Blackout Chatter with Rafay Rashid
Ravi Shavi’s new record, Blackout Deluxe, was one of my favorite records from 2018. It was released just before Christmas and shows a more adventurous side of Ravi Shavi. Their previous self-titled release was pretty much straight forward rock ‘n’ roll, but Blackout Deluxe incorporates everything from new wave funk (“Midnight”) to haunted grunge-stained pop melodies (“Season”) with the straight-up rockers that are Ravi Shavi’s calling card. Singer/Guitarist Rafay Rashid was kind enough to take some time to talk about the new record after a long day of moving back to Providence from New York City.
Marc Clarkin: I love Blackout Deluxe. Was there anything you wanted to do different with this record?
Rafay Rashid: Yeah, I had been collaborating much more with Nick Politelli, who is our guitarist, so in a way it had to be different. On the first record, I wrote all the words, music and melodies by myself, so it was just natural for it to evolve given the parameters. Stylistically, I wanted to make songs that focused more on the arrangement and going more toward a pop structure — not pop as in Backstreet Boys, but something that is universal and not confined by a genre. I was trying to create songs that have this vibe of rock ‘n’ roll, but could also say something beyond, “Let’s party.”
MC: How did the song “Seasons” come about?
RR: That song was kind of the outlier. I wrote that song on my own on an acoustic guitar a very long time ago, say 2012. I think that I had the song at the very inception of the band and recorded it back when I was in college. I was always into finger picking, but I’ve never been a great guitar player. The song to me was a lost love song, but it was also about the subject of controlling forces. It is about being disillusioned by love and the society in which you live. So the lyric, “The seasons are out to get you,” is about trying to overcome the feeling of when you are young and everything is happening to you and you’re the victim of everything. Somehow thoughts of lost love got thrown in there, but it’s about how much control you actually have.
MC: “Permanent Danger” and “Danger” both have a ’60s garage vibe. Who are your favorite garage type bands?
RR: “Danger” was influenced by this compilation called Cambodia Rocks. We pretty much straight up lifted that song from that album. Our song turned out very different, but at least the initial melody and hits on the guitar were inspired by that song. I heard that song and was just like, “I’m going to write my own version of that.” And then it went to a completely different place — like it enters some weird Rolling Stones territory toward the end. That whole idea was prominent throughout the record in terms of wondering how many different things can we pack into this song and where do I naturally want to go with it as opposed to modeling this song after this genre.
Then there is this other album called Sound of Wonder, a compilation of songs from Lallywood, which was a short-lived film industry from Lahore, Pakistan. I don’t know if the album is considered garage rock, but it has a lot of the same textures and continues to influence the songwriting. All the songs on Sound of Wonder were written by a few different composers with female singers in the mid to late ’70s. A lot of the technology for keyboards was kind of novel at the time, but they combine traditional-sounding Pakistani music and combine it with very western rock instrumentals.
MC: “Dance Around” and “Some Devils” remind me a little of The Strokes, especially in your vocal delivery. Were they a big influence?
RR: That was definitely a huge influence on me, Nick Politelli and our bassist, Bryan Fielding. I think we were just at the right age when the Strokes were hitting it; “Last Night” I think came out in 2001. That was kind of the most common ground that Nick and I had when we first started collaborating. In going back to what I was saying earlier about accessibility, this was music that was kind of punk rock and had its gritty edges, but it was very accessible with these melodies that were almost taken from a Phil Spector arrangement. We had been working with the lo-fi distorted vocals aesthetic for a while; that is just a band that made that very popular. The first time I heard the Strokes I was probably 12 and my aunt put on “Last Night” and I was like, “Why can’t you understand what the guy is saying?” She was like, “That is kinda the point.” Now when I listen to them it isn’t even that lo-fi, but at the time it was strange to be confronted with something deliberately like that. The Strokes are on point with those two songs and also I was trying to take some cues to not scream on every song.
MC: In addition to Ravi Shavi you are in at least two other bands, Lookers and Happiness. What is going with those bands?
RR: Lookers just did a great show in New York at the Mercury Lounge, so that is very promising. Lookers was born out of collaboration between Muggs Fogarty and I. Then we fleshed it out with a band and it became its own thing. That was really an experiment in minimalism. With Ravi Shavi, everything is just constant; on that first record, there is no silence anywhere. Lookers is very much concerned with dynamics and emotion. Lookers have an EP out now called Mirage on Sad Cactus Records, and there are plans to record another album down the line, maybe later this year.
With the Happiness record, Dennis Ryan is going to finish mixing it and it will be out this summer. It has been a long time coming.
MC: What is next for Ravi Shavi?
RR: There are very few shows happening. We have a full length coming God knows when… but it is being mixed now. There are a lot of collaborations between Politelli and I along with some guests. Ian O’Neil from Deer Tick plays bass and guitar on a couple of tracks. Roz Raskin sang some backup vocals along with Emily Shaw and Kate Jones from The Sugar Honey Iced Tea. So there is a lot more going on. If you think Blackout Deluxe is varied, this new one sounds like 17 different bands. I would venture the earliest it would come out is fall or winter 2019. Till then we are going to continue to write and play shows and maybe go on tour.
5 Shows to Warm Your Toes
The Cruxshadows, Mei O’hara, and Korine are at FMH in PVD on Feb 22.
Eric and The Nothing, White Elephant, and Seatbelt will rock Askew on Mar 1.
Julie Rhodes and Dwight & Nicole are at Askew in PVD on Mar 2.
The Callouts, Sick Pills, and Foul Weather Friend will rock the News Cafe in Pawtucket on Feb 23.
Jay Berndt & The Orphans, AdapterAdapter, and Corinne Southern are at Askew in PVD on Feb 22.
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