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By Skyler Hendricks

Local Stellenbosch band, Uncle Spike, has been hard at work over the past year creating their newest album The Year of the Rat. This album is a showcase of the visceral and raw emotion in Uncle Spike’s music and exhibits a variety of new musical influences and genres.  

In anticipation of the official release of The Year of the Rat, Uncle Spike has selected four singles from the album to be released every Monday of March. On Monday 1 March, the single “Klank” was released, followed by “Horison” on 8 March and “Set in on Fire” on 15 March. Before the entire album is released on 29 March, the band will release one more single to look forward to – “Hoordosis”.  

According to Twesigye Paul Twekye, bass guitarist and rapper, the band chose the four respective singles to be released using an in-band voting system. The singles were chosen to showcase the diversity of sounds on the album, without giving away too much of the album. New singles were released every Monday with the intention of starting the week off on a positive note, which according to Twesigye Paul Twekye, also suits the theme of the album.  

Frustration, stress, anger and the circumstances of each band member are said to be some of the influences behind the making of The Year of the Rat. Nevertheless, the album was also born from the playful and positive nature of the band members during this time. Marcel van der Veen, guitarist and producer, describes the album as, “a sweet and salty milkshake with some sand in it”. The metaphor perfectly captures the diversity of musical influences that inspired Uncle Spike in the making of their newest album. “You can expect to not fully understand most of the stuff in the album, we are weird folk,” said Van der Veen.  

The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown has had a positive impact on Uncle Spike. The extended lockdown period allowed the band to bring about an authentic sound. This was the result of recording in a home studio instead of in a professional studio. According to Francois van Wyk, lead singer, the pandemic allowed each member of the band to bring their songs and creativity to the table. This is evident when comparing the group’s previous two albums, in the Sky and Just Take Care of YourselfFrom the first to second album, there is progression in the prevalence of the band’s more uncut, hard sounds. In their newest album, The Year of the Rat, the band allowed themselves to explore this even further. “The rawness also comes from the takes that were made. We spent a lot of time pushing each other to squeeze everything out in front of the mics. We really crafted it towards something that we are happy with regardless of what people might think,” said Van der Veen.  

The Year of the Rat explores the experience of working full-time in what the band describes as the “rat race”. According to Lood van Niekerk, the band’s drummer, the album brings together the experiences and influences of the band over the years, and the result is something that each band member is proud of. The Year of the Rat will be available on all major streaming platforms including Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer, and YouTube. Uncle Spike can be found on Instagram @unclespike_band and Facebook as Uncle Spike.  

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