[road to sxsw] In Knoxville, Prince Rama fans embrace the Now Age

Quilt playing the Pilot Light in Knoxville, TN on Wednesday night.

After our stop in Virginia, QUILT's journey southward brought us to Chapel Hill, NC, where the trio played with Brooklyn indie rock quintet Cavemen at Local 506. The following night, we ventured westward to Knoxville, TN, where Quilt played the Pilot Light with their good buddies PRINCE RAMA. Knoxville was a rad town; the venue was conveniently situated on the same block as a sweet vintage clothing and music shop called Hot Horse, as well as a late-night cereal bar covered in art. The show was headlined by a badass local noisy rock band called SMOKING NURSE.

At the show, two Prince Rama fans caught my eye from the back of the club with their distinctly Now-Age sparkles and ecstatic dances: Callie, a textile artist and designer, and Joel, a Taoist therapist.

"Now Age" refers to the manifesto that Prince Rama's Taraka Larson penned to accompany their latest LP, Trust Now, out via Animal Collective's Paw Tracks label. In my October 2011 Cellars piece for the Phoenix on Prince Rama, I wrote:

Taraka explains that "trust" and "now" have been important "power words" throughout the last year. It's evident in her "Now Age" manifesto that accompanies the album: an eight-chapter reflection on the concert and the vinyl record as utopic paradigms, "hyparctic songs," connecting to "the ecstasy of the present," and even her bedazzled dresses (which "catch light . . . creating a feedback loop and energetic exchange between material and space as well as a portal between the mundane and the luminous").

After Rama’s set, I chatted with Callie and Joel about the band’s Now Age manifesto, staying full of light and consciousness, and Knoxville.

Are you from Knoxville? What brings you to this Prince Rama show?

Callie: I’m originally from South Texas. My blood is full Hawaiian. I live here. I followed my bliss, my heart, my love from a Sacred Mountain in New Mexico where I met my partner. We moved here together, got here via my veggie oil ambulance. And what brought me to the Prince Rama show tonight? A friend came over and said, “Hey you wanna go to this show? The band's called Prince Rama.” And I said yes.

Joel: I work at a yoga studio, The Globe and Body. We have satsangs where people speak in Indian. And two of [Prince Rama’s] albums are almost exclusively Indian stuff, so I was like, that’s really cool.

So did you just become a Prince Rama fan tonight?  Are you familiar with the Now Age manifesto?

Callie: Yes. Probably around 6:00 today . . . I’ve been resonating with the Now Age over the past few weeks. I never really resonated with “new age” before but “now age” just makes so much sense to me. I first heard of it from Patty Universe who is a California Goddess. Right before the show I was just reading the blurb on the Pilot Light website and read about [the Now Age] and was even more into it. I was just really excited that there were more people who were going to show up . . . to spread the light and the consciousness to people who had no idea.

Joel: I heard of it all just recently. I’m a Taoist, which is very similar to a Now-ist. That’s what I do for a living, but to hear that there’s another group out there that’s doing this, that I’m not alone, and to bring an audience like this. Inspirational! . . . I was getting goosebumps all night long.

Callie: Just being yourself and who you are and these goddesses recognizing that you are being yourself and offering it up and then bringing all these people on stage and offering them that gift of embracing, being confident in themselves on stage. . .

What moves you about the Now Age?

Callie: It’s just about consciousness. There’s no other option right now.

Do you think that’s something that’s lacking elsewhere, generally?

Callie: Yes, definitely. Let’s boost it up . . . I think its necessary, I think its dire, its just what’s happening right now in our time and this time is so important right now, in the time we are living in.

If you had to explain that consciousness that you think Prince Rama are bringing to this space, how would you explain that to an outsider, or someone unfamiliar?

Callie: I would say, just tapping into your own true identity, eradicating your ego, letting it go, living in the now, following your bliss, being happy. That’s what it’s all about right now. Why not be happy? Why not be now? Why hold on to anything from the past? Why be projecting things in the future? That can be okay I guess, but you have to be living right here, moment by moment, every breath, forgiving the one before, every moment before . . I just let it all wash over me, just like ocean waves. Go and be in the now. Be your now.

Can you talk more about how your Taoist background relates to their Now-ist tendencies.

Joel: Taoism is the idea of going with the flow wherever you’re at. For example I normally don’t dress up like this . . . But there’s a certain amount of humor in acceptance and free-flow and . . . I think some of their songs were rehearsed, but they played the audience, they played the crowd. In the moment. In Taoism its all about embracing change but recognizing patterns.

Can you tell me about Knoxville and how the Now Age relates to your experience here?

Callie: I’m glad that they’re here. I just pray for things like this. That people will just bless us with their presence and their gifts. Embracing their gifts, sharing their gifts. In Knoxville, for example, tomorrow night I’m going to a free Kundalini yoga class, and I might be the only person there. What? Come on people. Rise up. I hope that these women, goddesses, by dancing, singing, playing their instruments and being happy, that other people can see that if they tune in to their own soul, bliss, gifts, whatever you want to call it, that Prince Rama is inspiring others to do the same, to just rise up and live in the Now.

Joel: I was coming back from a Taoist seminar in Asheville this weekend, I hung out with an awesome Taoist named Jeffrey Euwen. It was really beautiful, he talked about herbs, immortality, the whole Tao idea, reaching full potential letting go of preconception, acting free in the moment . . . I was driving back and there were all of these lightening storms behind me the whole way. And I was thinking, this is really cool but its scary. I was thinking about all of these things that were new to me. But being able to improvise with it, taught me to bring these things back to Knoxville. Knoxville’s a budding town. It’s had this dark post-Industrial stagnation for years now and its starting to become really cool. And I feel like there’s a lot of deep-south “meh” but there’s also a lot of hip people who are willing to experience new things that come up. Shows like this, even though they’re $8 at a place that usually charges $3-5. And that’s really cool. Knoxville supports artists, not just the big-names that come to [big clubs] but places like the Pilot Light. I think that’s part of Taoism. Acceptance, and moving with the flow. I dig it here.

Why are you wearing sequins? Are you familiar with the connections to sequins in Prince Rama's manifesto?

Callie: As an artist, I studied textiles in college . . I’m a magpie. Magpie’s are attracted to sparkly things. I like to reflect the light. See the light, be the light, reflect the light. And I also make and wear a lot of reflective, not only for bike safety, but also more often just being visible and reflecting light . . . This used to be my every-day garb at my old job. I make lots of reflective leggings and sequins. They’re on my Etsy shop. I’m going to give the Prince Rama goddesses some badass reflective wear to take to SXSW so they can do it up and shine and spread the light and the love that they’re picking up in Knoxville, and that they’re bringing to Knoxville. We’re reflecting what they’re bringing, what they are. We have to be together, you know.

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