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Interview with Beat The Devil at Inside ontheinside.info

Interview with Beat The Devil

beatthedevil.png

Q: How did Beat The Devil come about?
Shilpa:Three years ago, I went to Sidewalk Cafe after I kept hearing from a couple people that you can go there and sing stuff and it’s a pretty loose open mic. I didn’t know how to really start cause I never played in a band. So I was writing my own stuff and I went there and I didn’t have any instruments on me or anything, so I just sang it a capella. The guy that runs it, Latch, was like “you should come more often” and I did and then eventually got a set. Then, I wanted add drums to this, so I called up my friend, our first drummer, and I asked him if he wanted to play. And then it started out as a duo and then we wanted a bassist so we put out an ad.

Q: So you started out with just voice?
Shilpa: Yeah, and then I started lugging my harmonium down.

Q: Were you trained in singing?
Shilpa: Yeah, yeah. I was trained in singing—I never wanted to do it, for like, a real thing. But I was classically trained in North Indian classical music when I was a kid and then I guess when I hit my teenage years I really resented it. I didn’t like it a lot cause I couldn’t understand a word I was saying and anything structured really sucks when you’re like 16. So I was like, I don’t want to do this, this is bullshit. And then when I was in college I’d just find that I would hang out by myself a lot and smoke a lot of pot and listen to music. And then I wanted to sing along so I started singing along and I really wanted to do it, like I wanted to play.

Q: Did you start writing pieces?
Shilpa: Slowly. I mean, I didn’t really know how to write a song, so I started mostly writing poetry. I’ve always written poetry, it’s something I like to do. So, I always start writing first. It wasn’t till actually I started playing at the Sidewalk and listening to other people that play there, that I was like, ohhh, so if you put this chord and this chord together it works. You know, it starts making more sense. So, I mean, that helped a lot, like I took it, like fish to water, it felt very natural to me.

Q: How did you hook up with Mishka?
Shilpa: It was Craigslist.
Mishka: Yeah, her ad was like, “harmonium and drums duo seeks bass player. Influences—Can, The Fall, and Howlin’ Wolf.” and I was like, I haven’t heard your band but I’m the fucking bass player for this band.
Shilpa: You wrote us a really long letter, I remember that. I was like, who is this guy? This is the longest letter, saying “I’m in Portland right now, I’ve played in so many bands.”

Q: Did you interview a lot of bass players?
Shilpa: Yeah, I mean we tried talking to others. The thing you learn about Craigslist is, the response is just the first stage. Cause like after that it’s the phone tag—are they gonna still stay for the phone tag. And if they stay, are they going to make it through 2 practice sessions, and then after that it’s like, are they gonna make it the month, you never know.

Q: You went through a rotation of drummers too right? Mitchell’s been in it how long?
Shilpa: Since February, so it’s been 6 months.
Mitchell: It’s been a long 6 months though.
Shilpa: Yeah, look at him. When we first met him he had a twinkle in his eye, now he wears sunglasses in the dark. (laughs)

Q: So you guys all work day jobs?
Mishka: Yes. We all work. Too much. And have too many day jobs.

Q: What kind of jobs?
Mishka: I work for a construction company.
Shilpa: I work a customer service job for an online eyeglass company and I also work sales at a dress shop.
Mitchell: And I’m a real estate agent.

Q: Let’s talk a little about New York and the neighborhoods you lived in and maybe your history, when you first came here.
Mitchell: I’m from Georgia originally, I just moved here about 3 years ago, 3 1/2 years ago. And I live in Brooklyn in Kensington right now, just below Park Slope and I love it here. I moved here for, I don’t know, something different than what I had always known—rural southeast. And I definitely got it.

Q: Where were you in Georgia?
Mitchell: Northeast, kind of northeast corner, where the Appalachian Trail starts. Very pretty, very nice. Kind of, about 12-15 years behind the cultural curve.
Shilpa: Did you guys have donkeys in your yard too?
Mitchell: We had donkeys in the house actually (laughs).

