If you’ve seen Space Mafia on stage, you know the guys are all about having a killer of a good time. With comic energy and pent-up ferocity, the mostly Chicago-based foursome — Caleb Butcher on vocals and guitar, Lane Hume on drums, Kent Lanier on bass and Charlie Nesler on guitar and vocals — lets loose with their modern, grungy psych dissection of classic garage rock-influenced themes.
Distance and the pandemic have sliced and diced the guys’ many plans for this year, but today they unleashed “Horror Movie,” a Halloween-themed retro novelty perfect for a Scooby Doo chase montage or the closing credits on your favorite self-referential thriller.
Also, all proceeds Space Mafia makes from purchases of the song on Apple Music will directly benefit Save Our Stages.
Space Mafia answered a few questions about the new single and what’s coming up for the band.
“Horror Movie” has fun drawing on references from scary favorites, just in time for Halloween. What inspired you guys to write this song?
Caleb: It’s a funny story. Charlie’s and my pal, Jason, had his apartment broken into two separate times within a relatively short period. That’s not the funny part. Well, it’s not the only funny part. Anyway, Jason asked me to house sit one Friday night since he had to go out of town and was paranoid about a third break-in happening. So me being an idiot, I said, “Sure! I’ll go hang out alone on a Friday night at your burglar hangout pad.” So I bring my laptop and acoustic over. Fast forward two hours and one powerful edible later and I’m convinced that every sound and creak I hear is legit Michael Myers coming to dice me up something good. Somehow while I’m standing in the kitchen, that chorus melody and the lyric pop in my head, then I grabbed my guitar and figured out the chord progression and vibe. Charlie and his girlfriend, Colleen, came over a bit later to hang, and we jammed on the chorus, put the middle section and guitar solo together, and then on the original demo, Colleen sang the female harmony in the chorus. On the final version that’s coming out, we got the lovely and talented Rachel Saikaly to sing on the track. Her background is more rooted in jazz, so it was a really cool contrast for a Space Mafia song. I think it turned out great.
The pandemic has presented new challenges musicians have had to learn to overcome this year. How did that affect the creation of this song?
Lane: The pandemic certainly pushed a giant pause button on every one’s life, but especially to musicians who are trying to make a name for themselves and playing in clubs. The last show we played was at the House of Blues in Chicago, so of course we felt we really hit a home run and were setting ourselves up for bigger things in the near future. Instead, we had to really look within and think about what we can do to keep a name for ourselves as well as keep people engaged without being able to play out anywhere. This was even more of a difficult feat as I do not live in Chicago but instead, six hours away. Caleb and I always discuss demos as soon as Caleb has an idea and Horror Movie has always been at the forefront of our minds. Studios were shut down. Travel restrictions were put in place. But yet we knew we wanted this song to be put out Halloween of this year. So, I set up a small studio at my house to record all the drum takes that were then sent to Caleb while the rest of the guys went to this house to finish recording. Not at any time were all four of us in the room to record or discuss the song. All we had were text messages, phone conversations, etc. To hear the final version of the song and knowing everything I just mentioned into getting to this point is really remarkable.
Without live shows, what are the best ways Space Mafia has found to stay creative and connected to music and the scene this year?
Charlie: I’ve done some live-stream shows to keep the live vibe going.
Kent: Psychedelic drugs to stay creative and connected.
Caleb: I’ve been periodically selling Kent fake placebo psychedelic drugs without telling him. Even though he was clinically sober, I still saw him do things I’d NEVER do, even on the best LSD.
I know you guys have a charity project in the works. Can you give us some advance info about that?
Caleb: We’re really happy to see so much interest and passion going into NIVA’s Save our Stages movement. These local venues have given all of us SO much over the years, so we’re extremely motivated to give anything and everything back to them that we can in their hour of need. We’re planning a benefit show that will debut on YouTube live. We want to have watch parties happening all over where we can chat with people as they watch the show and then have a donation button set up to raise as much money as humanly possible for these venues we love so much. There will be appearances by other great bands we’re pals with, some new Space Mafia material, and more. We want it to feel as close as possible to the big kickass party that our shows always are. We’re psyched. More info soon!
What else do fans have to look forward to from Space Mafia?
Lane: I think our fans can expect us to keep being the loud and fun rock band they have known us to be. Although it may be from their couch for the time being, I know they are dying to see us as much as I know we are to see them. They know we will do our very best that even though times are different right now, that we will continue to put out good tunes and play just as hard as we would live with them in our faces or them seeing us behind a screen.
In light of today’s new single, what is your favorite horror movie?
Charlie: “There Will Be Blood.” Some say it’s not a horror movie, but to me it’s the ultimate story of transformation from man to monster.
Lane: “Halloween 4.” By far. It was the first scary movie I’d ever seen and made Michael Myers an instant horror figure in my life that remains today to be true.
Caleb: “Halloween 5.” Because fuck “Halloween 4.”
Kent: “The Cove.” It’s a fun spring break college movie. Check it out!