Michael Stipe moves in mysterious ways. One week, he might be lamenting a dead cat with The National, another he might be hanging out with Thom Yorke at his own art show, and in between, he could spend his nights jamming alongside Patti Smith, you just never know.
The latest move by the R.E.M. frontman is an emotional, albeit intriguing one. As Rolling Stone reports, he’s re-teamed with Rain Phoenix, the sister of the late River Phoenix, for a new song called “Time is the Killer”, which will appear on a Double A-side single titled, Time Gone.
Due out Valentine’s Day (February 14th) via Kro Records/Launch Left, the single will be coupled with two unreleased songs from River’s former outfit Aleka’s Attic, of which Rain was also a member. The songs are titled, “Where I’d Gone and “Scales and Fishnails”, and both were mixed by Rain way, way back in the late ’90s.
“It’s so hard to believe he’s been gone for 25 years,” Rain says in a press release. “It really made me think about the construct of time, how we create it to make sense of things, and how especially with grief, it never really snaps to a grid. That said, a quarter of a century has a definite weight to it and I felt compelled and guided to share River the musician, with the world.”
Although River will forever be known for his short run of incredible performances, particularly in 1986’s Stand By Me and 1991’s My Own Private Idaho, the late actor’s real passion was music. In fact, as he told E! back in 1988, the Phoenix family had originally moved out to California so that Rain and River could “become recording artists.”
The two would busk in the streets of Los Angeles, and it wasn’t until River made a name for himself on screen that he was able to move the needle on his music. While filming A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, River met Island Records’ Chris Blackwell and secured a two-year development deal with the label.
Not wanting to be a solo artist, Phoenix formed Aleka’s Attic in 1987 with his sister. Although they sold tapes between 1989 and 1990, featuring songs like “Goldmine”, “Too Many Colors”, “Across The Way”, and “Blue Period”, the band never released a proper album, prompting Island to eventually opt out of the deal.
Despite attempts to record an album independently, Aleka’s Attic would disband in 1992, and River would go on to form Blacksmith, who turned heads when they performed for Bill Clinton and Al Gore presidential campaign in Gainesville, Florida around October 1992. Following his death in 1993, his music remained in limbo.
In 1997, however, Stipe came to the rescue and purchased the rights to Aleka’s Attic, which have been with Rain ever since. It was around that time that the two first collaborated on the title track to Todd Solondz’s harrowing black comedy-drama, Happiness.
“It was so close to home for me,” Rain told Rolling Stone of reuniting with Stipe on “Time is the Killer”, “it was difficult, but I got up the courage and asked. Stipe asked to hear the song. He loved it. He said yes. I am still in shock. His voice is magic.”
The song marks Rain’s true debut as a solo artist.
“For me, it’s about impermanence,” Rain said of the track, “our futile attempts at avoiding it and the bittersweet outcome of everything changing all the time,” she explained. “I like to hear what other people think about what it means.”
Rain has also released a trailer for the single, which features childhood footage of she and her brother, along with scenes of River performing live. The clip is soundtracked by “Scales & Fishnails”. Watch below.