Jack River Kings
True Alaskan Spirit
A dark edge inhabits Anchorage’s Jack River Kings, all wrapped around founder and vocalist Matt Herman’s gritty vocals, a driving rhythm section and fuzzy-to-stinging guitars. The lyrics tackle heavy subjects, like absentee fathers, war and wandering, but float across a buoyant musical sea of Southern and classic rock with hints of country, from a distinctive geographic perspective. “Alaska’s a huge expanse,” Herman explains. “You have a beautiful, poetic and majestic place, and you have a dark, weird and often creepy place—everything that lends itself to songwriting.” Given the lyrical spin and Herman’s drawling vocal style, the band garners comparisons to Drive-By Truckers, but also early John Cougar (pre-Mellencamp). “I’ll take either one of those comparisons,” Herman laughs. Their debut album Mansion and the Money features keyboardists Franz Nicolay (The Hold Steady) and Derry Deborja (The 400 Unit), bolstering a sound that typically takes a “less is more” approach. Onstage, however, it’s a different story. “A song has to have room to breathe,” Herman states. “There are places where we like to really open it up. There are no rules; no boundaries,” he says in true Alaskan spirit.