FannBoy Friday: Rafay Rashid Debuts “Kitchen Weapons” Album

FannBoy Friday: Rafay Rashid Debuts “Kitchen Weapons” Album

I think this is the first time I am letting the vulnerability and the insecurities of being … a Muslim, Pakistani person shine through, as opposed to with Ravi Shavi where it was more like, “Let me just boldly claim my identity and use this to put my flag down and feel good about everything.”

– Rafay Rashid

Raised in Providence, R.I. via Islamabad, Pakistan, Rafay Rashid is one of those prolific musicians that’s always got a new musical project on the horizon. Perhaps best known for his work with the garage-punk outfit Ravi Shavi, Rafay’s latest solo effort “Kitchen Weapons” can be found via Almost Ready Records, or heard during the ensemble’s summer tour (currently underway).

I first met Rafay almost ten years ago while my band The Kominas was filming a music video in his hometown of Providence. 

We instantly hit it off and did a few shows together later that year. Both of our lives got busy, and then came COVID-19, as well as periods of rebirth for both of us. We reunited during early 2021 by chance and decided to get together for a jam session, seeing as we were both guitar players. That first jam session turned into me heading down to Providence basically every week, eventually joining his band Ravi Shavi, and now playing in the live ensemble for “Kitchen Weapons.”

In addition to being a wonderful musical collaborator, Rafay has been a breath of fresh air in my personal life. I really cherish him both as a friend and as an inspiration to believe in one’s own purpose and to keep striving for what calls you, no matter how long it takes. It was an honor to finally sit down with him for a FannBoyFriday.

(Rafay’s interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Shahjehan: Tell us about your big project this year

Rafay: The big project is unfolding as we speak with the release of my debut album “Kitchen Weapons” on Almost Ready Records. And then we’re embarking on a tour to promote that record with Deer Tick who are some great friends of ours and some of my musical idols as well from Rhode Island.

Shahjehan: Where does “Kitchen Weapons” sit on the “identity formation musical journey” for you as a first-generation Pakistani kid in the U.S.?

Rafay: I think this is the first time I am letting the vulnerability and the insecurities of being a minority person or a Muslim, Pakistani person shine through, as opposed to with Ravi Shavi where it was more like, “Let me just boldly claim my identity and use this to put my flag down and feel good about everything.” A lot of the imagery for the albums for Ravi Shavi was like directly harkening to my Pakistani upbringing and culture, but the lyrics didn’t really address those things much. And I think this was the first time where it seeped through. 

It’s a breakup album but, as in anything that’s deeply addressing a relational experience, the people involved’s identities come to the forefront. To me it felt impossible to talk about this 10-year-long relationship without also talking about being a Pakistani person in an interracial relationship — Although just saying “interracial” feels antiquated, but I don’t know the better word for it. … It was the first time I was dealing with these things directly, but then also dealing with them in a vulnerable state.

Shahjehan: Can you talk to me a little bit about the struggles of getting this album out?

Rafay: I guess technically it’s going on four years. We first started recording the album in 2019 right after the breakup. The songs themselves came in like a big feeling of inspiration. Dennis Ryan (of Deer Tick) engineered & produced it and he’s also drumming for our live band. So we did those really quickly. 

I was still in the throes of using and drinking and I didn’t get sober until about a full year after we recorded those initial sessions. So a lot of that first year was spent just trying to figure out my own life and going through a lot. The pandemic started in March, 2020 and obviously that sort of put a little halt on things as well. And then I think right around then is when we got the interest of my manager, Darren who then was shopping it around to labels and that took a whole nother year. And that was my first year into sobriety. I played Newport Folk Festival and started out on their side stage. But that was the first time I played these songs in a live setting which felt cool cause I was literally on my one year anniversary of being sober. There was a whole nother year we had spent just working out album art things and waiting in the wings to see what the plan would be. And that pretty much brings us to now. 

There were a couple times where we thought, “Okay, should we self release it? Or should we keep waiting for a bigger label to pick it up? Or should we do something in between?” And I guess we’re doing something in between, in the sense that we’re putting it out with Almost Ready Records who’s the label that we’ve been collaborating with to put out all the Ravi Shavi releases. I feel like it is still a very DIY release in the sense that it’s still very grassroots. There’s no big PR campaign to promote it. There’s no huge label infrastructure, so I’m still leaning on a lot of the old tricks up my sleeve that I’ve developed through the Ravi Shavi years.

It’s a long and winding road, but we’re here now.

Shahjehan: What are your long-term hopes for the album?

So far the response has been pretty strong. I hope people just continue to listen to it. I think It’s showing a new side of myself to people who have been following our band for a while. And it’s attracting people who it hadn’t attracted prior or [non typical Ravi Shavi listeners] in that it’s less aggressive or fast or punk-influenced. I think there’s a wider range of people that it’s been accessible to.  

I would love to tour on it more, keep opening for other people and maybe join the festival circuit at some point. But beyond that, I’m not really sure. It’d be cool to get in a Taco Bell commercial or something. 

Shahjehan: That’s the ultimate dream.

Rafay: Right?

Shahjehan: Or Target.

Rafay: I want to sell chalupas.

Shahjehan: Who are some musicians, Muslim or otherwise, that have inspired you?

Rafay: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The Kominas. King Khan and the BBQ Show. I really got into Lifafa after you showed me his album. I don’t think MIA is Muslim but she is in that world. … My parents would always put on Mukesh, so I would always be a fan of his stuff. 

Listen to Rafay Rashid’s latest album, “Kitchen Weapons,” wherever you get your music. You can find him on Instagram @ravishavi.