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Monday, Aug. 12, 2013

Space Raft’s Science Fiction Madness

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Like most bands, Space Raft is the product of a score for a shelved low-budget horror movie, an insomnia-induced list of puns and members from some of the state’s renowned rock acts joining forces.

The project began last year when Jordan Davis, former guitarist of early 2000s Green Bay garage rock outfit Mystery Girls, was asked to write music for a film a friend intended to make. “I’ve been a big fan of film music since I was a kid,” Davis said. “I got really excited about the idea and I started writing all this music. Probably way more than I should have.”

When the scope of the would-be monster movie grew beyond the director’s budget and he relocated to Seattle, the score ran the risk of collecting dust or, worse, never seeing the light of day.

“I wrote probably an hour of music and I didn’t have anything to do with it,” Davis said. “I didn’t necessarily write the stuff for the stage. It was more cinematic material. I was kind of left with all these songs and I was so excited about it, so I started talking to these dudes about playing.”

Last fall, Davis first called upon former Temper Temper keyboard player TJay Christenson, who suggested former Father Phoenix drummer (and current Call Me Lightning bass player) Tyler Chicorel get behind the kit. The band briefly brought in The Goodnight Loving bassist Colin Swinney, but quickly replaced him with Srini Radhakrishna when Swinney moved to California.

Using Davis’ music intended for horror scenes as an early springboard, the then-unnamed project gelled quickly. “Right out of the gate, everybody was super comfortable; it sounded really good right away. It wasn’t really a struggle,” Davis said.

The only struggle was what to call the band.

“I couldn’t sleep for days, Davis said. “Instead of sleeping, I got up and made a huge list.” Other options included: Deez Nuns, Fish Cages, Goliath and the Giant, Indoor Outhouse, Instruments and People on a Stage, Rotary Speed Dials, Cheesequake and Open Bar All Night.

“I had an email that was this list of band names,” Christenson said. “Space Raft was one of them and we just went with it. We wanted a name that suggests we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

Chuckling, Chicorel added they landed on Space Craft without a second “c” “because it makes the most sense.”

Space Raft’s lighthearted approach is also evident in its variable sound that members say draws influence from ’60s psych music, R&B, classic rock, pop and elements of jazz. Or as Davis simplifies, “It’s science-fiction music with a pop sensibility.”

Since Space Raft began playing out at the end of March, the band has also shown little concern for where, what time and with whom it plays. Its first six shows have found them playing with the vastly different likes of Head On Electric, The Championship and Hearts Of Stone, accepting a Burnhearts/Pabst Street Party lineup slot on a few days’ notice, and playing a noon set outside Rushmor Records during the South Shore Frolics parade.

“I feel like there’s a lot of fun in this band,” Davis said. “It’s a science fiction madness sounding band, but it has this really fun element to it because it does have a lot of pop music in it.

While the project is rooted in fun, Space Raft approaches its music with a great deal of care, including workshopping its early songs during live shows before recording. However, the band plans to head into Howl Street Recordings at the end of September with hopes of having a vinyl debut ready by spring and possibly touring thereafter.

From cinematic score to cutting room floor to full band, Space Raft’s brief voyage has been a winding, but enjoyable ride so far.

Space Raft opens for Phylums and Rumble at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn Friday, Aug. 16. The show begins at 9 p.m. and costs $6.