River Jacks
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River Jacks

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Rock Punk




"Calgary Beat: River Jacks"

On a five hour drive to their next show, through a muffled speaker phone conversation, five amiable River Jacks touch base with BeatRoute. The band is driving coast to coast playing and promoting their newest album, Strange Adventures, while no doubt having some new ones of their own. Driven by the love in their heart, new-song excitement, and minimal sleep, the band is excited to show of their latest creation.

Since the release of their first album in the winter of 2014, multiple changes and essential growing patches have pushed and inspired the newest Calgarian born folk-punk collection. With the addition of a new bass player and extension of another electric guitar, the original folk-punk sounds of River Jacks have grown into a street raised and folk inspired punk-rock, sure to engage and excite audiences country-wide. Creating a stronger sound and fuller representation of who they are as a band, the guys have upped the ante on their punk-rock dial, but kept the authentic accordion-Celtic rumble unique to them.

Though the album was put together quickly, it doesn’t fail to bring a punch of energy and create a spirited atmosphere in any bar. “We had the mentality that we had to release something,” says guitarist, Spencer Jo Burgess. “It started as a five song EP but snowballed into a full length. We just wanted to take something with us on the road.”

Now aiming to release something new every two to three years, River Jacks have learned, and continue to learn, about everything that will go into the creation of their next audible masterpiece. By taking on a lot, and almost everything in only a short period of time, the band claims it’s still an album they’re proud of and represents not only the energy of the band, but also who they are as individuals.

Continuously growing as a band and as musicians, River Jacks have built on their in-band communication and the how-to on creating the perfect mixture of talent each member possesses. Evident through every two-minute blast of dynamic force carried in each song, the growing sound of the River Jacks hold your heart and warm your surroundings; even if it is while walking the cold winter streets of Calgary.

Mixed with powerful melodies and earnest instrumentals, Strange Adventures keeps the crowd’s toes tapping and hearts warm night after night. Each catchy verse is driven by charismatic drumming, magnetic riffs and topped with accordion adrenaline. It’s kind of like your favourite home-cooked meal with a kick of spice: homey, exciting and all around easily adored.

Now prepared to create new material, follow the roads, play more shows, and promote, the River Jacks are just doing what they love to do for the people and places they love. “We’re playing it by ear,” laughs the band. “And we’ll see where it takes us.”
--Jackie Klapak - BeatRoute

"Interview: Jordan Barrett of Calgary’s River Jacks"

Ottawa, meet River Jacks. They’re a hard-hitting, fist-pumping five-piece punk rock band from Calgary, and they’ve just released their new record Strange Adventures. If you think that Strange Adventures is the kind of album you’d put on while doing yoga or getting some spa treatment, you’d be dead wrong. I mean, you could. But you might end up busting open a few tall boys of Pilsener and start moshing boisterously, something which your yoga instructor probably wouldn’t appreciate while trying to hold their downward dog pose steady.

Their music contains the soul and power of punk in its veins, but is also infused with an aspect of folk storytelling that defines their songwriting. Not to mention the accordion, played by Andy “Mandrill” Shannon who shreds just about as hard and fast as any accordion player possibly could. With a few Calgary music scene veterans on board and plenty of experience to draw from, River Jacks are no stranger to the stage and the road. Their Strange Adventures tour kicked off in Lethbridge, AB, on May 3rd and they’re on a 12-date rip across Canada to promote the album. I chatted with guitarist Jordan Barrett about the new album, the road, and plans River Jacks have for the future.

Be sure to check out River Jacks in Ottawa on Thursday, May 11th at Flap Jack’s along with Montreal heavy hitters Mansbridge. Doors are at 8pm, PWYC.

How did The River Jacks form?

The band started around five years ago as Spencer Jo & the River Jacks. Spencer Burgess (guitar/vocals) and Andy Shannon (accordion) had been playing as a duo for a while. When they wanted to go full band they enlisted Mikey Blotto (drums), and Kurtis Jensen (bass). I joined up about a year later. Spenny and I had done some acoustic shows together. I was bussing tables at the Ship and Anchor in Calgary when Spenny approached me to be in the band. We had a bit of a revolving door of bass players until we ran into the uber-talented Tyler Burton. We’ve been firing on all cylinders ever since.

