The laid back, psych-tinged electropop of Jack River has earned her a loyal national following. Her 2018 debut album, Sugar Mountain – which reached #11 on the ARIA charts – had critics and music fans swooning, dancing and hanging onto every lyric. With recent singles like “Adolescent” and “Sugar”, countless festival performances and a recent appearance on triple j’s Like A Version, the NSW-based singer/songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist is shaping up to take on another huge year!
We caught up with Jack (real name Holly Rankin) ahead of Grapevine Gathering 2019 to talk about her favourite parts of performing, her year in review and some of her best (worst) festival memories…
Super keen to see you perform at Grapevine this year! What can fans expect from a Jack River live set?
Just nice and loud and fun! Hopefully it’s beautiful outside.
Can we expect the same amount of glitter and glam as your Sugar Mountain Ball shows?
We might change it up, I think around that time I may be releasing new music. [The set] will be an in-between of Sugar Mountain and the exciting new stuff that I haven’t announced yet…
So exciting! What are your favourite songs to play live?
Lately it’s been fun to play ‘Sugar’ – my track with Peking Duk – it’s a really different kind of music for me to play. Playing ‘Fool’s Gold’ is also awesome because the crowds sing every single word, I can stop singing. They’re my two favourites at the moment!
Good way to give your voice a break… What’s the best part about performing?
Performing – you have to be present, otherwise you miss something or you mess up. You can’t plan it at all – well, you can make a plan but in the moment you have to really roll with how the audience is feeling and how you’re feeling. There’s rarely times like that in my life outside of being on stage. Touring is fun, but it’s also pretty challenging ‘cause you’re just constantly going.
When you’re not on stage, you’re super busy organising festivals and concerts behind the scenes (Grow Your Own, Electric Lady) – how do you find the balance between your on and off-stage lives? Do you ever rest?!
I try to – I’m trying to get better at resting and just staying home. I’m continually figuring out how to build my team around what I’m doing and making sure that I have time to stop! It’s been a crazy two years of everything happening at once and figuring out how to deal with that. It’s not perfect yet.
That’s good to hear! In all your involvement on and off stage, have you had any crazy festival experiences?
Something I did at Falls Festival this year… my song called ‘Constellation Ball’ to me is about climate change, and the kind of people that need to come together to combat it. I stupidly asked people to pass their rubbish to the front… it was the first time I’d ever done it, so I didn’t really think it through… literally thousands of people started pegging cans at the stage, it was like an upgraded Lisa Mitchell situation when she got pelted with coins. It was extra hilarious because Bill Shorten was up there at the time watching the set… I was like ‘What the fuck am I doing?’ Literally getting pelted with empty cans while the Labor leader is watching me.
That’s amazing… at least you’ve learned now and we won’t see a repeat at Grapevine…
I hope so…
So it’s been 1 year since your debut album Sugar Mountain was released! How has the last year been? What’s different now?
I think many things are different. Overall, the cool thing I’ve taken from it is that I put a lot out there with the album – a lot of personal stories, a lot of energy – and I feel like it really did come around. It was a hugely positive experience and now I’m feeling pretty confident to do something bold and share my story again in a really bold and interesting way. I feel kind of calm and confident, ready to release the next thing and know that someone out there will appreciate it and connect with it. That’s a spiritual answer.
Very spiritual, that’s awesome! We’re keen for new music… You mentioned earlier your song ‘Sugar’ with Peking Duk – how did that idea come about?
I went on tour with the boys, I supported them last year. They are just so much fun, their music is obviously so much fun and I am always wanting to extend my imagination… they sent me a song and I just wrote what I thought might be great, and it worked! Once we got going, we just get along really well and they’ve got no boundaries. I really loved working in that stricter form of pop – not that it’s strict, but it requires a certain kind of sound and perfection.
Was it just a one-off thing, or can we expect more collaborations from you three?
I’m not sure about Jack River features… I’m sure there’ll be at least one in the future. But I’m actually writing with the boys whenever I can – I’m always thinking, ‘Can I send them this idea?’ if it doesn’t fit with my work. It’s nice, it’s an awesome outlet and playground to be able to go to.
Sounds like you have an awesome relationship, that’s exciting! Do you have plans to link up with some of the artists from the Grapevine lineup – Flight Facilities, Crooked Colours, Touch Sensitive or Mallrat?
Mallrat and I really want to hang out and write together one day! I really love what she’s doing. I’m sure we’ll be hanging out and maybe one day we’ll make some music together. She’ll be my gal pal.
That’s so cool, we’d love that! Hey thanks so much for chatting with us, all the best – can’t wait to see what you bring to Grapevine in November!
Thanks, I’ll see you there!
Catch Jack River along with Two Door Cinema Club, Flight Facilities, Crooked Colours, Mallrat and more at Grapevine Gathering 2019 – kicking off in Victoria at Grapevine Estate on Saturday 23rd November. For tickets, head to www.grapevinegathering.com.au/vic/tickets
Written by Zach Edwards
Photo by Dana Trippe