Who Are…Prince Rama

Richard Gehr

By Richard Gehr

on 11.29.12 in Who Is...?s

File under: Electronic, tribal, cosmo-apocalyptic pagan faux pop

For fans of: The Animal Collective, Tangerine Dream, Gang Gang Dance, and Amon Duul

From: Brooklyn

Personae: Sisters Nimai and Taraka Larson

Top Ten Hits Of The End Of The World

Prince Rama

The Larson sisters met third Prince Rama co-founder Michael Collins while living in the world’s large largest Hare Krishna community and attending high school in Alachua, Florida. The trio’s self-described “Blink 182 rip-off band” evolved into something much more ambitiously eccentric once Taraka Larson moved to Boston in 2005 to attend the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Prince Rama of Ayodhya (named after the seventh avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu and later shortened) went public in 2007 and released its largely acoustic and rather freak-folky debut, Threshold Dances, in 2008. From there, Rama went on to blend the ecstatic Hare Krishna chants — or bhajans — the trio grew up chanting and dancing to with driving electroclash keyboards and tribal percussion.

Collins left the band in 2011, and the Larsons released Trust Now, their fifth album and first for Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks label, as a duo. Sometimes misperceived as a parody band — thanks in part to performances involving group exorcisms masquerading as VHS workouts, apocalyptic karaoke sessions and lectures inspired by the mystical art and writings of Paul Laffoley — the constantly shape-shifting Prince Rama turned the insult on its head with Top 10 Hits of the End of the World. Here, the Larsons impersonate 10 different groups — from Middle East rockers Guns of Dubai to lounge act Motel Memory — with as many different sounds, while still retaining Prince Rama’s distinctively witchy brew of cheese and chakras.

eMusic’s international columnist Richard Gehr conversed telepathically with Taraka Larson as Prince Rama toured Europe, opening for Animal Collective, in fall 2012.

On the inspiration for Top 10 Hits of the End of the World:

I became really obsessed with looking up what the No. 1 hit single was on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on various dates the world’s been predicted to end. I don’t know why, exactly. It was like a game to decode. Soon, I started seeing eerie correlations between some of the apocalypses and their corresponding No. 1 hits. For instance, on Harold Camping’s Rapture on May 21, 2011, the hit song was “Til the World Ends” by Britney Spears. I’m really fascinated by how pop music becomes this vehicle for mass consciousness to encode messages of mass destruction. It’s the perfect disguise. So I thought, “Wow, if the world ended this year, what would the No. 1 hit singles be? What would the post-apocalypse Now That’s What I Call Music! compilation sound like?” I wanted to make that album.

On the best apocalypse song ever:

I’m pretty into “Staying Alive.” That was No. 1 on the Billboard charts when the Jonestown Massacre went down. It’s like a disco survival guide.

On favorite bhajans and turning them into weird electropop:

There are so many…I really love “Om Mani Padme Hum” and “Raghupati” a lot. It’s all about finding ones that speak to you, then the mantras themselves tell you how to do the rest.

On how the sisters became a trio again:

Our good friend Chris Burke just started playing bass with us. He’s amazing. We used to play with his old bands Beach Fossils and Kegs of Acid back in the day, and we all get along really well so it just made sense.

On their most memorably horrible gig:

That’s funny because we were just talking about this today in the van. There was this show on our first tour abroad that scarred us for life. We were supposed to play the Green Man Festival in Wales, which at the time would have been our first major show. I mean, we had only been a band for a few measly months and suddenly we were shoved up in front of 4,000 people crowded together under a cold, wet, muddy tent while a storm assailed outside. We were scared to death. We had a 30-minute slot, but we had so many technical difficulties that we ended up only being able to play one song. Our keyboardist at the time wasn’t even turned on, so he got up on the mic and started cursing out the sound dude, who started cursing back. Everyone in the audience just stared at us in baffled horror. A group if 14-year-old British boys started booing. It was the worst vibes ever.

On the most spiritual pop music:

It’s all spiritual pop music. You just have to listen to it through spiritual speakers.