Can you talk about musical inspirations growing up, previous bands, and what were your music scenes like growing up?

I grew up in rural New Brunswick. Not a lot to do in those small towns so punk rock found me and my friends at a young age. We were able to get some touring bands into our town and go from there. Speaking for the other dudes who grew up primarily in Calgary, I hear lots of stories about the Multi (Multicultural Centre), and Carpenters Union Hall. I’ve only been a Calgarian for five years, so I’ve missed lots. However, I understand there was a strong all-ages scene back in the day. Spenny was in Rum Runner during their hay day. Mikey Blotto has played in almost every rad punk band in the YYC. I was lucky to be able to stumble into a who’s who of Calgary dudes.

Your music is punk rock with a bit of a folk touch to it. How important is storytelling to the band?

Storytelling is crucial. Whether it’s a conscious writing decision or not. It can find its way into anything. For instance, our new release Strange Adventures got its name from an old comic shop in Halifax that I use to frequent. It was a cool little hole in the ground that had a magical feel to it. I went there for years. When River Jacks were throwing around album title ideas, and we knew we were going for a comic book theme for the cover, I threw the name in the ring. It kinda works both as a reference to a great part of my younger years, as well as a funny description of what we get up to as a band.

Do you have a favourite tour memory? And a worst one?

A big one that sticks out would be taking these Calgary boys back to Hartland, NB., the land of my people. After hearing me babble on about this place, I’m sure those guys were interested to see it. I’m proud to say that my home town delivered. Packed venue, people singing along, broken noses, bare feet on broken glass, and fists in the air. Wouldn’t have had it any other way.

As far as bad stories go, Mikey Blotto fell down a hill in Tadoussac, QC. He was a little banged up and had dirty feet for a while.

For those who have never heard your music, what can new listeners expect when putting on Strange Adventures?

This being our sophomore release, we’re feeling more comfortable in our roles in the band. It’s harder, faster, grittier. If you’re into the folk/punk thing, I think we make it an easy listen for you.

Anything exciting coming up for the band following the album release and tour?

We’ve been working hard this year, so far. Put a lot of time into album prep, took a trip up to Yellowknife for Snowking Winter Festival– got to play in a fucking snow castle! Unreal. We also had a quick tour out to Vancouver. As I’m answering these questions, I’m sitting in a van traveling east. So, there’s been no shortage of bouncing around. Once this tour is done, I think we’ll be taking it easy in the Calgary area for the summer.
--Matías Muñoz - Ottawa Showbox

"REVIEW - RIVER JACKS Self-titled album (2014)"

River Jacks "River Jacks"
Release date: 20 December 2014
Running time: 25:40, 11 tracks

Something is happening in Alberta, Canada. Last year a couple of fantastic CDs from this province were reviewed here: Craic the Lens “The Cannon” (Calgary) and Whiskey Wagon “Somewhere under the Table” (Edmonton). Only two months and a half have gone by in 2015 and we have got another couple of brilliant albums from Calgarian bands: The Shillelaghs “Bury Me at Sea” and River Jacks self-titled album.

River Jacks are Kurt Jensen (bass), Mikey Blotto (drums), Jordan Barrett (guitars), Ben Olson (harmonica), Spencer Jo Burgess (guitars) and Mandrill Shannon (accordion). The band was founded in 2012 and all of the members are well-known in the Calgarian (folk-)punk scene. For instance, Spencer and Kurt played in Rum Runner and Mandrill played in The Shillelaghs.

I have listened to their album several times and the more I listen to it, the more addictive it becomes. The selection of songs and the running order is perfect, with a kicks-ass first track and an excellent closing number. The River Jacks accordion led folk-punk songs shift from the Between the Wars territory (“Of Friendship and Alcohol” and “Hard Saying not Knowing”) to The Killigans end (“East Forest Village” and “Generation One”) passing through The Bloody Irish Boys field (“Letters Between Brothers”). There are also festive numbers like “Burning City”, with an infectious harmonica part, and hardcore songs like “Bomb the Landlord”. My choice: “Be A Man”, a lively song with great backing vocals, the fast-paced “Letters Between Brothers” and the catchy “Generation One”.

