Q-and-A: Rafay Rashid of Ravi Shavi Releases Debut Solo Album Kitchen Weapons

The frontman has performed with Ravi Shavi for a decade and more, but this is the first time the tracks are all more personal to his life.

Rafay Rashid. Photo by Momolu Akoiwala.

It’s been a long time coming, but this Friday, May 26 marks the debut solo album release by prolific musician Rafay Rashid of Ravi Shavi. After working with local musicians and friends, Rashid’s new album Kitchen Weapons (pre-order here) is a reflection on a difficult period of his life, followed by bombastic creative inspiration.

Described as “Unsparing, unrelenting, with a voice by turns anguished, haunted or pleading, Rashid pokes deep into existential dread, processing the ashes of a decade-long relationship and standing on the cusp of his thirties facing mental and physical ruin.” It was written after a breakup and battle with addiction, over several weeks in a barren and bleak apartment on a piano in the basement.

The album, via Almost Ready Records, is a collaboration with various local musicians, including Dennis Ryan of Deer Tick. 

Ravi Shavi has several shows coming up, including at the Dreamaway Lodge in the Berkshires on May 27 with Ian O’Neil and Christopher Dale Ryan (also members of Deer Tick) and other friends. Ravi Shavi will also open for Deer Tick at their upcoming shows at the Ocean Mist in Narragansett on June 15-17. The “Kitchen Weapons” album release party will take place on Friday, July 21 at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket at 8 p.m. with Nova One (Duo) and EDT.

We recently interviewed Rashid about his upcoming release:

Jamie: You’ve had a couple of busy nights. You played at Revival recently (May 13)?

Rafay: We played Revival last weekend, then Northampton the night before, then we played at Mayday on the West Side with my other band Lookers. It was great. It’s been a significant amount of time since we had done some consecutive shows. It was good to shake off the dust. 

How did you first get involved in the local music scene?

It starts way back. I started my first band in high school. We would play our earliest gigs at the Living Room. I was in the band Yelling Game and another band. I was born in Pakistan but came here when I was eight. I grew up in Warwick from there. 

I started to get immersed in the music scene when I graduated from SUNY Purchase. I started Ravi Shavi around 2011, and we played our first show at Liberty Fest in 2011. We hit the ground running from there. We played every show we could hop on. I wrote all the demos which would become the first Ravi Shavi album while I was at Purchase. Around here, we played an awesome release show with Roz Raskin’s old band the Rice Cakes at Firehouse 13. That was in 2012. Ever since then, I’ve been doing Ravi Shavi and all these other side projects. 

I know the genre that best describes your music is garage rock or what would you say?

I would say that’s more accurate than not. Genres are always a tricky thing. We are also indie rock. We’re probably less genre-bound than a lot of garage rock acts I’ve come across. 

Who is your music most inspired by? It is inspired by yourself and your experiences, obviously, but do you have other musicians you’ve looked to for guidance? I’ve heard Iggy Pop references from locals.

For Ravi Shavi, it is a lot of late-’70s, early ‘80s punk rock and new wave music. The other day, somebody I know recorded a clip of our band, and I was playing it on my phone, and it sounded like I was listening to Raw Power by Iggy Pop for a second. I think we’re a lot less heavy and abrasive than a lot of the punk bands from that era, but we generally try to channel some of that spirit. 


Photo by James Galvin.

I know your stage presence comes into play with your music, so can you tell us about that energy and how it hits you and why you think that’s important?

I think there’s something primal when you channel the punk energy in a live performance. People ultimately respond to it, but then I’m also trying to combine that with old school showmanship, like James Brown and frontmen who danced. It was always a thing. That’s why I was a big fan of David Byrne as well. People who could move a lot. It’s a visual thing at the end of the day when you play a show. It’s cool when you have bands who are really dialed into the sound they are producing. But for me, a big part of it is uncontrollable. It’s not something I think about consciously. It just happens.

This is your first solo album, even though you have been performing for years. What took so long, basically?

Ravi Shavi started off as a moniker, then it became a band, especially when our guitarist Nick Politelli joined. We co-wrote everything from 2013 or so. I think when it became collaborative in that sense, anything I did solely on my own would end up as demos. The ones Nick really responded to, we ended up bringing to the band. And I think for this solo album, this was the first time that the subject matter was so personal. It is essentially a breakup album, but it’s also about personal themes, such as addiction and all of that. It just felt too personal and autobiographical to have it come from anywhere else but me and my name. I think part of it was that and the sound was much less derived from punk and rock and roll music, and more derived from ‘70s singer/songwriter music.

The name of the album, Kitchen Weapons, where does that come from? Did you get into a fight with a kitchen knife? 

It evokes a strange duality for people, where there’s the domesticity and comfort of a kitchen, and of course, the darker side of weapons. Just some of those things people don’t talk about in their private lives or daily backgrounds that are obviously on display with a title such as Kitchen Weapons

So it’s that Catch-22 of a home environment and how it might seem so heartwarming on the outside, but really there’s a lot of internal damage that goes on too. 

Yes, that’s right.


Photo by Shahroze Cheema.

You have worked closely with Deer Tick. Can you talk about the relationship you have with them? I know you are opening for the shows at the Ocean Mist and I know you are friends. Can you tell us about the tour?

