Brooklyn’s Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers are about to embark on a four week tour with Acid Mothers Temple. We caught up with Shilpa, the group’s lead vocalist, blues driver, and harmonium pounder in the midst of SXSW madness. Catch her and the Happy Hookers on March 24th at Bottom of the Hill.
I’m sorry to do this as I’m sure you get asked all the time, but can you please explain how you came to choose the band name Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers? Are your bandmates, in fact, happy in their hooking?
I rescued my band mates from the wilderness of New York, where they were bound in shackles by the cruelest of madams and forced into watching The View 24/7. I showed them the light. I showed them that Joy Behar exaggerates her New York accent to get ratings on TV. I’m looking at my guitarist right now and he looks pretty happy drinking his bottle of Sake.
Nice. Right now you are in the middle of SXSW madness — are there any performances you are particularly looking forward to?
Every performance is worth looking forward too. The nervousness, anxiety, adrenaline and relief when it’s over. My favorite part to performing live is all the random stuff that happens and the little control you have over it.
You began playing music (piano and harmonium) because your parents wanted you to learn to play classical Indian music. What did they think of the music you began creating? Do they come to shows?
My parents are awesome, but I keep them separate from what I do. I think they are happy knowing me in a different way than most people. I don’t share the belief of being best friends with your parents. My parent were parents and they were good at being that.
Talk a little bit about the making of the video for “Heaven In Stereo.” It totally captures the early “theatre of horror” vibe. The beheading scene in the truck is my favorite. Were you present for shooting of the video? What is your recipe for the perfect fake blood?
I wasn’t present in making the video. That was all Will Joines and his team. I loved the treatment he sent me. I grew up in the era of 80s slasher movies, and was terrified of all of them. It’s nice to make fun of your fears I guess. I still can’t get through Nightmare on Elm Street, yet I laughed my way through The Ring. High-budget horror movies don’t work on me.
I like the classic use of chocolate syrup for blood. I imagine the actors licking it off when the director yells “Cut! That’s a wrap!”
What did you listen to growing up that has influenced your style? Was being in a band something you always wanted to do? What was your back-up plan?
I listen to a lot of different things — Punk, Goth, Shoegaze, Dancehall, Electronica, Hip Hop, Classic Rock, Country, Blues, Rockabilly, Psychobilly, Gospel, Glam, Rock Steady, Bollywood, Jazz, Classical, Noise, Krautrock. I like sound. I like listening. I wanted to be a filmmaker. I majored in Marketing and almost applied for my MBA, and now I play music.
There is a ton of great music coming out of Brooklyn lately. Do you feel the scene there is very interconnected or does it seem more fragmented or separate? What are some local bands that you feel are particularly good but still under the radar?
It’s fragmented. We are living in an era where we have access to every possible genre of music because of the Internet. People now have a better appreciation for different styles of music rather than just one movement. I guess that’s been the case through out history. Commercialism chooses what to glorify or define an era. However, in reality people don’t listen to music that way. Bands that are good but still under the radar: Soft Black, Forest Fire, Beach Fossils, Wild Yaks, Total Slacker, Friends, Ladycop, She Keeps Bees, Boomchick, and Daddy Long Legs.