Are the Chili Peppers cool or not? We asked Jack River all the hard-hitting questions

A far cry from being a newcomer, Jack River has been playing and making music for a huge part of her life. Based in Sydney but hailing from Forster, NSW, she’s recently been catapulted to the next stage by her hugely popular single Talk Like That.

She’s also the latest addition to Aussie label legends I OH YOU, joining the likes of DZ Deathrays, the DMA’s, Mossy and Violent Soho. We caught up with the breakout artist to have a chat over some sweet sweet ice cream.

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All photos by the awesome Liam Cameron

With a penchant for lyricism and tight production skills to boot, Jack River has been pedal to the metal since coming into the big, happy I OH YOU family.

HAPPY: Thanks for coming, how are you going?

JACK: Thanks for having me, I’m well.

HAPPY: First things first, congrats on the signing.

JACK: Thanks!

HAPPY: What’s it like working with the team at I OH YOU?

JACK: They’re really amazing, I work with Johann really closely and he’s really just one of the most incredible music people. He’s a real, proper lover of music. He works around the clock as well. So, I’m really excited.

HAPPY: The signing is recent but you have been gigging around for a while, where did you start off in the scene?

JACK: Well, I’ve been making music since I was like, 14 – writing it and stuff. But then when I was about 17 I recorded an EP and moved to Sydney to go to uni and play with a band. It wasn’t called Jack River, but we played all the little venues around Sydney, a good 30 shows or something. Then a few years recording, released a second EP and played more shows with that, but after that I realised you have to have a great team if you wanna go at it.

So it was a few years of going in and out of uni, but always being drawn back to music.

HAPPY: So you played Sydney gigs, but did you do any shows where you grew up?

JACK: I did, but there’s not really that many places to play. I played the local, little festival and the mexican restaurant. But there isn’t anywhere else to play.

HAPPY: No crowds at the local Mexican place?

JACK: Not really!

HAPPY: That’s a pity.

JACK: But, the Mexican restaurant is the only venue in town, they support us. It’s like, this cool place that always has music.

HAPPY: Did you play in Newcastle?

JACK: Yeah!

HAPPY: I know there’s a pretty good scene there.

JACK: I played the Lass O’ Gowrie a couple of times, that’s all. I played there with The Preatures in 2010.

HAPPY: Before they were cool.

JACK: (laughs) Yeah!

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HAPPY: So do your experiences of growing up outside of the city come into your music?

JACK: Yeah, I think so. When I was younger, definitely. I had no idea about different scenes, or radio stations, or bands or managers so you don’t really care about that stuff when you’re making music and listening to it because you don’t know. That’s always something special, to just know that you never used to care.

HAPPY: You think that living outside a cultural centre was better for your creativity?

JACK: Yeah, totally. Being away, in the middle of nowhere culturally – you just make your own thing. You don’t have much to bounce off so you just create your own little world. I still do that, I still go home every weekend.

HAPPY: Talk Like That is doing very well – is that the sort of place that song came from?

JACK: That song is actually a city song!

HAPPY: Oh no!

JACK: I know! That song… I was walking around in Sydney with some friends until really early in the morning and I just had an overwhelming feeling of ‘the song’ after that night. I went home and recorded in immediately, and then recorded it properly the next day so it was a weird song like that. An alien song – the others take a fair while to create but that one was just like: bam.

HAPPY: Whatever works!

JACK: Yeah it’s been really awesome, we didn’t expect the reception it’s had so it’s been a nice surprise.

HAPPY: So run me through this: you were out into the wee hours, you immediately went home and recorded – do you sleep?

JACK: I just came home with a strong feeling. I recorded a demo in about 10 minutes and went to sleep. When I woke up I knew I had to record it that week. If you can capture that rush of emotion, or whatever it is, it all happens very quickly.

HAPPY: The cover! What made you choose to release a cover? Not many artists are doing that.

JACK: Well, I came across that song and loved it so much, was obsessed with it, and just made the cover for fun. My friends really loved it, and I really loved it and we needed an extra track on the EP so I said “Why don’t we do this?” It’s such a nice intermission release between Palo Alto, which is coming out next week. It’s cool!


HAPPY: A good song is a good song.

JACK: Yeah, it’s also recorded at home off my laptop mic so it’s all nice and scratchy.

HAPPY: Any other covers that you perform live, or songs that you have your eye on?

JACK: I make a lot of covers at home because I get obsessed with songs and want to know what it’s like to sing it, or play it in a different way. Want me to tell you some of them?

HAPPY: Go for gold.

JACK: I love I’m On Fire by Bruce Springsteen, I’ve done that. Under The Bridge

HAPPY: Chili Peppers! Such a good song, but that would be quite different.

JACK: It would. They’re one of my favourite bands, some people think they’re uncool but I love them.

HAPPY: What?

JACK: Do people think they’re uncool?

HAPPY: They’re an awesome band.

JACK: Yeah, I think they’re the coolest guys ever. But yeah, they’re two covers I love.

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HAPPY: A lot of your music seems to be influenced by that period of American rock n’ roll, is that a genre you particularly identify with?

JACK: Historically, yeah. 60’s and 70’s – so many people just love that era. I grew up loving The Doors a lot, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, I just love all the kinda gritty sounds that came out of that time. But now, we’ve got Tame Impala, we’ve got Oasis, we’ve got bands doing amazing work but that old stuff is originally what I loved.

HAPPY: A lot of really vocal artists there – fits your style.

JACK: Yeah, super lyrical – that’s my main love; words and writing. The rest is just really fun. Production and making music is so fun.

HAPPY: Speaking of, you produce your own music. Was that something you had to push for?

JACK: It just evolved. When I started out with my first two EPs I didn’t think I could produce because I thought it was some illusive thing you just have to be really smart to do. But then I kept realising that I wasn’t getting what I could see and hear in my head by letting other people have that exectutive say. With these songs I said I was looking to produce and everyone’s gone with it. When you make good music and noone questions it, and everyone likes it – that’s amazing. It’s the great thing about I Oh You.

HAPPY: They give you a lot of freedom?

JACK: Yeah, complete freedom, which is cool.

HAPPY: Now lastly, did you know that there’s a town called Jack River?

JACK: Is it in Victoria?

HAPPY: Near Gippsland, yeah!

JACK: I’ve seen that, I really should go there.

HAPPY: A headline tour or something.

JACK: Yeah, maybe a launch?

HAPPY: You could pretend it was named after you.

JACK: I think there’s a shoe company called Jack River Shoes as well, so I hope they don’t sue me. But yeah, I would love to go to Jack River.

Happy: Well that’s all, thanks very much!

JACK: Thank you!

Big, yummy shoutout to Gelato Blue for the tasty ice cream, and letting us use your top floor.