Dennis Ryan, the drummer of Deer Tick, produced the entirety of Kitchen Weapons. He put a 50-50 effort into making that album because he not only produced it, he drummed on every track, and he sang on it. He played various instruments. He mixed it. It always felt like it would be great when the live show did come for Kitchen Weapons to incorporate Dennis somehow, and then when they were going on this tour, it really coincided nicely with when we were looking for a release date anyway. Luckily, they needed an opener and there we were. Chris and Dennis are going to be our rhythm section for the Deer Tick tour that we are opening. Then Liz Isenberg, who is a great singer/songwriter and also has been in the orbit of Deer Tick for a long time – she sang on the first Deer Tick record – she will be on the tour with us as well, playing piano. So will Shahjehan Khan who is in our band Ravi Shavi and also in another band called the Kominos.

I do want to talk about your other projects. I know you are in Happiness. You mentioned another band called Lookers. Can you give us the rundown on the various groups you are part of? 

If you are ready for a lot of names. You know Happiness already, which involves Ian, Chris and Dennis, all from Deer Tick. There’s Ravi Shavi which has me, Nick Politelli, Shahjehan Khan, John Faraone and Chuck Perry. Chuck plays in a great band called Joy Boys too. Ravi Shavi Kitchen Weapons is solely me, but there are a host of people who play on it. Some of the people who play on it are Nick Politelli, Ian O’Neil, Robbie Crowell who used to play keys in Deer Tick, Liz Isenberg, Amatto Zinno, Steve Delmonico, Florence Wallis, John McCauley. Basically a lot of great friends. Then I have a band called Lookers with Muggs Fogarty, Florence Wallis, Nick Politelli and Bryan Fielding. Finally I have a band called Hevs with Alec K. Redfearn and Dustin Rooney.

Why do you think it’s important to collaborate with so many different artists and musicians and create these different projects? As if one band wasn’t enough, you are in a bunch.

As they say, no man is an island. I do not really believe in the unique genius of an individual. I think great things come out of collaboration and original ideas come from the combination of two separate people’s ideas. At least the chances of it becoming something exciting and revelatory and surprising to me are much higher if I am working with someone else. It’s also more fun. 

You all support and promote each other equally, and that also helps to expose more people to your art and your music. Tell me more about Kitchen Weapons. You said it’s about a breakup and it’s highly personal to you. Some of the titles on the albums I can read into and see inside as I listen to the lyrics, but can you tell us more about what it means to you and how it feels to see it come to fruition?

I’ve said this in a couple of posts and interviews I’ve done so far, but basically it’s about the culmination of a ten-year relationship and the breakup and its aftermath. After the breakup, I returned to the house in which I had spent my twenties and lived with the band, and that’s where I wrote and recorded the album, living on this completely empty floor, with just a mattress on the floor and very little things, but there was a piano in the basement. That’s what I put all of my energy into. Seeing it come to fruition with help of my manager, Darren Hill, who runs POP in Providence, Harry Howes at Almost Ready Records, and Larry Webman at Wasserman has been really rewarding.


Photo by Shahroze Cheema.

Did it take you a long time to write the songs? Was it over a series of years, or did it come pouring out?

It kind of wrote itself, which is great. The whole thing was written within a matter of a few weeks. I needed to release it, it was almost like I was on survival mode and that’s the way it needed to come out. 

I’ve been helping a friend through a breakup and I think it’s the first and last thing they think about every day. It’s tough. 

It really is, and at the same time, I was dealing with… I’m sober now, but I had recorded this about eight months before I got sober. It was the last days of this sort of long run with alcohol and amphetamine use. It was generally a dark time, but it felt like a moment of clarity while writing those songs, and it was a great catharsis for me. It was a great way to just channel the vast amount of emotions that I was feeling, not necessarily in a depressing way. There’s a good amount of self-deprecating humor in there too. It was a very romantic time, even though it was bleak.

A lot of self-reflection, and that inspires the writing. So much good music was made after bad, bad breakups. That’s how people channel those emotions. It’s clear in your music and I think a lot of people relate to it who have gone through similar situations. So when is Kitchen Weapons going to be released?

May 26.

Do you have a favorite track on the album?

No, because I think this was the first album where each track was an individual puzzle piece to a larger puzzle. 

How do you think Providence has embraced the music scene and is the city and community doing enough to support local musicians?

The scene is becoming more active after the pandemic and different communities are being represented that weren’t as represented before. It’s an exciting time. The scene is only going to continue to grow, and I just hope there are more and more venues that pop up for us to continue playing shows at. I think downtown could use another venue. I miss Aurora. That was a cool spot.

Your family is from Pakistan. Did you come to Rhode Island as a kid, or were you born there?

I was born in Pakistan and I moved to New York, then I moved to Rhode Island when I was eight. I went to Toll Gate for high school, then School One briefly, an alternative high school on the East Side. 

You have performed at Newport Folk before. Is that on the docket too, or?

Not as of right now, but those things seem to happen last minute. I wouldn’t rule it out, but It’s definitely not official at the moment. We just added an album release show at Machines with Magnets on Friday, July 21. Nova One is playing Duo on that and Emily Dix Thomas (EDT). 

Anything else you want to add?

When you asked about Kitchen Weapons, I hadn’t really thought that much about the title. I just think it’s interesting that a knife is used in a kitchen for cooking to sustain you, but it can also hurt you really bad. I like the duality.

That’s such an analogy for love and heartbreak. You’re almost afraid of it because you know it could hurt you, but then if you have it, it’s wonderful, and the best thing that can happen. I know the photo on the cover of your album is in a graveyard. Is there a reason for that?

I think just because the album represents the end of so many things. The end of a relationship. The end of the days of partying. I did the album cover years after the first songs were written. It felt like I was putting something to rest by putting this album out.


Kitchen Weapons album cover.