There are good albums and there are great albums. There are albums we liked then, albums we like now, and albums we’ll like in the near future. There are also albums we loved then, love now, and will love in the near future.
There are lots of albums.
There are very, very few albums like “City of Light” by Lobo Marino. There are very, very few albums that we declare have actually, actively helped us to live in our daily life, albums that have actually offered some sort of healing with their sound. “City of Light” is one of those very, very few albums.
Maybe we’re wrong. Maybe all the music we hear helps us, whether we know it or not – perhaps even whether we like it or not. Maybe the music of Lobo Marino is nothing special. Maybe in the transmission of the buddhas, there’s nothing special.
Direct, raw and personal, the songs of Lobo Marino are also mysterious, elaborately adorned and positively universal. We simply cannot recommend their music highly enough.
We feel extraordinarily lucky to have spent so much time listening to “City of Light,” and just a little bit of time as the guest of its creators, Laney Sullivan and Jameson Price, to take part in the conversation that follows. Enjoy.
I could ask you some pre-arranged questions, but I felt like we would just start talking and go from there. And now I feel like we’re talking.
Laney Sullivan: Yeah.
So I’m just starting now. It’s going to feel really official.
Jameson Price: Cool.
On the new album specifically, could you talk just a little bit about the structure of it, beginning with the song “Holy River”? I almost sent you a picture of my iTunes, with the ridiculous number of plays counted next to it.
L & J: (laughs)
I mean, that’s a fantastic song. And the rest of the album is maybe more formal – at least, that’s my take on it. When it comes to traditional Indian music, I’m a dilettante, basically. I’m a rock and roll guy, basically.
J: I think the history of it is … so, five years ago, we named the band Lobo Marino. We had sold all of our possessions and gone to live in South America for awhile, which is why it’s Spanish. I was playing guitar and Laney was playing accordion. And for awhile we lived on a Hare Krishna ashram in Argentina, and that was the first time I had ever seen a harmonium played. And it was just really very powerful. And we knew because it had a pump, and uses breath, we knew Laney could probably transition to it pretty easily. So I found one online.
L: It was actually on a scratch and dent website, so we got it pretty cheap.
J: And it sounded pretty good, too.
It is the same one you use now?
J: No, we actually got a new one in India. But the one that we started with, it was just from that experience being at the Hare Krishna ashram. So we knew the Hare Krishna mantra – “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” – from living there.
L: We had to say it before every meal.
J: But we didn’t really know that much about kirtan or mantra before we got the harmonium.
L: I started to play the harmonium. So, I actually went on YouTube and found this one tutorial that I really liked. Just this guy in India playing the “Hanuman Bhajan” and it was really comprehensive – here are the notes you play – so we learned that and started playing that in our set. And we would usually play it in the middle of our set, and we would say, “We want to show you an example of how this instrument is played. It’s called a harmonium and some of you probably have never seen one before.” And so we started playing “Hanuman Bhajan” all the time.
J: We put our own twist on it, our own Lobo Marino inspiration into it.
L: And kirtan is folk music. It’s call and response; it’s simple. It’s not raga. It’s not really technically very difficult. It’s intended to be pretty … easy.
J: Yeah. And it’s the kind of stuff you do almost like mantra, as part of your practice. Krishna Das was saying how when he went to see Maharaji – who was Ram Dass’ guru – he told him, “You have a good voice. You should do kirtan. That’s the way that you can save your soul.” So basically, that’s the way his guru told him he could do the refining of his soul. And he said, “When I perform, I’m in that practice. You are here with me in this practice, too, and you can do it, too, but this is something different than a performance.”
J: And this music kind of helps you learn to channel, to learn about different things. I kind of feel like the harmonium took us on this trip, as if it revealed its voice to us, which led to a lot of questions – asking ourselves questions, because we wanted to learn about this music. So we started to learn more about different practices. And the concept of mantra, the concept of bringing awareness to it, is something that you can find in all traditions. Y’know, that idea of a repetitive idea used to combat any negative ideas can be really useful. I’ve experienced it first hand. I think the harmonium has taught me a lot of lessons through sound.
L: Through drone.
L: Jameson can sit and just play one note for thirty minutes, and listen to that one note and get into it. I can’t <laughter>. I can’t. It drives me crazy.
I often find myself with your music specifically, just listening to the drones.
Or at least, I’m definitely checking in with it frequently.
J: I think that’s what it’s there for. It’s part of the instrument. It’s part of the power of it. We were writing our own music and then we starting playing this kirtan – and we were probably butchering it, how we played it, how we sang it – but we really started getting in to this music and wanting to know it, which eventually led to going to Yogaville and going to India. But it was really our attempt to honor this music and make it real for us without having to … I don’t now, come across like we’re pretending to be Hindu or something.
I think it’s actually a pretty human, pretty relatable story – I was doing this one thing, and then this other thing came into my life, and look where it took me.
J: Yeah, right. I guess it’s just trying to stay humble about it. Maybe that’s a better way to say it. We’re trying to really come at it from a place of humility rather than … I mean, there are people who feel called to do kirtan, and that’s wonderful. And they may believe they were called to it by a higher power or whatever, and that’s great. For us, I think it’s more of it just being the path we ended up on. But it’s amazing that this is the path we’ve ended up on.
Well, I’m not going to help your humility much by saying the new album is a little bit of a quantum leap, to my ears. It really feels like a full thing – not just, “Oh, here’s a thing we made, here’s some stuff we’re playing.” It feels like a very, very complete album, one that stands on its own, from top to bottom.
L: That’s great.
Did it feel different to you, making this album?
L: I feel like, for this album, I personally let go more. And when we were recording it, from the beginning, we knew it was going to partially be a “charity album” – the money from it was going to go to our friends’ school. And we knew we’re not a kirtan band, that this music is sacred with or without me in it, so I’m just going to channel it and once it’s done, I’ve done my duty. And when we get it back, if it’s not perfect, I’m not going to judge it, because that’s not what this is for. It’s not about me, it’s not about my voice.
How much of that do you think naturally occurs in the procedure of just recording?
J: All the time.
Because it doesn’t show.
J: Oh, good.
It feels very whole. It’s a sphere of an album. It’s a heavy album! But it feels very organic and natural.
J: Well, it was recorded live. We did some overdubs over top of it, but the foundation of it, the meat and potatoes of was totally recorded live.
There’s details about it on your Bandcamp page, but at the very beginning …
J: There’s a field recording.
And then at the end of that first song …
J: There’s another field recording. There’s a bunch actually. At the end of the album, some more come in. But we tried to blend them in, specifically to represent our journey through India, and the journey of the harmonium, since it came to our music.
L: We did play a show while we were in India, and that was really interesting. I was so incredibly nervous. We played the “Hanuman Bhajan” and “Shiva Shambo” and I was so nervous that I was going to say things wrong. I had my eyes closed the whole time.
How do you think you were received?
J: I think people took it really, really well.
Even here in the States, while I don’t think many people have much experience with this music, I do think it’s … very easily enjoyed, I guess? It doesn’t take much to find yourself really “in” it.
J: Yeah, for sure.
L: It’s a dance-y rhythm …
J: And it’s a call-and-response, so it’s really asking you to participate. And even if you’re not participating, it’s suggesting in the structure of the music. It pulls you in and it pulls your ear – which I think is why a lot of people use it for [meditative] practices. I think this music has helped us a lot as well – I mean, the hooks got my ears, too, and taught me how to study my mind, in some small ways, or at least gave me the desire to do so.
L: It’s really neat because we spent the time recording at Yogaville and doing yoga and meditation, and reading “The Yoga Scriptures of Patanjali” and studying it almost like a class. And we became very, very focused on making our music in this way, doing it every single day. And just like yoga, one day you can go this far, and then the next day you can go this far, or maybe you can only go this far, but you just have to be with your body wherever it’s at. And playing music is like that, too. You may not be a superstar every night. But don’t beat yourself up about it – just try to be as present as you can, and be in the moment. And sometimes it’s hard to be present when thirty people are staring at you. Because you’re giving this energy and whether you’re playing rock and roll or classical or kirtan music, you’re giving an energy when you perform. And when you’re consciously trying to give a spiritual, uplifting energy through the music, you’re asking people to come with you to a place where they may not go, normally. It provides some space to do some work.
I sometimes think of it as a space that people do go to, but they may not realize they go there, which can be a beautiful thing. But it’s also a beautiful thing to realize you do go there, and to kind of think about it.
J: Any time can plant the seed. I mean, the music certainly planted a seed for us, when the harmonium came into our lives five years ago. And what you’re asking someone to seek through this music is a higher life that lives inside. That’s sort of the call. Of all traditions, that’s the call. That’s what I’m focused on, and that’s what I want our music to be focused on – the call to find whatever life it inside you.
L: I’m getting more and more interested in getting in to the technicalities of sound healing, and using sound in meditation. It’s really opened up another world.
J: I think in a lot of ways we’re allowing our music to be the vehicle for our journey, our personal journey or our spiritual journey. We want to reflect that in really positive ways and … just kind of see what comes next, y’know?
One of the phrases that sometimes gets mentioned in Zen practice specifically is “off the cushion” – doing things off the cushion. Like, we have to come and sit, come and focus your practice, and be still – but you have to think that same way when you’re off the cushion, when you’re in the world.
J: You gotta go use it. It’s like a guru said about sharpening a razor – you can’t only sit and sharpen your razor, you have to go use it.
L: And to get to that ultimate place where just by living, and doing what you do in each moment, you’re actually meditating. Like, there’s enlightenment and then you’re enlightened and …
And then you keep going.
J: I haven’t mastered that yet.
I don’t know if anyone ever does. I really don’t.
L: I’d really like to meet a fully-realized being. I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone like that.
I’m sitting right here (laughs).
L: But you already admitted that’s not true.
I really don’t think it exists.
No, not it any way that we can conceive it. It’s all a matter of degrees …
L: In moments, maybe?
Definitely in moments, and definitely even in extended stretches. I just think the form that we have right now, in this skin-bag, it doesn’t have the ability to be fully realized. I don’t know. We try, and maybe we hear the constant buzz or the drone of becoming realized happening behind us all the time. But I don’t know. I’m still meeting people.
J: I definitely think it’s possible. I do like the idea, but I also think it’s possible to disconnect to the point that people have to be reminded to feed you, and I don’t know if that’s what we’re supposed to do in this form. Part of me honoring this form is finding that balance, between the cosmic connections that bind us all together, and between the idea that I am an animal that exists on this planet as well.
And I think music offers that connection, a look at that door between those two things.
J: I think any time that you can time-lapse, which music really does, y’know – becoming really lost in time in a very positive way. Music really does that and that is meditation. Music reminds you how relative time is. Time is so tied to us in the human form and how we catalogue that experience – but time is so relative. Music can help really pull you away from that. It puts you on a different timeframe, and a lot of things around us are on a different time frame – trees and bugs and everything else. Different timelines. And I think you can experience that through music, or meditation, or reading, or anything, really. I think the drone helps that. It’s a good thing – to repeat my mantra (laughs).
“City of Light” by Lobo Marino is available at their Bandcamp page. 100% of online sales will go to this school: