Halloween has always been difficult for Rain Phoenix and her family.
It was 26 years ago on that day her older brother, River, died tragically outside a Los Angeles club. He was 23.
At the time, she made the decision to keep her thoughts and feelings out of the public eye, not wanting to add to the media circus that enveloped the Phoenix family as fans mourned the loss of a tremendous talent and press descended in hordes to cover the tragic death.
But time has come for her to both open up about her brother’s “goodness” and honor him as a man, friend and former bandmate. “All the things I do are because of him,” Phoenix told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview.
On Oct. 31, Phoenix’s first solo album, River, will drop via LaunchLeft. The music video for her first single, “Immolate,” directed by Gus Van Sant, premiered Monday.
“To say that, prior to now, I never in my own way expressed myself about the loss of my brother would be false, but I have never intentionally done that. And yes, to protect his memory I kept it private because there was a flurry of information and press around his death and none of it spoke to the truth of his life to me,” Phoenix told THR. “So, to open it all up and really look at it again was this joyfulness; to focus all this attention on River: the brother, the man, the friend — River, his life, and not so much River, his death.”
At the age of 16, Phoenix joined her brother’s alternative rock band, Aleka’s Attic, which developed a devoted following. (Dan Aykroyd’s character even sported an Aleka’s Attic shirt in 1992’s Sneakers, which also starred River). Her journey to this album began in February with a three-song solo package that featured the Michael Stipe-assisted single “Time Is the Killer.” She followed with two unreleased tracks from Aleka’s Attic. And the music that would become River just started flowing out of her from there, Phoenix explained.
“I have been doing music since Aleka’s Attic, but I had not included him in an emotional way,” Phoenix said of her life as a musician. “He was always a part of it, but I never really made that statement to myself. For me to open that time again, it was more like remembering all the amazing, creative times we had.”
Oscar-nominated director Van Sant was also close to River after they worked together on 1991’s My Own Private Idaho. When he heard “Immolate,” he was inspired, he told THR.
“I have been in touch with Rain for 30 years, so I was happy to do it if I could,” Van Sant said. “When I listen to her album, I do feel the memories throughout and particularly since I was working on this one, there were some amazing images of River or what could be the memory of River, but I am connecting them to my own memories.”
Van Sant utilized footage from a previous unused project to create the video, which features faces from all generations and races.
“It was a lot of different pieces and I chose those pieces,” he said. “I have such great memories knowing him from such a short time that I did and I thought he was a great artist.”
Phoenix’s first single “Immolate” was released Aug. 23, River’s birthday. A second single then dropped Sept. 23 and a third will drop Oct. 23. The dates were selected to mark that River was 23 when he died.
“Halloween has never been the most joyful holiday for myself nor my family, but putting the album out on that day was in a sense taking it back to pay homage to River’s life on the day of his passing,” she said. “It did free a part of me that after 25 years, I realized I didn’t have to protect that anymore. I could speak for myself. There was enough time and I could create my own expression.”
Watch the video of “Immolate” below.
This article originally appeared in THR.com.