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Prince Rama: An Xtreme Interview with Taraka Larson

By: Morgan Y. Evans
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Prince Rama are allegedly somewhere in New Jersey and late to arriving at a venue, snared by the humorous tractor beam novelty of a Starbuck's Food Truck on their way to save the world.Vocalist and conceptual alien woman Taraka Larson texts me asking if we can delay our interview time fifteen minutes while the band explore.

"Dude, I just bought the dumbest thing ever," Taraka admits when we connect. "It's like a four foot long gummy snake."



I exclaim surprise and mention they have one for sale at a candy store in Kingston, NY next to the hip venue BSP Kingston where just a few nights prior Prince Rama kicked off their current tour in support of new album Xtreme Now . After a fuzzed out and blissfully welcome set from Team Love Records dream pop/grunge/indie hybrid act Shana Falana, Prince Rama turned a room of mostly polite hipsters into dancing revelers fit for a Bacchanal. Perhaps proximity to a trail of mutant gummy snakes is the secret key to the band's art rock success.

"The Starbucks Truck lured us into the further abyss of the weirdest rest stop ever," Taraka says. "It's kind of terrifying. I'm not going to eat it. I'll give it to someone but it might make an appearance on stage tonight."

We joke about how they should knock someone out with the snake and say that it said "Xtreme" on the flier, so no one can sue. I remember the band mentioned onstage the other night as well that they wanted to get signed to Starbucks label, so perhaps this is all a carefully calculated product placement on the band's part on behalf of the coffeehouse chain (and,um, discount store novelty food snakes) in attempts to get endorsement money.

"Yeah, totally. I want to be featured in the Starbucks shop along with whenever Paul McCartney comes out with a new album," Taraka laughs.

I mention how Prince Rama are sort of the next logical evolutionary chain step after 3-D glasses. The New-Age (or as Rama like to say, "Now Age") by way of art punk group have been at it for awhile, their previous record Top Ten Hits of the End of the World making quite a splash when the band created the music ten conceptual pop groups who perished in the apocalypse. I first became hugely enamored of their music while reading their tweets about DJing Guns N Roses songs and then seeing them blow away every band who played the prestigious O+ Festival (including my own band) last summer. This group cannot be stopped.

"I like that," Taraka says, before we start debating the nature of time as linear progression or one consistent moment where everything exists simultaneously. "You can go back and forth. It depends on your perception. Right now time is linear because we have a show to play and are running late. Then other moments time becomes really gooey like you can reach out and touch the future. It's kind of elastic, like a melting gummy snake of time that is eating its own tail."

We start discussing how the weather on the East Coast is still chilly enough that the snake probably won’t melt.

"It's not so bad out here," Taraka says. "I'm just kind of rocking some Guns N Roses leggings, a plaid shirt and no jacket."

We get into a discussion of Xtreme merch items and I mention almost purchasing pretty awesome and excessive $40 Anthrax "Not Man" yellow socks the other day. Incidentally, fellow talented band member (and Taraka's sister) Nimai Larson is always posting cool vegan recipes on Facebook and recently made an Anthrax themed recipe for a food article in celebration of the thrash band's new album For All Kings. While we are on the subject of funny merch items I ask Taraka how the often health minded band came to nonetheless have their own Xtreme energy drink and if it is vegan?

"Hey! There's nothing unhealthy about Monster Energy Drink," Taraka laughs. "You want to hear something crazy? My doctor was like ,"What have you been doing differently the past year? Your organs are destroyed right now?" And I was like ,"Uh...". I had been drinking Monster Energy once a day and my doctor put me on Monster probation. He gave me an herbal concoction to take. All these things my body needs that are depleted. I looked up all the herbs and, no shit, it's like the exact same stuff in Monster. My body must really need it."

It sounds like her doctor is just trying to undercut the supplier and take business away from Monster Energy Drink.

"Yeah, that health food concoction is so much more expensive than Monster," Taraka laughs.

We start discussing the Scientific claims that water reacts to human emotions as seen in the film What The Bleep Do We Know? (and which some people have attempted to debunk). Still, there seems to be something to it and we discuss how Prince Rama should try to molecularly charge their energy drinks with happy thoughts. I mention how my dog seems to prefer Prince Rama and Manu Chao to, say, Cannibal Corpse. The phone conversation wanders to bootlegging Nike T-shirts and the power of logos and brand names on society.

"I made Nike everything when I was little," Taraka confides. "Our parents were pretty much starving artists like us. We couldn't afford the real ones. We were in Eighth Grade and wanted to fit in without being weirdos. We already had Hare Krishna parents and were like the only vegetarians in three hundred miles. I drew swishes on my socks. The girls locker room, I remember getting called out for it. "That's not a real Nike shirt". The ones who don't ask if it is real are your real friends."

Taraka pauses and continues ,"The symbol just had some sort of power. I'm really fascinated with the power of symbols."

Are people too hung up on form and genre these days instead of just accomplishing things? Prince Rama have their influences, but it doesn't seem to overpower their art as much as with other bands. Their band is very much an experience.

"I'm more about creative putty in terms of time, genre and form," Taraka says. "I feel like genre comes from a place of trying to create. There isn't really anything new. If time really is this putty thing then there is nothing new you can do, just tapping into the original source that recapitulates itself. Always taking on different forms."

