By day, UW-CTRI Health Counselor T.Jay Christenson handles patient medical records while helping people quit smoking; by night, his rock band is on a record label called Dusty Medical Records.
Don’t tell the IRB.
The band, Space Raft, is working on its third full album, due out later this year, riding the gravitational pull of an article on the band in Spin Magazine and a European tour last year that supported their second album, Rubicon.
While no two bands are the same, Christenson likens their music to that of classic rock in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, with hints of psychedelia. Listeners might hear hints of groups like Badfinger or The Doors in Space Raft’s music.
Space Raft is rehearsing once a week in Milwaukee and will start recording later this month, Christenson said. Whereas past albums had some “jam band” elements, this album will have more pop hooks and fit the traditional radio airplay length.
Christenson said he’s enjoying the ride. “It was something that I did for a long time when I was younger, and took some time off. I was approached by Jordan (Davis, lead singer and guitarist). I was going to help him score a film for a friend of his.” Christenson and Davis wrote songs and, when the film didn’t come to fruition, they decided to start a band, which now includes drummer Tyler Chicorel and bassist Jon Heibler.
“It’s nice at 39 to still have a creative outlet,” Christenson. “I got to go to Europe and play at a Bernie Sanders rally.” At the rally, they sang “This Land Is Your Land” with actresses Rosario Dawson (Rent) and Shailene Woodley (Divergent, The Fault In Our Stars).
The European tour took them to Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. “Touring Europe is different than in America. They take care of bands in Europe. You get a proper meal and place to stay. Our tour manager was Italian. It’s something I’d wanted to do for a long time.”
The night after the first show, their tour van got pulled over because a light was out in the back of the van. They opened the side door so the police officer could check their passports. Except then the van door wouldn’t shut.
“We had to drive down the road with a police escort, holding the door shut and it was really cold.” A rolling stone hit the windshield the following day. “Fortunately, it was pretty smooth sailing from there.”
Red Arrow, a Space Raft song about an unarmed African American Milwaukee man, Dontre Hamilton, shot dead by a white officer, led to Christenson and Davis performing at a reception of a documentary about the case attended by the family of the victim. “They were really thankful,” Christenson said.
Through the highs and lows, Christenson said he tries to keep an even keel. “The point of this is to have fun and make music you’re proud of. Everything else is bonus.”