How a Near Death Experience Gave Prince Rama Visions of an Extreme Sports-Themed Future
Posted by Isabelle 6 months ago in Interviews
When asked to describe the sound of her new extreme sports-themed album, Xtreme Now, Taraka Larson of sister duo Prince Rama said this: “I just watched a bunch of Go-Pro extreme sports videos on mute and tried to figure out what the score should be.”
Then, to explain the album’s single, “Slip Into Nevermore,” this: “It was written inside an ancient Viking ruin on a remote island in Estonia as a last minute resort to try to prevent a friend from committing suicide. With its haunting synths and angelic vocals, it totally did the trick.”
… Yeah. Hopefully it’s clear to you from these three sentences that Prince Rama is one of the funniest, more creative bands out there right now. But, they’re not without clout. Working with acclaimed dance producer Alex Epton of XXXChange (Gang Gang Dance, Björk, Spank Rock, Panda Bear, The Kills), Prince Rama’s new album take on a more powerful, confident, fierce, infectious, all-encompassing, and accessible dance-club feeling than their previous records, a visionary pop affront that smacks you upside the face with a full 24 oz. Monster Energy drink.
But, perhaps a far more interesting story is how they came up with the album concept, something they detail in the album’s press release.
“Writing for Xtreme Now began while the Larson sisters were living on a black metal utopian commune on Vȫrmsi, a remote island off the coast of Estonia during the summer of 2012,” it reads. “There, Taraka had a near death experience inside an ancient Viking ruin which sparked a recurring sense of time-schizophrenia, or the physical sensation of existing in multiple time periods simultaneously. In this case, she experienced a joint-existence in both the medieval ages and the year 2067. In one of her prophetic visions she describes, “In the year 2067, I witnessed an aesthetic landscape where art museums are sponsored by energy drink beverages and beauty is determined by speed. I saw a vision of ancient tapestries stretched across half-pipes and people base-jumping off planes with the Mona Lisa smiling up from their parachutes. I saw art merge with extreme sports to form a new aesthetic language of ‘Speed Art.’ I realized that time travel was possible via the gateway of extreme sports, and I wanted to make music that would provide the score.”
… FUCK. YES. After reading this and listening to the album, I had questions. So many questions. So, I got in touch with the Taraka half of Prince Rama to find out what was up with that Estonian black metal village, what extreme sports are the most XXXTREME, and whether she could pretty please use her ability to time travel to predict the results of the upcoming election.
In the future, did you learn anything about our current election situation? Please enlighten us …
Every four years, there is this nationwide reality TV show called “The Elections.” The worse the actors, the more emotionally involved people get. The 2016 elections were no different. The outcome is always the same. The actors just change every four years. In the future, people laugh at how much we are tricked into thinking it matters. They put all the wasted energy we spend on elections into just working on changing themselves.
Can you tell us a bit more about this near-death experience in the Viking ruin? What were you doing in an Estonian Viking ruin anyway?
Ha you know, just hangin’ out. JK. We were out there participating in this experimental film loosely exploring black metal and utopia directed by Ben Russell and Ben Rivers called “A Spell to Ward Off The Darkness.” It was shot on this remote island off the coast of Estonia populated more by spirits than actual living people. There were old Viking ruins everywhere. I randomly stumbled upon one of them by accident and upon entering I fell into an unconscious trance and had all these visions of medieval ages merging with the future of aesthetics and extreme sports. I felt dislocated, floating in a space outside of time and outside my body, I wasn’t really sure if I was alive or dead or if either of those were even real to begin with. I realized that in these near-death states (or should I say Xtreme Now states) the illusory nature of time is revealed and true time travel can occur. There was a lot more, but it is too difficult to summarize in words. Very strange.
“Slip Into Nevermore” makes me feel like I’m plummeting towards the earth with a weird third-person video game-like ability to see my own body. This is the first time music has made me feel like I’m falling. How did you do this to me? Is this supposed to be happening?
Yes. The song is actually laced with a potent anti-gravity simulator. It’s not yet FDA approved, we’re still testing it out.
