Prince Rama
by Kevin J. Elliott

Sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson, the driving lifeforce behind Prince Rama (of Ayodhya), grew up in a Hare Krishna commune in the swamps of Florida and survived. They went to art school in Boston and survived. They were robbed of all their instruments of enchantment, rendered broke and homeless, and survived. It was when they finally brought their psychedelic rituals to Brooklyn that they eventually thrived, finding the same cosmic vibes they had chosen for their art. Shadow Temple, Prince Rama’s debut album, was conceived by the Larsons with help from friend Micheal Collins (not to mention Avey Tare of Animal Collective). The album contains long, trippy passages of chant and drone, where tribal beats weave in and out of synth arpeggios that might have soundtracked Nova and guitars wander aimlessly towards an abyss of swirling color. This is head (and body) music, but could easily double as the wafts from your neighborhood free-store’s drum circle. That’s not a bad thing, just keep in mind your conversation with the Larson sisters (as you can see below) would not involve gear and acid archives, but likely reaching for a higher consciousness through music. You may not get the answers that you want, but damn if it isn’t an interesting conversation.

The sonic explorations of Prince Rama seem to come out of nowhere and are increasingly cosmic with each listen, so were any of you in other bands before this that fed into Prince Rama or is this a completely different turn for each of you as musicians?

Nimai Larson: The three of us were in a punk rock band in high school that disbanded pretty soon after we all went our separate ways for college. Taraka's always been writing songs on her own, but once we all realized school was a joke, we took to playing music all together again as Prince Rama. That's been our main focus.

You obviously have a love for transcendental music from all corners of the world. Did the idea for Prince Rama come from traveling anywhere in particular or is this inner exploration?

Taraka Larson: For me, the outer and inner explorations happen simultaneously and are both constantly informing each other. I wrote the first real Prince Rama song while I was living for a brief period on an ashram in rural Pennsylvania before the band had even been formed. I left almost immediately after because being there made me realize that music was the only real temple I wanted to live in. So in that sense, the instinct to form a band spawned from the primal need to build a sonic structure through which outer explorations can be internalized.

NL: My main influence for drumming stems from taking an African hand drumming course for a year. Those beats mixed with growing up around the temple and hearing expert Mrdunga (Indian hand-drum) players during kirtans have been really inspiring. I'm really into organic, tribal sounding drums.

I hear a lot of different types of chanting going on, stuff that could come from a number of religions, belief systems or cults. Did you attempt to be faithful to any particular form of chanting or dogma for the content of the chants?

TL: Dark matter.

NL: Sun worship.

What is the ritual involved in Prince Rama recordings?

TL: I am an avid believer that making music is a form of returning to a timeless, spaceless moment of creation, and the act of putting it on a record and giving it a “space” and a “time” in which to dive into it is a highly delicate ritual process that goes by largely unintentionally. I am into that: unconscious rituals. I think in terms of these recordings, we had been homeless for a long period of time while making them, so the construction of the songs became a sort of unwitting attempt at meta-architecture for constructing a sacred space in which to dwell—kind of like I was saying before, a shadow temple.

Is there a story or mythology attached to this album? If so, is it self-created or did you pull from other resources?

TL: I feel like the story of this album began when the band appeared to have ended. While we were on tour last October, our van got broken into in Philly and every last piece of our equipment was stolen. We were totally broke and homeless, and for a brief moment, it looked like things were over. We were silent. Then out of this silence, it was like the Beatles singing “get by with a little help from my friends.” Somehow, by nothing short of a miracle, friends, family and total strangers heard of what happened and collectively raised enough funds to help start us over again. We set out immediately to write and record all new songs using these gifted instruments. It’s been such a humbling experience. Although there are about 689 other stories that have gone into the making of this record, I feel like the thread that connects them all is the idea of trying to create an offering in which to give something back to all those who have basically saved our lives.

I’m sure the Boredoms were a big influence on your music. If that’s so, do you have anything to say about what about them influenced you to head in that direction? If not, what has influenced the music the most?

NL: Who are the Boredoms?

TL: Man, all this name-dropping is just underscoring the fact that we don’t listen to hip obscure music. Although I can’t say much about the Boredoms, boredom definitely has been a heavy influence. Sinking deep into boredom to the point where your whole reality becomes altered because of it enters into the realm of interesting. I like listening to a lot of “boring music,” in the sense of deep repetition. Repetitive chants, repetitive drones, repetitive drums—stuff that most people would get totally bored to tears with after about seven or eight minutes. But boredom is just a barrier, just like Paul Laffoley talks about kitsch creating a barrier with pop music. Once this kitsch barrier, or boredom barrier, is penetrated, all of a sudden a mystical dimension is unveiled. With pop music, many times it can be a glimpse into the ecstasy of the collective consciousness. With “boring” music, sometimes it means entering into an actual trance or a hypnogogic state in which the aesthetics of speed and space collapse and create their own prismic landscape to be explored through zombie-vision.

Do you see what you do on Shadow Temple as more song-oriented, or are these bigger pieces of improvisational jamming on tape?

TL: I think all sound is a sacrifice, and these songs are no exception. They are offerings of our breath, our hands, our pulses through the sacrificial vehicle of the record, a “medium” between the physical and metaphysical realms. So in this sense, I guess I would say they are closer to rituals on tape.

NL: Aw man, I'm no good at improv. I'll leave that for the “jazzy” types.

Fill in the blanks:
In tenth grade it was _____. I was in ______ listening to _______ with _______ doing _____ and wishing one day I could ________.

NL: In tenth grade it was sick. I was in the mosh pit listening to Flogging Molly with my big time crush doing what the rest of the crowd was doing or else I’d be folded in half and wishing one day I could play to an audience like that.

TL: In tenth grade it was being the new kid in town. I was in a backwoods swamp town, listening to Weezer with my neighbor’s three-legged dog, doing air guitar and wishing one day I could make out with Rivers Cuomo.

Avey Tare is noted with mentioning how much he enjoyed your music recently. Have you seen an impact from him giving you a shot-out? Do you feel a certain connection to what Animal Collective does musically?

NL: Their drummer, Panda Bear, was a big inspiration to me. It’s incredible that he can hold down the beat for such erratic and swirling music. I think people that respect Avey Tare have maybe, by default, taken an interest in us as well.

TL: Animal Collective was kind of the first band I discovered in high school that opened the portal to whole new realms of music outside of the “Weezer” world, and their early recordings have definitely been pretty inspirational for me in thinking of music as “visual sound” instead of just a vehicle for organizing some cheesy words about wanting a boyfriend. We’re definitely really grateful for their support and encouragement and feel a lot of mutual appreciation.