Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers @ SXSW 2009 (more by Bryan Bruchman)
Shilpa Ray

It was approximately a year ago that Shilpa Ray left her band Beat The Devil to focus on her own project with her own band that she calls Shipa Ray and The Happy Hookers. That would make 2009 not only their year, but their first year.

My own excitement for the band came right around January/February when I first heard their 8-song unreleased CD-R. Soon after that they accepted my invitation to play the official BrooklynVegan SXSW showcase, and they've managed to keep busy all year. Shilpa ended up self-releasing their album, and she and her hookers have played numerous shows in NYC - too many to count, but they've included a Woodstock tribute at Castle Clinton, a residency at Pianos, and this year's CitySol festival. And they're ending the year strong. They just opened two NYC gigs for the Fiery Furnaces, are opening for Grant Hart of Husker Du this Saturday at 92YTribeca (12/19), and now have a glowing recommendation from Nick Cave.

Shilpa answered some questions about her year. Read them below...


You released a record in 2009. How'd that go?

Arduous and fun. I loathe tedious, mundane tasks, which works against me in this Golden Age of DIY. I guess I missed out on the "Golden Age" where all a musician had do was play music and snort big record company advances. Part of me wishes I was Rod Stewart. Hell, I don't even get to have a hopelessly devoted girlfriend to takes care of me or at least tolerate my "genius", my tortured soul, and my many many mistresses.

Have you met Nick Cave? Did you know he was a fan at all before that interview came out?

Actually the story has more to do with my friend Ratso (aka Larry Sloman) than Nick Cave. Ratso's a badass writer who's written for Rolling Stone, High Times, and has authored/co-authored several biographies, namely Howard Stern, Bob Dylan and Harry Houdini. I met him after the Sly Stone Tribute Concert at Castle Clinton, and agreed to do his variety radio show at KGB bar on the Lower East Side. It was mind blowing. I felt like we were transported to 60s, 70s era New York. The kind of stuff I'd skip homework for and read about when I was a teenager. There was even a singer with a platinum white bee-hive hairdo, the spitting image of Dusty Springfield, who opened the show. The whole look and feel of this radio show against the commie red lit backdrop of the KGB bar was so complete.

I gave Ratso a copy of our CD that night. He told me he would pass it on to his friends Bob, Lou, and Nick. He meant, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed and Nick Cave --The Holy Trinity. Of course at the time I assumed Bob, Lou and Nick were his imaginary friends. You see, Ratso's a beatnik, hippie punk rocker rolled up in a happy hula dancing Hawaiian Shirt. I'm sort of the same way. I have at least 2 imaginary friends that I can admit to on this blog.

Turns out that Ratso is indeed friends with the Holy Trinity and gave each of them a copy of the record, which is how Nick Cave came to dig the Happy Hookers. I admit I cried when I read that interview and bought cupcakes for all my co-workers during my lunch break. I'm such a girl.

What was your most memorable musical moment of 2009?

My harmonium falling down during a Happy Hookers set @ Southpaw. Downing 3 shots of Whiskey before our noon time show @ The Mohawk. Wait, alcohol consumption isn't exactly a musical moment is it? Playing Larry "Ratso" Sloman's radio show at KGB bar. Playing on the beach @ Fort Tilden Acoustic BBQ. Touring with Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard. Playing with the Fiery Furnaces. Sharing a stage with Steve Bernstein, MTO, Vernon Reid and Bernie Worrell. Singing Backup for my friend, Lola Maybeline @ Hotel Utah in SF. Dancing on stage with a tranny in red pumps during an Oh Sees show @ Glasslands. Dancing to Black Sabbath while rolling on fun. Dancing to "Mr Soul" at my friends party in Ohio. Dancing in random Bushwick apartments till 7am. Dancing on hot tiles. Dancing on tender hooks. Dancing down church aisles. Dancing on holy books. I believe I danced my way into a lot of parties this year.

What about non-musical moment?
Doing laundry and realizing that I have sculpted my lifestyle in such a way that I'd never have to separate my whites from my coloreds, cause all my clothes are black.

Favorite place to play in NYC?

How did you end up on a bill with Grant Hart?
Our bass player Nick Hundley hooked it up.

Best new NYC-area band?
The Wild Yaks, Soft Black, Forest Fire, Sharon Van Etten, Boom-Chick, Stars Like Fleas, The Wowz, Ching Chong Song

What's the best and worst thing about being in a band in NYC in 2009?
Being broke.

What were your favorite albums of 2009?
Black Joe Lewis and The Honey Bears-- Tell Em What Your Name Is
Atlas Sound-- Logos
PJ Harvey and John Parish-- A Woman A Man Walked By
Yeah Yeah Yeahs-- It's Blitz
A Place Place to Bury Strangers-- Exploding Head
Soft Black-- The Earth is Black
Forest Fire-- Survival
Sharon Van Etten-- Because I Was In Love
Thee Oh Sees-- Help

This is so hard cause I rarely get records that are current. I'm more obsessed with older stuff. Besides I haven't had the time to check out all the albums that came out this year. I could probably give a better list of stuff that I liked from 1999.

Favorite Singles/Songs?
See Answer to Question Above

What was the best show you saw in 2009?
Thee Oh Sees @ Glasslands w/ The Wild Yaks, The New York Howl and The Beets
Stars Like Fleas @ SXSW
Sharon Van Etten and Hello Lover @ a someone's living room in Austin TX
Monotonix @ SXSW
This Moment in Black History and TV Ghost @ Blackout Fest, Athens OH
A Place to Bury Strangers Secret Show @ Pianos
The So So Glos @ City Sol
Soft Black @ Death By Audio
Jeffrey Lewis @ Some Awesome Dude's House in Bellingham WA

How were the Fiery Furnaces shows?
A lot of fun. They're amazing, super tight, and have great stage presence. I was pretty wasted/hungover/rowdy for most of it. We did raid their dressing room at the Music Hall after they left. I ate their bag of mixed nuts. Starstruck!!!

Favorite Michael Jackson song?
P.Y.T, Lisa's Birthday Song

What is the proper way to incorporate "Meh" into your band name?
Shilpa Meh and Her Happy Hookers

Shitgaze, Glo-fi or Dark Wave?
Ooooh Shitgaze! My friend Vin (Soft Black) and I are gonna start a band called Naked Parents, he's gonna play a vaccum cleaner through a My First Sony, I'm gonna play weird, and the drummer's gonna write the songs. I know Don Henley's gonna want in on this but I'm gunning for Levon Helm. He's the one I want in our shitgaze band, though he may opt to fire us both and rename it The Band.

Plans/predictions for 2010?
Alchohol consumption will become a memorable musical moment
Naked Parents
Shilpa's Best Of list from 2000


Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers - Beating St. Louis @ Mercury Lounge

Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers at Death By Audio 4/9/09

soft black feat. werewolves and shilpa ray @ Death By Audio

Shilpa Ray & her Happy Hookers - 2009/2010 Tour Dates
Dec 19 - @ 92 Y Tribeca w/ Grant Hart (Husker Du) New York, New York
Jan 14 - @ Mohawk Place w/TBA Buffalo
Jan 15 - Cafe Bourbon St Annex Columbus, Ohio
Jan 16 - @ The Rock Island Brewing Co w/TBA Rock Island, Illinois
Jan 17 2010 9:00P
@ Lincoln Hall w/ Lee Fields and the Expressions Chicago, Illinois
Jan 18 - @ Locals Only Art + Music Pub Indianapolis, Indiana
Jan 20 - @ Beachland Tavern Cleveland, Ohio

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