VMP Rising is our series (which now has a name, after our releases with Trapo and Chester Watson) where we partner with up-and-coming artists to press their music to vinyl and to highlight artists we think are going to be the Next Big Thing. Today we're featuring Jack River, the nom-de-rock of Australian Holly Rankin. Her EP, Highway Songs No. 2 is in the Vinyl Me, Please store right now, and you can read below for an interview with her about Australian radio, driving the California coast, and what's next.
Vinyl Me, Please: How have the shows been going since the EP dropped? You've been barnstorming around Australia, right?
Jack River: The shows have been so epic. It is insane to see them come to life in a live world, and even more insane to see so many people singing along.
**You've been gigging around for a couple years, and had some of the songs from the EP for a handful of years. How does it feel to have these songs be "permanent" now? **
It feels great to have them out there, it was getting weird having them only to myself and my best friends. I wondered if I would get sick of them, but I think any good song feels like it could have been written yesterday, and songs like "Palo Alto" and "Head to Stars" just haven’t aged for me (yet). Having permanence for them is really calming, and freeing after them living in the void for a coupla years.
The first full song on the EP has a Nirvana vibe, especially in the guitar parts. What are your influences? Anything that would surprise people who pick up the EP?
Yeah, "Palo Alto" definitely lends from that Em > G Nirvana feel. As soon as I started writing the song I was like, "Fuck is this Nirvana?" But the rhythms are a little different & it felt way to good to play. My early influences are mostly steeped in the '60s and '70s, Neil Young, the Doors, Leonard Cohen, Simon and Garfunkel but in the making of my current music, production wise I was getting into the '90s chrome land of Courtney Love & Hole ("Malibu," "Northern Star"), early No Doubt ("Don’t Speak") and then a little bit of Butthole Surfers ("Pepper") and the Pixies.
How intentional was making the EP sound like it was something someone flipped on the radio on accident?
Pretty intentional. I was driving along the highway, listening to the songs, trying to think of a way they could make sense. And then I kind of answered myself in the form of what I was doing in that moment. I do a lot of solo driving, and I love that you really don’t care what songs comes next as long as its good and full of that cinematic emotionally charged driving feeling, so I applied that to an EP.
**I noticed some snippets of American country songs ("Humble and Kind" by Tim McGraw) at the beginning and end of the EP: Do they play country from the US on the radio in Australia? What's Australian Radio like? **
That was actually from a sample of a switching radio I found online. I matched a few samples with sounds of my own car for the intro & outro. I don’t think they play a lot of US country on Aussie radio, at least where I am from on the coast. Country music is huge out west I am lead to believe. Australian radio is filled with a lot of commercial stations playing Top 40, but then we have this amazing national station called Triple J, run via the ABC (an independent government funded station funnily enough) - and they play alternative music from around the world. It’s mostly alt pop, but manages to birth the careers of pretty much any Australian act making decent music.
You sing about the drive along the California coast on this EP; I was wondering if you've been to California? If not, what do you imagine it's like to drive in a convertible down the coast?
Yeah, I have been to California a few times actually! I have driven from LA to Big Sur in a black mustang on my own, listening to these very songs I have just released. And then I did the trip again with my best friend Arizona, heading all the way up to San Francisco (we then picked up an RV and drove to Yosemite and Vegas). I have a weird love for driving fast on the highway, and driving along your Californian coast with this glistening gold water beside you and huge, huge mountains on the other side, and the highway tightly hugging the land bend for bend - is one of the most memorable driving feelings yet. I feel there is no better way to test an album than to take it driving.
So what's next for Jack River? An LP? A U.S. Tour?
Well for now I am making sure these EP songs get their time in the world. But yes, I am working on the album... There are a lot of songs at hand, it is really quite exciting. And I absolutely cannot wait to tour the US, hopefully will be spending a lot of time over there next year. The states are super close to my heart, so it’s top of the list to be there as soon as possible.
Listen to Highway Songs No. 2 below
Andrew Winistorfer is Vinyl Me, Please’s Classics and Country Director, and an editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need In Your Collection and The Best Record Stores In The United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 20 VMP releases, and co-produced Nat Turner Rebellion's Laugh to Keep From Crying. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.