Ahead of their appearance at Jerkfest 6.5, Spiritual Mafia unveil debut album, ‘Alfresco’

Ahead of their appearance at Jerkfest 6.5, Spiritual Mafia unveil debut album, ‘Alfresco’

Words by Alex Callan

The quintet’s debut album is out now.

Comprised of a truly sensational assortment of musicians from underground hitters such as Cuntz, Exek, Ausmuteants and Spray Paint, Melbourne-based quintet Spiritual Mafia has just dropped their debut album Alfresco via Anti Fade Records. A tasty mix of post-punk, garage-psych and proto-punk sleaze, we sit down with Ben Mackie (of Cuntz) to chat about the record ahead of their upcoming performance at Jerkfest 6.5 at The Barwon Club on Saturday, March 27.

Hey Ben, thanks so much for taking the time to read and respond to some questions. I’ve been absolutely loving ‘Alfresco’ and am super keen to find out some more about it. Is the current situation still members living spread out across Australia and if so how did you manage that in a recording sense?
Well, we recorded the album before we all spread out, I went up to the gold coast for a year and Dom [Mercuri, of Cuntz] to Alice Springs. I’ve since returned but Dom’s still in the desert. It’s important having one member in the desert, keeps us grounded. Keeps us at one with the earth. Keeps us close to all things divine.

Was it recorded at Billy’s [Gardner, of Ausmuteants, Anti Fade Records and others] studio all together or did you all record your components separately?
It was recorded at purple wangs with us as one solid group.

I know in the past it has been hard to play shows together because of locational differences. But you will be making an appearance at Jerkfest 6.5. Will they be your first Vic shows since the release of ‘Alfresco’?
Yes Sir! Can’t wait to return to Geelong, where it all began for us. It’s a very special part of this world and I truly believe this is a moment for us to come full circle. Once the circle is complete we can together step forward through the circle and into the next chapter of our life.

If so, how are you feeling about debuting the material live?
FANTASTIC! people are really going to be blown away by what spiritual mafia and DJ baby scratch have to offer.

What are some other acts on the Jerkfest lineup you think readers should suss out?
Parsnip has a calming quality that I always yearn for in music. From what I hear, Cathedral Ranges are set to be truly transcendental.

A lot of the vocal style is almost a spoken narration merged with droney riffs, it gives off quite an English post-punk sound compared to a lot of other Anti-fade releases which are drenched in Australian accentuation, was Spiritual Mafia intended to be something left of centre to your other groups?
I don’t really put too much thought into the way my voice sounds, I just work with what the lord gave me and let him guide me through this life and the next.

How did Chris [Stephenson, of Texan band Spray Paint] first tie in? Had he recently moved to Australia?
Chris and I met in Memphis. That place holds a certain personal weight to me. With the bass pro pyramid on the banks of the mighty Mississippi looking down over the whole city. I believe a higher power forced Chris and me together from that moment on.

This will be the first Anti-Fade release that is also released under the New York-based label Ever/Never. How did the relationship with this label first link up?
They just both believed this album was truly amazing.

It’s incredibly sweet considering the punk scenes that are prevalent in New York and surrounding areas like Washington. Is it an area that you have played in before?
All of us have toured the land of the free, yes.

The album’s lyrics cover a lot of themes including sustenance and daily survival like eating and drinking. Was there a catalyst that made these topics something you wanted to write about for this album?
To be completely honest I don’t feel like I have control over these words sometimes, I get in the room with the other guys and close my eyes and listen to the music they have created for me and the words just fly out of me like the whitest dove.

When you look at tracks like ‘Body’, the songs lyrics are quite self-referential and observational, which is a lyrical style that a lot have struggled with writing in the past, Do you find it easier to write with your own voice as the narrator or is it a style that you have refined over the years?
Myself is all I know, so writing about my truth is easy you see? I guess it took many years for me to be truly comfortable within my own skin, that is something that spiritual mafia and in particular DJ baby scratch helped me with. Without his guidance, I would still be lost in the fog. As Gucci Mane said; “If a man does not have the sauce, then he is lost. But the same man can be lost in the sauce.”

Having been a band since 2018 and now releasing your debut album, is this an indication that the Melbourne music scene can be expecting a lot more of Spiritual Mafia to come or is this more a one-off release?
Spiritual Mafia will never die.

Spiritual Mafia’s Alfresco is out now via Anti Fade Records in Australia and Ever/Never Records in the USA. Check it out on Bandcamp here.

Catch them at Jerkfest at The Barwon Club on Saturday, March 27.

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