The six guys released their debut album last Christmas and it’s available in both vinyl and digital versions. There are 11 songs plus a super-secret ultra-bonus track. The LP comes with 12" insert and was specifically mastered for vinyl. It was recorded by Lorrie Matheson at Arch studio and produced by Lorrie and the band.

Last year a non-Celtic folk-punk album got rave reviews and was at the top of the best of 2014 lists: Roughneck Riot ”Out of Anger“. River Jacks have a different instrumentation, but they shared the same non-Celtic folk-punk approach. And I feel that their self-titled album will be on my top10 at the end of the year. - Celtic Folk Punk


Denna LP kom med en nedladdningskod och det gör sakerna så mycket lättare för min del. River jacks är en av alla de grupperna jag fått kontakt med via Facebook och tänk så mycket bra grupper det finns…Det här låter riktigt bra och deras snabba punkrock är av allra högsta märke måste jag säga och jag blev rejält överraskad av deras sound eftersom det är ett sound som jag inte kan beskriva riktigt men det är riktigt bra och riktigt eget utan att på något sätt låta konstigt. Man har blandat lite garagerock med 77-punk, fått in ett modernt sound och i allt detta fantastiska melodier. Det är kul med nya grupper som kommer med något ”nytt” eller rättare sagt nytt är väl fel ord men det känns faktiskt så lite grand att de uppfunnit en ny egen stil inom punkstilen.Till och med lite folkpunk i Letters between Brothers och då menar jag på det sättet som Dropkick Murphys etc gör den. 23/12-2014

This LP came with a downloadcode and it makes things so much easier for me. River Jacks is one of the groups I made contact with via Facebook and mindset so very good teams there ... This sounds really good and their fast punk rock is the highest mark, I must say, and I was greatly surprised by their sound as it is a sound that I can not describe really but it is really good and really friendly without being in any way sound strange. It has mixed a little garage rock with 77-punk, got into a modern sound and in all this amazing melodies. It's fun with new groups coming with something "new" or rather new is well wrong word but it actually feels a little so they invented a new own style within punkstyle.Till and with a little folk punk in Letters between Brothers and mean I like that as Dropkick Murphys etc make it. 23/12-2014 - Skrutt


River Jacks - S/T - 2014
River Jacks - Strange Adventures - 2017



Calgary punks-gone-folk-gone-punk-again, River Jacks, proudly
acknowledge their roots, planted equally in depression-era
anthems and safety-pinned pubs from the 70s and 80s.
Alberta-born Spencer Jo and east coast transplant Jordan
Barrett share guitar and vocal duties on songs that range
from urban decay, to public transit romance to giving your
landlord dissention instead of dollars. Rounding out the
band are veteran drummer Mikey Blotto, young Tyler Burton
on bass, and accordionist Andy "Mandrill" Shannon, who
balance street punk backbone and folk club ingenuity. This
particular blend has seen them win over crowds while
performing at festivals, busking on street corners,
raising a pint in bars and thawing public park gazebos.
Their adaptability has allowed them to play stages with
The Real McKenzies, Andrew Jackson Jihad, The Creepshow
and D.O.A., to name but a few. River Jacks’ upbeat
solution to societal malaise is crafting catchy melodies
for the common people, which is why they’re at home
playing anywhere across Canada.

“Their music contains the soul and power of punk in its
veins, but is also infused with an aspect of folk
storytelling that defines their songwriting. With a few
Calgary music scene veterans on board and plenty of
experience to draw from, River Jacks are no stranger to
the stage and the road.”
—Ottawa Showbox 2017

“Mixed with powerful melodies and earnest instrumentals,
Strange Adventures keeps the crowd’s toes tapping and
hearts warm night after night. Each catchy verse is driven
by charismatic drumming, magnetic riffs and topped with
accordion adrenaline. It’s kind of like your favourite
home-cooked meal with a kick of spice: homey, exciting and
all around easily adored.” —BeatRoute 2017
“Politics and history, punk and folk all intersect in
River Jacks. The band channels the Celtic soul of the
Pogues—thanks in large part to accordion player Andy ‘The
Mandrill’ Shannon—and flavours it with the
boundary-pushing genius of the Clash. And Burgess cites
folk heroes Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger as
inspiration—and punk’s forefathers.”
—Vue Weekly 2015

Band Members