, Bad Seed LTD, Northern Spy Records
Associated acts Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Warren Ellis, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Sharon Van Etten, Man Man, Nicole Atkins, Acid Mothers Temple
Members Shilpa Ray
Past members

Shilpa Ray: songwriter, vocals, harmonium, piano, organ [3]
Andrew Bailey: Guitar
John Adamski: Drums

Nick Hundley: Bass

Shilpa Ray and her Happy Hookers was an American rock band from Brooklyn, New York with a blues punk sound[1] led by singer-songwriter Shilpa Ray. Her music has been compared to Blondie, The Cramps and Screamin' Jay Hawkins [4] and her singing has been compared to the style of Patti Smith, Nick Cave,[5] and Ella Fitzgerald.[6] Ray is notable for combining an Indian harmonium with a "big-voiced blues-rock howler" vocal approach.[7] The band signed a record contract with Northern Spy Records and has toured internationally.

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.[8] As a youth, she was mistaken for an Iraqi and "pelted with beer cans" by hooligans.[5] She dealt with restrictive parents who banned Western-themed music[5] and learned to play the harmonium and piano beginning at age six.[3] 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.[8] 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.[5]

Ray formed a band which she named Beat the Devil, combining punk rock music with Indian time signatures in a new format.[1] The group disbanded soon after releasing their first and only album.

Ray formed another band entitled 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.[2]

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".[3] She has performed with Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye.[4] 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."[9]

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.[5] 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."[10]

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.

Nick Cave released her EP, "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.

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


  • 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".[4] Another Times critic, Ben Sisario, summed up Ray's act in four words: "that scream is primal!"[11] Critic Jacob Brown described Ray's voice as a "honey-toned wail" along the lines of Patti Smith merged with Nick Cave.[5]
  • Critics in The Guardian described the music as "grinding blues, sleazy jazz, and bracking rock with punk immediacy and pop appeal."[6] Shilpa Ray was "like a vulgar Ella Fitzgerald" singing songs with a "wall of distortion and thunderous, pounding rhythms."[6] Shilpa responded to this within the biography section of the band's official Facebook, "A vulgar Ella Fitzgerald? More like horny Frank Sinatra."[12]


with Beat The Devil

  • Beat The Devil, 2006

with Her Happy Hookers

Shilpa Ray

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 2011-05-19. 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 2011-05-19. 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 "Shilpa Ray, Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers". NPR. 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  4. ^ a b Jon Pareles (January 27, 2011). "Falling in Love, Longing and Leering". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-19. ... 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. ... 
  5. ^ a b c d e JACOB BROWN (February 23, 2011). "Shilpa Ray -- Good Time Girl". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-19. ... 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. ... 
  6. ^ a b c "Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers at SXSW 2011". The Guardian. March 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-19. 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. 
  7. ^ a b Tris McCall (January 14, 2011). "CD reviews: The Decemberists, Shilpa Ray, The Multi-Purpose Solution, Carl Orff". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2011-05-19. Big-voiced blues-rock howler Shilpa Ray ... 
  8. ^ a b Tom Lanham (2011-05-11). "East meets west with harmonium-playing Shilpa Ray". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2011-05-19. ... in her New Jersey childhood, when — mistaken as Iraqi — she was regularly pelted with beer cans by white hooligans. 
  9. ^ Shilpa Ray, in an interview in NPR, 2011[3]
  10. ^ Shilpa Ray, 2011[3]
  11. ^ Ben Sisario (March 19, 2009). "SXSW: More Four-Word Reviews". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-19. Four-word reviews, Wednesday night. Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers: That scream is primal! 
  12. ^

External links[edit]