AOTW: Prince Rama

In their quest for a world that doesn’t exist, alt-electronic act Prince Rama stumbled upon something else: liberation through music. What began as a way to pass the time for two sisters and their male counterpart has now brought the pseudo-psychedelic trio onto a grander stage than they had imagined. There was, of course, the brief stint of homelessness in between, but it served as creative contribution to their metamorphosis, and from that point on, it’s been forward moving. Their musical style places heavy emphasis on tribal drumming and electronic rhythms, taking anabolic incantations of both African and Southeast Asian descent and interspersing them with excerpts of electro, dub and psychedelic melodies.

“Our concept grew out of boredom,” explains vocalist Taraka Larsen. “We were stuck in Florida with our parents one summer and we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. At one point we were all living in a van.  So we built this sonic shelter.”

Heavy on reverb and synth, their unique musical concoctions create the idea of an acid trip deep into the center of someone’s celestial dreamland, and their stage identity is equally obscure. With costumes and set pieces mixing abstract colors and lights, the group paints a portrait using sparkles, beads, and hallucinogenic spectacles. This visual persona along with their music is inspired by everything from old Asian pop recordings to Bollywood to kraut rock acts from Germany. In fact, all three bandmates attended art school and feel a special attachment to the cinematic world of filmmaking.

“Cinema is a big inspiration to me, particularly because I worked a lot with 16mm formats,” comments Larsen. “I think the architecture of a song can be a lot like a film with its nonlinear structure, transitions and edits.”

Prince Rama’s break came when they were asked to perform as part of a DIY event at South by Southwest last March, and were spotted by David Portner of Animal Collective, who signed them to his indie label, Paw Tracks. Their first album on the label, Shadow Temple, was released last week, and was recorded partially at Kurt Vonnegut’s grandson’s home, as well as a 135-year old church in New York. The essence of the album is the band’s search for cosmic independence, and an insightful look at a place called utopia.

“A lot of people say it’s music to listen to while doing drugs, but we don’t actually do any drugs,” notes Larsen. “My drink of choice is a Shirley Temple.”

Conversely, Larsen believes the tonic revelations of Prince Rama’s work is best enjoyed with an open mind, and that the world might be a better place if everyone followed their bliss. The band recently moved to Brooklyn, which, according to Larsen, is a “weird magnetic zone” for music because it’s hard for an artist to exhaust themselves in a place with so many opportunities to play shows.

“That’s our goal right now—to lose ourselves in a performance every time,” adds Larsen. “Our strategy has always been to stay on the road.”

Prince Rama’s release event took place at Glasslands in Brooklyn, and the group has a long line of both US and European performances ahead in promotion of Shadow Temple. Their philosophy appears to stem from the study of mysticism, and the constant search for otherworldly motivation.

“Utopia has been a huge inspiration to us,” explains Larsen. “Broken down, the word means ‘no place,’ so it’s this idea of an invisible substance that people are searching for, which reminds me a lot of music. It’s a made of no matter, no molecular structure; there’s no atomic evidence at all for its existence.”

Listening to the idyllic trances strung through Prince Rama’s songs, it’s easy to identify their route to harmony. When asked whom she’d meet if she could meet anyone, Larsen decides it would be Joseph Campbell—another philosopher who studied perpetual bewilderment. As far as music goes, it’s international bands that mostly grab her attention; anything that will take her away for a moment.

“Utopia is definitely listening to music,” says Larsen. “Think about a live show: you go to this dingy, gross environment with vomit on the floor and stuff written all over the walls and then the band starts placing and it’s this magical trance where you lose yourself. It doesn’t exist in any other place but your mind.”

Upcoming Tour Dates
Sept.  22 – The Cobalt – Vancouver, BC
Sept. 23 – Vera Project – Seattle, WA
Sept. 24 – Northern – Olympia, WA
Sept. 25 – Mississippi Studios – Portland, OR
Sept. 27 – The New Parish – Oakland, CA
Sept. 28 – Historic Brookdale Lodge – Brookdale, CA
Sept. 29 – Eagle Rock Center For The Arts – Los Angeles, CA
Oct. 3 – Empty Bottle – Chicago, IL
Oct. 4 – Billiken Club – St. Louis, MO
Oct. 5 – Czar Bar – Kansas City, MO
Oct. 6 – Hailey’s – Denton, TX
Oct. 7 – The Mohawk – Austin, TX
Oct. 8 – Fitzgerald’s – Houston, TX
Oct. 9 – Spanish Moon – Baton Rouge, LA
Oct. 10 – Cats Purring Teen Wing – Taylor, MS
Oct. 12 – Crowbar – Tampa, FL
Oct. 13 – Common Grounds – Gainesville, FL
Oct. 14 – Back Booth – Orlando, FL
Oct. 15 – 529 – Atlanta, GA
Oct. 16 – The Milestone – Charlotte, NC
Oct. 17 – Local 506 – Chapel Hill, NC
Oct. 18 – DC9 – Washington, DC
Oct. 19 – Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
Oct. 21 – Cake Shop – New York, NY
Oct. 23 – Great Scott – Allston, MA
Oct. 24 – The Monkey House – Winooski, VT
Nov. 13 – De Nieuwe Anita – Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Nov. 14 – Water Moulin – Tournai, Belgium
Nov. 17 – Marie Antoinette – Berlin, Germany
Nov. 19 – Final Club – Prague, Czech Republic
Nov. 20 – Tabacka – Kulturfabrik, Slovakia
Nov. 23 – Club Sinister – Rome, Italy
Nov. 24 – Diagonale Club – Forli, Italy
Nov. 25 – Teatro Della Tosse – Genova, Italy
Nov. 27 – Grrnd Zero – Lyon, France
Dec. 1 – ZDB – Lisbon, Portugal

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– Courtney Garcia


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