Q: So were you in a band in Georgia? Did you come here seeking that?
Mitchell: Nah, I really don’t know why the fuck I moved. I had a couple thousand dollars in my pocket and I thought that was big money so I was like, let’s go to New York. I found out about 4 days later that that wasn’t big money. I managed to make it work though. And then I just kind of fell into music. I played when I was in Georgia but nothing really seriously you know, I would pick up stuff. Not in any like, touring bands or anything. But um, I always wanted to be in a touring band and I dug these guys, so it worked out.

Q: Was it also through Craigslist?
Mitchell: Yeah, yeah, same thing. Craigslist yeah.
Mishka: Careful what you wish for with a fucking touring band.
Mitchell: Well my tenure might be about up, I mean you know, we’re reaching the 6 or 7 month mark.
Mishka: This is the point where drummers burst into flames.

Q: So you [Shilpa] grew up near the city?
Shilpa: I grew up in Jersey. I went to school in Philadelphia and after I graduated I guess I also had some big dreams about living in New York. But I don’t know, I have like younger-child-syndrome where I don’t save up and I’m pretty irresponsible.
Mitchell: I have that same syndrome and I’m the older child.
Shilpa: I had like $200 in my pocket and I’m like, I’m going to live in New York!! So I lived in a couple living rooms for a while and I just moved in last year actually to my first room that has, like, a window and a door and I was so psyched. I was like, I have a room with a window and a door! I have 3 windows! Not one but 3 windows! So I got really excited about that.

Q: What neighborhood have you lived in?
Shilpa: Um, I first moved to Astoria and then after Astoria, Washington Heights. After that I lived in a windowless room in Greenpoint, and after that I lived in Bed-Stuy in a loft with no walls or doors, sharing with our first drummer which is insane, don’t do that.
Mishka: Which is exactly what I said when you guys were doing it.
Shilpa: And then I finally live in Greenpoint again by McCarren Park and it’s fun.

Q: How has the city shaped or influenced you and your music?
Shilpa: I think from when I was 3 the city has shaped me. Cause my dad used to commute here and I grew up like an hour outside. And I mean, when you’re living in suburban New Jersey you’re like, I want to go to the city, I want to be cool and go to the city. You would like sneak out of the house at 12:00 when your parents are asleep and you’d go take the train up and go to the city. So everything for me was like, I would read books about it, I knew everything about the whole Pop Art - Andy Warhol thing when I was in like middle school, high school and stuff. And I would just dream about coming to the city and something wonderful and big was going to happen. But it gives you a kick in the ass you know, when you really live there. And you’re like, oh, I’ve gotta work in a basement full of rats—whoops. So much for the city. I still love it though. It’s great.

Q: What about you Mishka?
Mishka: I moved here from Colorado with $200. And I lived in a one room apartment with my step-brother. Eating hot dogs every day. I’ve been here for 10 years and I moved here like, yeah I’m going to take over this town, I’m going to make it big in the big city. And I’ve been here for 10 years and I work for a construction company. I don’t know I’ve just always been like, hustling in New York and I always—being from, I mean I was born in Canada and always lived incredible far from New York, there was always sort of this legend in your mind as to what New York is like. It’s almost like a cartoon or something, you know. My mom got me a subscription to the New Yorker when I was 16 because she was like, oh you’re going to be a writer, this is the best writing magazine. So I was reading all this stuff about like, John Spencer playing in New York City and I was like, oh man, it’s so fucking cool.

Q: Do you see yourself here for a long time?
Mishka: I keep thinking like, man it would be awesome to get out of New York and then I’m like, well where am I gonna fucking go after this, you know? It’s kind of like getting hooked on drugs or like a bad relationship or something, you know, it spoils you for anything else. You get it in your blood. Regardless of how long we’re gone, if we’re gone for 2 days or if we’re gone for 2 months, whenever we’re getting back to New York I’m like, oh man, I can’t fucking wait to get back to New York. I’m gonna go get like, you know a cup of coffee at the deli and like, the 25 cent granola bar.

Q: Do you feel a connection to New York Mitchell?
Mitchell: Uh, not totally yet. I mean I don’t feel like I’m a lifetime New Yorker, but it grows on me every day. There are definitely those days when I love it and those days that I hate it.

Interview by Thomas Collardeau, photo by Sumeet Singh for http://ontheinside.info

To check out Beat The Devil’s profile and favorite NY places at ontheinside.info, click here.

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