Prince Rama’s Taraka Larson talks new album, future plans

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Prince Rama performed at SXSW and have returned to Austin to be a part of the city’s annual Psych Fest, happening this weekend (Photo courtesy of Michael Collins).

Psychedelic rock duo Prince Rama’s unconventional sound derives from the group’s upbringing on a Hare Krishna commune, an isolated environment that focuses devotedly on Eastern Indian practices. Tribal drums roar with an unyielding intensity, while sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson provide distorted vocals over a whirlwind of tripped-out guitars.

The group will be a part of Austin’s Psych Fest, which will present a preview show Thursday night that features artists Indian Jewelry, Chief Nowhere and The Wolf. Vocalist and guitarist Taraka Larson spoke with The Daily Texan about the group’s latest album, Trust Now, being influenced by architect Paul Laffoley and future plans.

Daily Texan: How was living on a Hare Krishna commune? How would you say living there influenced the music you guys have created so far?

Taraka Larson: It was a pretty nurturing environment to be in for the most part. It was pretty isolated in the middle of nowhere, so that comes with its pros and cons of course, but the people are really kind and loving. The music that is played during worship services there is amazing though. It was the first music that reached our ears, so we’re deeply steeped in the Eastern Indian drum beats, kirtan (call and response singing) and mantras.

DT: I read in another interview how you became interested with EVP [electronic voice phenomenon], and how such was most prevalent on your song “Mythras.” Do you usually prefer to record at places most susceptible to EVP and what first made you curious about EVP?

Larson: I guess, we started becoming more curious in it after we kept having repeated experiences where we’d be recording, and some strange, unknown frequency would pop up without explanation. In all honesty, I feel like we don’t go searching for EVP; it just always seems to find us.

DT: How was it working with Scott Colburn on Trust Now, and was there a specific reason why you chose the church you chose to record at?

Larson: Scott Colburn is truly a dream to work with. We spent 10 days at his house in Seattle, which just happens to be this 180 year-old church that was renovated to live in. The ceilings are high, perfect for recording. Him and his wife, Jaye, took great care of us. They have the most adorable cat, Ms. Jingz, too. She was probably the real reason we were drawn out there.

DT: One thing that you guys address with your music is the connection between music and utopia. Do you feel that there have been groups in the past/present who have tried to do the same, and do you believe that a utopian society is attainable?

Larson: I think knowingly or unknowingly there are many groups that are tapped into the way of utopia. Some are more intentional than others. Amon Duul, for example, began as an anarchistic utopian commune formed in response to the dystopia of a war-torn Germany in the late 1960s. They later evolved into Amon Duul II and wrote an album called Utopia. That’s a pretty direct example. But utopia is such a vague and subjective concept, that I think that any band that creates a liminal autonomous zone where anything is sacred, ecstatic and possible, and infinity can be experienced through the embrace of the finite is creating UTOPIA. Whatever spontaneous bonds between strangers that arise from this are the new utopian society.

DT: How was your Issue Project Room experience in Brooklyn, and which pop songs did you guys chop and screw?

Larson: It was amazing. On 11/11/11, we basically wanted to recreate “the apocalypse” through karaoke. So we looked at 11 different times the world had been predicted to end in the past, and looked up what the No. 1 hit was that corresponded to that date, and chopped and screwed them ’til they were hardly recognizable. There were some surprising relationships. For instance, Harold Camping’s May 21 apocalypse had “‘Till the World Ends” by Britney Spears, Jonestown Massacre had “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees and Y2K had “Breathe” by Faith Hill.

DT: What is next for you guys? Any plans on releasing any new material, or is it just touring so far?

Larson: After South By Southwest, we want to finish writing and recording a new album. We hope for it to come out before the world ends. Until then we got some collabs coming out with Sun Araw, which we’re pretty psyched about. After that, we’ll be ready to be back on the road again.