As far as Milwaukee music goes, it’s hard to argue that up to this point, 2014 has belonged to Space Raft. The slightly-psychadelic rock outfit’s, yes, spacey self-titled debut is widely considered to be among the year’s best local efforts by parties such as WMSE, obscure French language music blogs, along with, well, us. At the end of a summer that saw Space Raft getting regular radio play, opening for noted international acts, being forced to replace its bass player, and playing almost exclusively in Milwaukee, the band is set to take a short break from local shows following Sunday’s opening slot at Tonic Tavern’s 5 Year Anniversary Celebration. Before the informal break, Milwaukee Record caught up with singer/guitarist Jordan Davis and drummer Tyler Chicorel to discuss Space Raft’s summer takeoff, and what’s to come.
Milwaukee Record: Locally speaking, you’ve had what people are calling one of the best albums of the year so far. It’s had some really good reception. What were some highlights of the year so far?
Tyler Chicorel: The release show is certainly the first thing that comes to mind. The release show was everything we hoped it could’ve been. A lot of people came out, and we got an opportunity to play with Doug Tuttle, who was coming through town. That was surreal.
Jordan Davis: We had a really good turnout. The thing about our year so far is that we had a really good build-up to this record coming out. Milwaukee really got behind us before the record came out, so that release show was a feeling of elation.
MR: And what about the show with Red Mass? That must be a highlight too.
JD: I lived in Montreal for about four years before I moved here in 2009, and when Roy [Vucino] from Red Mass was on tour with King Khan & The Shrines, and I was asking him about dates because I knew he was playing Chicago and I was hoping to get him up here. The only time we could get them here was July 5th—just the worst time to book a show in Milwaukee. But Red Mass actually drove here straight from San Diego, which is a long haul to make it to Milwaukee, but they were super-stoked to be here—I love that band—and the turnout was great. I was amazed by how many people who were in Milwaukee and ready to go on July 5th.
MR: You mentioned that the local scene really got behind you, but I also heard from—I think from Dusty Medical—that you got some good press from a French blog or…
TC: The French review that was hilarious when you entered it into Google translate, yeah.
MR: And you guys have also been near the top of the most-played list at WMSE.
TC: Yeah, WMSE played us a lot. WMSE has been awesome.
JD: WMSE has been nothing but supportive of us. I think we were number one on MSE before our record even came out. The build-up was just unbelievable. It’s a great feeling. You put all this work into something…
MR: …and to watch it actually have the impact you’re expecting or hoping it will have?
JD: Well, not even expecting. We didn’t make this music to make an impact, we just made it because we liked it. To see it have a local impact even before it was present was a big deal.
MR: Well, with the iron hot right now, why are you taking a break from shows around here?
JD: We’ve played Milwaukee a lot. We need time to go outside of Milwaukee. In our next few months, we have five shows outside of Milwaukee, but one show in Milwaukee—which is a big show for us. We’re opening for Reigning Sound in October. We’re really trying to get out of the city. It’s very comfortable for us to be here and only play Milwaukee, but realistically, we’ve only played two shows outside of Milwaukee. We played Madison and Green Bay. We don’t want to burn [Milwaukee] out.
MR: You also have to break in a new bassist, right?
JD: We are, which is pretty much done. Justin Perkins has done a fabulous job. From day one, we knew it was right. I’ve known Justin since I was 15 or 16, so it’s great to finally get to play with him.
MR: Does that mean you’ll be writing some new material soon?
JD: We’re about half done with a new record. Next month, we’re planning to go in and record a 7-inch. We’re keeping it moving. We’ve got some videos planned, so it’s not a so much a hiatus.
TC: It’s not a hiatus at all. We’re just not playing in Milwaukee as much. We’re working on writing new material and playing out of town a little bit.
JD: We’ve actually got this show at Tonic on Sunday coming up.
MR: I wanted to bring that up. You worked there at one point, right? What’s your relationship with that place? As an often-overlooked venue, what’s the space like?
JD: It’s a smaller stage. Mark Waldoch used to book a weekly singer-songwriter series there, and it was always very comfortable and respectful. That place has shows that Bay View doesn’t really have—like how Linneman’s does their songwriter night and the quieter nights, that doesn’t really exist in a lot of other Bay View spaces. Tonic will bring in jazz music, they’ll bring in blues guys, singer-songwriter stuff that’s kind of off-the-radar of a lot of Bay View rock clubs. But when they do a party, it’s usually and all-weekend thing where they open the doors and have a rock band play. We wanted to be a part of that.
Space Raft will open for The Championship as part of Tonic Tavern’s free 5 Year Anniversary Celebration. The show begins at 7, and a pig roast (provided by Goodkind) will begin at 2 p.m.