It is cool to look at time and life as raw material.

"That raw synergy that gets placed in different shells, that's more interesting," Taraka opines. "We like to play around with genre."

I mention I liked an acoustic song they debuted at BSP the other night, a mellow sort of beach pop/Krishna campfire song where the band performed in white bathrobes and an acoustic guitar paired well with the sort of Surfer Blood meets Velvet Underground bubbly fuzz guitar of Ryan Sciaino.

"Our Starbucks acoustic jam," Taraka laughs. "We are going to try to steal as many bathrobes on this tour as we can."

Taraka and I start talking about music as therapy and I tell her about the Black Yo)))ga collective in Pennsylvania who combine drone music and black metal with transcendental meditation. How it creates a different access point for healing for certain types of people who otherwise might resist yoga. Prince Rama's Utopia = No Person ostensibly works well in a similar capacity for indie rockers and dance music fans.

The music video for Prince Rama's new single "Bahia" features a sort of 80's glam rock meets futuristic gym membership vibe. Nimai discussed on stage the other night that her fantasy was to be bench pressed by someone. The band have often explored a sort of VHS time travel aura of kitsch mixed with a kind of New Age self help awareness, although Xtreme Now sort of takes that whole concept and puts it on steroids. Prince Rama lately wear custom kimonos dedicated to adrenaline junkie culture. I wrote Nimai the other day noting that while in the past some of their music was great for yoga, the new Prince Rama album is almost like Jane Fonda combined -- Barbarella:Queen Of The Galaxy with her famous workout videos.

We start discussing Estonia, where the band recently allegedly spent time on a small island and Taraka is said to have had a time-travel themed vision/Near Death Experience within a Viking Ruin. Without trivializing this rumor, I ask if it is bullshit and mention I'm part Estonian and looking forward to taking my father's ashes there this Summer.

"You need to go," Taraka says. "That's amazing. We're trying to go back this Summer too. We want to go in June again. It sounds crazy but we definitely lived on this pseudo-black metal commune in Estonia for a month. Tallin is so sick. For awhile after we came back from Estonia we were like ,"Fuck New York." I had an Estonian period where I was like ,"Maybe I'll move here. Maybe we'll get married" kind of thing. But Estonian people are crazy."

I laugh and agree, saying there is a lot of pride, self-loathing and a love of singing mixed with strong drink.

"I feel like everyone there has the best humor and knows how to party," Taraka says. "I feel like at the age people start saying ,"You don't act this way. We are in a restaraunt. That's not what you do"...I feel like Estonian people don't have that. Like, anything goes. It's so refreshing."

Somewhere my father's ghost is laughing and smiling at that somewhere. We talk for a bit about lineage and Ellis Island names and how the sisters might have some Estonian connection but aren't sure. Taraka then confirms her dream experience.

"Yeah, it was weird," she says. "It was one of those moments where time gets gooey. Gummy snake time. Where everything seems at your fingertips and you can observe things like outside of time. That gel becomes viscous all of a sudden and you are in the Baroque ages or Medieval ages. I was kind of inside a Viking Ruin and had this vision, a sort of...y'know...you think about ruins as the skeleton of the past. Then you go inside and have a living experience with it. Internal aspects very difficult to explain."

Taraka is aware that by putting it in their press release as background on the time leading up to the new record, people will ask about it.

"Tell me about this near death experience?", Taraka pantomimes, before arguing that "Near Death" is another way of saying "Xtreme living."

She draws a direct connection between extreme sports and the fear of death and mentions that the space on the brink of death is some of the most intense living you can do and mentions that the body releases lots of chemicals when in high risk situations.

"Listen to the album, man! I wrote these songs because I couldn't really explain it," Taraka admits. "In that space where you feel floating outside of time you are kind of out of body and don't realize if you are alive or dead. You realize how your perception of time is kind of connected to death. It's a sort of ultimate magician pulling bunnies out of hats and keeping you believing in time out of fear of death. Your life is moving towards an ending point. If you remove death from the equation you have a different experience with time."

Prince Rama sort of make listeners feel motivated. People get dormant sometimes. Technology can make people less active sometimes because of distraction, but Prince Rama sort of make people go back into their bodies a little bit (through dance worthy jams) but make people lose their minds. That's an important essence to the uplifting power of their musical oomph.

In Quantum Physics people often say that energy sticks around or in the Aboriginal culture you have the Rainbow Serpent, representing the cycle of the seasons or creation, where the Rainbow in the sky represents the snake moving from one watering hole to the next in pursuit of the waters of life.

"They say in Aboriginal languages there is no past tense. It's all dream time," Taraka says. "It depends on your state of mind. Certain things like music or smell can be so transformative. You hear a song you haven't heard since high school in the car and suddenly it feels just like those memories are back with you in the present moment. You feel the wind in your hair from being eighteen and driving through North Dakota for the first time again."

Taraka likens this to finding hidden flavor crystals in a five year cheese and we discuss how Biggie Smalls Ready To Die is like a twenty year cheese now.

"We embed flavor crystals in time for our future selves," Taraka says. "As you experience something you are also creating the memory in that present moment. So, it's like you ALSO are your future self in that moment because that experience is molding who you will be."

Xtreme Now is out now on Carpark Records.
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