Drifter, the new album from San Francisco’s Young Prisms, took shape over the past decade. The band—Stefanie Hodapp, vocals, synthesizer; Matt Allen, vocals, guitar, bass, synthesizer, drum programming; Giovanni Betteo, bass, guitar, synthesizer, drum programming; and Jordan Silbert, drums—was on the edge of a major breakthrough after touring internationally and releasing two albums, and were working on their third, when life intervened. “Stef and I were a couple; we got pregnant,” Betteo explained. “We decided to stop playing music for a while, but didn’t plan to take a 10-year break.”
“Touring is stressful. We wanted to get back to a healthy mental state and regain some balance. Also, we ran out of things to say. After being on tour for years, the songs started being about life on the road. It’s kind of boring. We had to figure out how to be young parents in a massively expensive city. Jordan married and moved to New York. Matt moved in with his partner. Those changes inspired songs about finding the balance between our fantasies and reality, or between the life you thought you were leading and what’s really happening.”
Those concepts became the foundation for the songs on Drifter. Musically, the band tempers the commotion they make with overlapping waves of distorted guitars, synthesizers with dreamy melodies and rhythms that lull one into a wistful state. The lyrics are vague, poetic and open to varied interpretations. On “Honeydew,” Hodapp’s doleful vocals describe the longing she feels for an unattainable lover. The contorted, ambient pulse generated by the guitars of Betteo and Allen and Silbert’s steady back beat, suggests the tension of unresolved feelings. Double tracked bass guitars provide the pulse for “Self-Love.” Hodapp’s multi-tracked vocals echo through a wide-open soundscape to mirror the ambivalent feelings of a faltering relationship. Allen sings lead on “Flight,” a track dominated by the understated heartbeat of Silbert’s drums. Mixed down guitar tones create a cradle of sound for a celebration of love’s unfolding pleasures. The album combines shoegaze effects with pop songcraft that draws one into the band’s unique perspective.
Drifter came together during the Covid years. “We all recorded at home and shared files. Usually, we get together and jam and something comes out of that. This time, it was more personal. I’d have an idea and start layering parts I’d like to hear. Matt did the same. We’d leave space for a bass line and Stef’s vocals. We were able to reflect on the songs at length, before passing it along to the next member to play with. It was a collaborative process. When California and the CDC allowed small gatherings with masks, we got Jordan out here to record.”
Young Prisms grew out of the friendship between Betteo and Matt Allen. “I met him when I was three years old. The first guitar I picked up was an instrument Matt stole out of his dad’s closet. By the time we were in sixth grade, we were playing in a band and writing our own music. Then, I played in a hard-core band. Matt was in an ambient band and working on his more melodic songwriting, At 17, we put together music combining both elements. We moved to a place in the Mission and wrote the first Young Prisms songs when we were 20. I was dating Stefanie at the time. One afternoon, she walked into the room while we were listening to demos and said, ‘You know what’s missing here? Female vocals.’ She wrote lyrics for some of the tunes and that was it. We lived next to a nightclub, so we could rehearse and play guitars loud, all hours of the day and night. Jordan was dating one of our roommates and joined up.
“We’ve always been friends, even before starting the band. During our 10-year hiatus, we kept a group text chat going as we evolved through family life, kids and non-musical pursuits. Jordan moved to New York, but comes out to visit. Our relationships have been solid enough to withstand the long interval between albums.”