You talk about the intersection of extreme sports and music, which for many of us brings to mind the boys of Jackass, skateboarding to C.K.Y. in middle school, and the giant turd of human existence that is Bam Margera. Your interpretation is a drastically different approach, more akin to The Gorillaz, The Flaming Lips, or some of LCD Soundsystem’s more playful moments. And you didn’t go anywhere that fuckin’ dubstep wobbly-womp-womp (thank you). Why do you think that this is the sonic palette of 2067?
Basically in the next couple decades we are going to witness a shift from millennial to millenneanderthal … dub-step will be all but a bass-drop-blip in the sonic record and music will return to a more primal, communal and emotionally immediate state, more in tune to the spiritual and natural world before technology ruined our ability to hear the sound of the stars. Dub-step is a hyper-masculine yang approach to sound, aggressively mechanized and programmed to fill any space with no consideration to its surroundings. Extreme sports athletes have to be expert listeners — they must listen to the sound of the waves to sense a riptide or the snow to determine whether an avalanche is approaching. The music must also be extremely in touch with its environment and follow this yin sensibility.
Is the future dope? Some of your interviews make it sound like a buncha wakeboarding bros chugging Red Bull in a world of Twittery, ADHD-y short attention span insanity, the most extreme version of what crotchety grandparents mean when they say “You kids multitask too much!” But at the same time, it sounds like art is embraced by everyone everywhere, and it’s very, very cool.
What you just described is basically what is going on right now. The only thing separating the future from the present is our own consciousness. Once we can tune our awareness to the “time beyond time,” suddenly all ADHD time-schizophrenia vanishes and all today’s become our tomorrows … everything becomes art, from the most sacred to the most mundane. A bro wake-boarding and chugging a Red Bull suddenly takes on the aura of Jesus walking on water drinking from the golden chalice. We will be able to perceive and interact with that gel that holds it all together, the sublime origin of all beauty and speed. It is when we are focused on isolated events divorced from this gel that we get confused and develop ADHD-attentionless-insanity.
There’s a strong visual aspect to this album, both in the conception/process and in the sound. Will there be a visual accompaniment beyond the standard round of music videos? Will this become a multimedia project?
Oh yes– we are developing a whole line of Byzantine-inspired xtreme activewear with local Brooklyn designer, Messqueen, as well as fabricating our own energy drink called Xtreme Now NRG. We are also using this album as a pseudo-branding platform to sponsor actual xtreme sports athletes and help provide opportunities for them to perform extreme acts to our music. So yeah, it’s been very sculptural and performative for us as well as musical.
People sometimes criticize you guys for having no lyrical depth, but I find that weird. Music doesn’t have to convey a literal verbal message. What do you guys think about that criticism?
Ha really? First I ever heard of it. Then again I don’t really ever pay attention to reviews. Music should always be in service to the spirit behind it. If that comes through with words, great. If that comes through via melody or rhythm or just pure gibberish, great. I never try to write “deep lyrics.” Just as long as long as what I’m singing is honest and in service to the music, I’m happy. Some of the best pop lyrics are the dumbest. Because language is inherently limited, sometimes gibberish can convey more power than actual words can. Anyone who looks to words to accurately express human emotion has probably encountered their intrinsic short-comings. That’s why a lot of mystical traditions speak in tongues. Doo-wa ditty ditty dumb ditty doo.
What kinds of things do you guys think your music conveys sonically as opposed to lyrically?
A lot of the songs have really high NRG upbeat instrumentation, but if you listen closely to the lyrics, there is a hidden sadness to them. My favorite songs are the ones that are laughing and crying at the same time. I find that fragile tension of existence really precious and powerful to hear.
What is the actual most extreme sport?
If you were alive in the medieval times, how would you have died?
I wouldn’t. I would seek out the local Transylvanian vampire community and join them so I could live forever.
Prince Rama will be in LA March 29th at the Resident (tickets here), but in case you live a lesser city, check them out at one of their remaining tour stops: