Band: Gary V
Label: ANTI- Records / Indigo
With the 2016 self-titled debut of Prism Tats, South African transplant Garett van der Spek introduced the world to his moody and intelligent, psych-inflected take on post-punk. After spending a year on the road in North America—including support slots with indie-rock icons like Guided By Voices and Nada Surf—the L.A.-based artist quickly headed back into the studio to begin work on a more concept-driven and thematically ambitious batch of songs.
2017 saw the band release a handful of singles and the five-song EP 11:11, which explored unsettling themes of self-inflicted isolation, working-class hopelessness, and the emotional damage of technology addiction; March 2018 will bring the release on Anti- Records of a new full-length Prism Tats album, Mamba.
Taken as a whole, the EP and new album show a strong sense of defiance in the face of the mounting fear and anxiety that have recently infiltrated van der Spek’s adopted home. “Most of these new songs came from taking in what’s going on in the world today, and being afraid of the future we’re headed toward, but having no choice but to meet it head-on, realistically,” he points out.
Throughout his recorded work, Prism Tats has always matched van der Spek’s understated emotional depth with sonic complexity. Recorded with his primary recent collaborator, producer Chris Woodhouse (Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall), Mamba reflects the pair’s spontaneous ingenuity, which amplified the power of the album’s kaleidoscopic sounds, including the distorted buzz of previously-released singles “The Liar” and “Brainwaves” and new single “Daggers,” while adding textures, from the lush hypnosis of “Ocean Floor” and album-closer “Doomed,” to the waltzing “Gloom Tomb,” to the glorious slow-build of “Mamba”.
“There were times when it would be three in the morning and we’d have so many guitar pedals set up, trying to get some insane sound,” van der Spek says of the recording process. “Chris would be on the floor, turning the dials while I was playing—creating all these textures live, in the moment. It was so crazy, but it really suited the vibe of the album to record in an old-school way.”
Of the album title, van der Spek notes: “It’s the name of a venomous snake, and in my home town it’s a slang term for the biggest or meanest of something.” As he explains, the word mamba ultimately embodies the sense of both fear and defiance threaded throughout the record and especially evident in its epic title track. “The song is partly about letting go of that fear. When I say ‘Give me the mamba,’ I mean ‘Give me the whole experience’: the good and the bad and everything else that might exist in between.”