Interview: Prince Rama

I wrote up an interview in prose for The Line Of Best Fit. It’s in PROse. Like a pro -

INTERVIEW | PRINCE RAMA

Learning about Prince Rama is a bit like watching season three of LOST without having seen seasons one and two. Trust Now is their fifth record. Fascinating, mysterious, curious and strange, you can’t help but want to glean more of their story.

Prince Rama is Takara and Nimai Larson. The sisters’ musical offerings through their swirling psychedelic pop conjures up visions of Middle Eastern palaces, midnight desert rituals and journeys on magic carpets. Takara says they find it “kind of funny” that a lot of press seems to assume they’re on drugs (they’re not). Their sound is confrontational, tribal and surreal. “Just recently I became interested in the process of glossolalia.” Takara says. That means speaking in tongues, in simple-people speak. “It feels so much more personal because it is getting in touch with this primal relationship with language that so often becomes hazy and obfuscated when you’re limited to only using pre-existing vocabularies.”

The new album (and its predecessor) was released this year on Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks label. “All the Animal Collective dudes have been really amazing to work with, and feel inspired by” Takara says. “Before we met them though I worked for this architect, Paul Laffoley, who has been a huge source of creative and philosophical inspiration over the years. He is a true visionary in every project he works on, whether it be building a levitating city, a house you can grow from a seed, or a time machine harnessed to a neutron star. Whatever it may be, his work is incredibly mindful of the relationship between architecture and utopic space, an idea I have really taken to heart and have tried to apply in my own endeavors.”

It’s no surprise they find Laffoley to be such an inspiration. The 71 year old artist and architect has had an incredibly prolific career; previously working with Andy Warhol and Minoru Yamasaki, and regularly exhibiting his own other worldly multi-dimensional paintings. His aesthetic is highly thematic and bold, as is Prince Rama’s (take a look at the band’s album artwork) and the sisters list him among their primary artistic influences along with Rem Koolhaus, Antonio Gaudi, James Turrell and Damien Hirst.

Before the release of Trust Now the band invited friends (which included G. Lucas Crane of Woods and Damon McMahon of Amen Dunes) to sing karaoke versions of songs from the record, which were recorded and posted online. The uncomfortable intimacy and Twin Peaks-esque surrealism was quite brilliant. “I’m pretty into the idea of karaoke on a paranormal level. It is the most banal form of possession. The act of singing someone’s song and trying to channel the mannerisms and nuances of that person, whether they be alive or dead, a close friend or a distant stranger, is a way of  unwittingly opening oneself as a vessel to channel the spirit world… not so unlike the tradition of mediumship. It is fascinating to me because of this inter-dimensional connotation,” Takara notes, “much more so then just asking people to remix songs or something.” On topic of karaoke, you’ll be pleased to know Elvis, Ace of Base and Lee Hazlewood rank highly in Takara’s list of favourite karaoke party jams.

What Prince Rama do so well is create their own world within and around their music, with the songs themselves being dense, complex and unusual. The sisters sing in various languages, and hearing other people trying to imitate them gives a whole new level of appreciation for their talents.

The artwork, the sound, the feel of the music, as with everything, is all about context. Takara agrees “Of course! It is the vessel in which the essence can be delivered. Both have to be there. Otherwise you just have a hollow shell with no substance or an amorphous substance with no chalice to drink it from.” In terms of the best time to listen to the album, she ponders, “Maybe Fall? I love the warm bright golds, orange, and crimsons. All very healing colours energetically. There is this paradoxical symbolism embedded in the aesthetics of Fall as well that is  really appealing. The focus on death and decay while simultaneously honoring the ritual of the harvest, nourishment, and ultimately growth and transformation. Putting out an album feels like honoring a simultaneous death and harvest. Its release marks the end of an era  for the people writing it. It is the culmination of a long period of growth and each of the songs become fruits of its harvest.”

And a truly magical experience the harvest of Trust Now is indeed. Rounding up our interview, I ask Takara what she trusts in most of all. With no hesitation, she responds “NOW”.

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