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Shilpa Ray
finding beauty within darkness
by: John McGovern - April 25, 2014


Shilpa Ray has one of those voices that is simultaneously haunting and beautiful, like Nick Cave (whose label she is signed to) or Tom Waits. Her music does not cower or sneer in the face of darkness, as the music of some of my favorite contemporary musicians does: It is mature, valuing the truth over appearing hip and jaded (and after all, a lot of the stuff I'm talking about is youth culture). And that complexity is equally striking in her lyrics. The music has some seriously hard-hitting lines of the kind that will make you re-evaluate your life (and what, if I can be so pretentious as to ask, is the point of creating and experiencing art if it is not to change ourselves?). On "I Is What I Is," she sings, "America's got talent to seduce you to reduce yourself/America's got talent to seduce you to reduce everybody else." It's that ability to get to the heart of the matter - on a sonic and thematic level- that makes her music so effective.

Your music has a Noir-like feel to it, a cinematic quality to it. Has film influenced your music in any way?

I live my life as a character in a movie. I know that sounds pretentious, but it's true. It's the only way I can get up every morning and deal. I see myself as the uninvited guest like Charlie Chaplin's Tramp. I'm a loner.

Your EP was released on Nick Cave’s label. How did your involvement with his label start?

He asked me to be the support act for the UK/Europe. Since I didn't have any albums distributed in Europe and no label, he felt that I should do a tour EP on his label. He is an incredible guy. He has the curiosity of a child. I believe that's what makes him a great writer.

Patti Smith said recently that aspiring musicians and artists should find another city. What do you think about this? Is it as bad as she says? Do you think there’s something valuable that comes with that struggle?

I hear what she is saying about wealth distribution. I've lived here for 13 years, and have somehow scraped it together working wage jobs. A lot of my friends are doing the same. I would like to think she is not accusing people of making art that isn't valid simply because they live in a city that's predominantly wealthy. I'm not wealthy I live below the poverty line and the music I make doesn't even flow with the mainstream of what's cool in indie rock or whatever the scene is calling itself these days. I don't know. If you want to be an artist, be a fucking artist, be creative, never compromise your product, and survive. Lou Reed passed away recently, and that's the legacy he left with us.

You recently played a bunch of shows in Europe. Did you find any major differences between the behavior of U.S. audiences and European audiences, or was there anything that in general that surprised you there?

I can't compare the two because in the US we play in small venues. In Europe I was playing 4 -5k capacity arenas as a support act by myself. It was the most terrifying experience ever. I cried every night the first week cause I though I was failing my bandmates and just failing in general. It's easy to cop an attitude when you're in your 20s, a scene darling, so when you walk into a room everyone is pro you. It's tougher when your in your 30s the wrong race, wrong face, wrong height, wrong gender with a rocky career, and everyone is hoping that you fail. I'm no indie rock Gidget, you know what I mean? I find it funny when bands have elaborate signs about shutting phones off or snapping pictures during their shows because their music is so important. I would feel lucky if someone pick up their phone in the middle of my set and googled me or googled a horse. I'm a nobody.

The idea behind the video for “Nocturnal Emissions” is pretty outstanding. It’s hilarious while making some real interesting points. Was that blurring of the line between comedy and tragedy intentional?

That's how I write I guess. I'm a feminist and have no hesitations calling myself that. Kinda like how I still identify myself as Hindu, even tho I don't agree with everything that's practiced. Above all else I like to tell a good story. I think my greatest goal in life is to be a great story teller.

I don't know. If you want to be an artist be a fucking artist, be creative, never compromise your product, and survive.

Shilpa Ray
"It's All Self-Fellatio"

what it is

noir-ish, orchestral pop