Sweet, dreamy pop belies the dark truth on the debut album for Jack River, the moniker of singer-songwriter Holly Rankin.
Crafted in the wake of her sister's tragic death, 'Sugar Mountain' serves as both an artistic statement for Jack and an emotional catharsis for Holly. “It's been made over five to eight years, so there's an extreme amount of life within the record,” Holly explains.
“It was made over some very dark years of my life and I have always used songwriting to figure out my brain and keep healing myself along the way.
"Jack River is this dusty, time traveller, half-cowboy, half-astronaut."
"I realised the power of production at some point and realised I could create this other vision of what I wanted my youth to be like and what I dreamed as a kid it would be like.”
'Sugar Mountain' depicts the story of an imagined teenage youth lived by an alternate version of Holly. The bittersweet notion of an unrequited adolescence runs as a common thread throughout the album, reflected in the title taken from a Neil Young song of the same name.
“When I heard that song I immediately fell in love with it and started to realise how relevant it was to my world,” Holly says.
“Really this record is this ode to a youth that never happens. The Neil Young song, like his lyrics, mean so much to me but also the name I found it really relevant: my album is a sugar-coating of the real thing that was underneath everything.”
Each song on the album adds another chapter to the tale and although it's highly conceptual in theme and format, Holly resists calling it a 'concept' album as such. “It might seem like that but I definitely made it unconsciously in a very natural way,” she says.
“So I always felt like it was called 'Sugar Mountain' for quite a few years, but until the very end stages I wasn't trying to really make it something conceptual, it just came about quite naturally that it happened to be very much a clear concept.
“In the end stages I tried to craft a bit of a journey to give the listener space to absorb these songs in the way that I wanted it to be. To make music is so hectic and our lives are so hectic I try to give everyone as much space to absorb it as possible.”
Through Jack River, Holly is able to access and express certain facets of her creative personality that exist beyond the confines of her everyday identity. “I'm starting to realise that [the character] is something that I'll keep changing and understanding that as a vision of what Jack River is: she's this dusty, time traveller, half-cowboy, half-astronaut or something,” she says.
“It's this thing in my head that's slowly coming out and it's awkward because I don't know exactly where it's going.”
Holly takes 'Sugar Mountain' on a national tour in September to give the songs a long-awaited airing with the backing of her full band.
“It's really special after so many years to be able to play them and give them to other people, so I'm very excited and we'll also try to make it as visual and as beautiful as possible at the same time.”
'Sugar Mountain' is now available.
Jack River Tour Dates
Wed 12 Sep - The Corner Hotel (Melbourne) Thu 13 Sep - Adelaide UniBar Fri 14 Sep - The Corner Hotel (Melbourne) - sold out Mon 17 Sep - The Corner Hotel (Melbourne) Thu 20 Sep - Rosemount Hotel (Perth) Fri 21 Sep - Rosemount Hotel (Perth) - sold out Wed 26 Sep - Cambridge Hotel (Newcastle) Fri 28 Sep - The Metro Theatre (Sydney) Sat 29 Sep - The Triffid (Brisbane) Sun 30 Sep - Yours & Owls (Wollongong)