Elijah Jensen is The Unicorn Feather. And he isn't. He is a musician. He does write the music. But he leaves it up to The Unicorn Feather to perform it. He's present in every performance, but sees himself and The Unicorn Feather as two separate personas. When I interviewed him, I wondered if I would be talking to Jensen or The Feather. Turns out they have a lot in common.
We agreed to meet in a local pub that's known for its conversation-friendly atmosphere and inexpensive, cold drinks. As I walked in, Jensen was already there, seated in one of the low, leather chairs with his legs stretched out in front of him. With sandy blonde hair, blue eyes and sculpted features, Jensen is an attractive man. He seems comfortable in his own skin and his laid-back demeanor and wide smile make him quite approachable. With pen and paper in hand, I sat down with him and soon discovered that this interview was going to be easy. Jensen loves what he does and he has no problem talking about why he does it.
As a young man, Jensen taught himself to play guitar. As many young guitar-playing boys do, he started a band. And, as many young guitar-playing-starting-a-band-boys have a tendency to do, he gave his band a rather obscure name: Pajama Party in a Haunted Hive-after one of his favorite songs. PPHH had been together about five years and were putting out album number three when their drummer moved to the Big Apple. Jensen had to decide what to do. Guitar in hand, he looked down at the ring on his finger: a unicorn carved in bas-relief in silver and surrounded by a bezel of turquoise. For Jensen, trying to figure out how to go it alone, the unicorn was a symbol of power and uniqueness. He knew he could do this on his own, but he also knew that he would need to take strength from the people around him. For him, a feather was a symbol of beauty and also the importance of being part of something bigger. The Unicorn Feather just made sense. And with this idea behind him, he began to create and perform his art.
Living in Rome, Georgia in an empty antebellum mansion, Jensen began recording his 2004 The Floating Parade. It's the perfect name for this collection of soundscapes. Each song follows the one before, borrowing some of the sounds, eliminating others and layering new sounds on. Like a parade, the songs all belong together, but floating is a good description of how they come through. The instrumentation is varied and numerous and the arrangements are often experimental. Jensen's voice is at times low and clear and at other times high and breaking. The emotion he feels in each song is evident even when the songs that are more free association than planned, like the CD's first song "Math Rock" or the repetitive "We're All Made of Love." After laying down and recording many of the tracks, Jensen brought the music back to Boise and with the help of friends and some very talented siblings, had a 20-song completed work. He's given away several copies of the CD and sells it at shows, but there's been no real promotional plan. However, with a CD release party and signing at the Record Exchange, a show at ELK and a show at Neurolux the CD will definitely be heard. He often plays the CD on stage while he is performing, adding layers and rich sound to each set. And not only will people have a chance to hear the music, they'll get to see The Unicorn Feather perform.
On stage, The Unicorn Feather is as interesting to watch as he is to hear. When Jensen introduces himself he says, "We are The Unicorn Feather." He's not crazy, he's just acknowledging the two sides of himself up on stage: Jensen the man and Jensen the performer. Where Jensen the man is a bit reserved, Jensen the performer gives everything he's got and then some. He wants the people around him to feel the music as deeply as he does, whether they love it or hate it. He desperately wants them to feel it and truly believes that if they do, he and his listeners will be the better for it. He sees himself as a humanitarian who through his music is trying to make the world a better place. He has plans for a project-with his girlfriend, a documentary filmmaker-that will take him from Seattle to Savannah, Georgia, performing in homeless shelters for people who don't get the opportunity to go out and hear music. While Jensen may be somewhat of an idealist, his heart, which he puts wholly into everything he does, is in the right place.
September 1, 7 p.m., CD release party, signing and performance, FREE, Record Exchange, 1105 W. Idaho St.
September 3, 7:30 p.m., with Glass Candy, Danava and The Shattered Theatre, $5, ELK, call 424-0385 for more information.
September 6, 9 p.m., with The Fruit Bats, $3, Neurolux, 113 N. 11th St.