Nick Thorburn discusses their latest album’s more aggressive sound
Formed in Montreal nearly a decade ago, indie-pop collective Islands released their fifth record Ski Mask back in September. The album showcases the band’s ability to juxtapose upbeat melodies with darker, more intuitive lyrics. Since the release of Ski Mask, the band has been extensively touring and will be stopping in Montreal on March 13 at La Sala Rossa with guests Escondido. We spoke to Islands frontman Nick Thorburn to discuss the band’s origins, musical inspirations and their latest record.
The Concordian: What prompted you guys to take up music? How did you all meet?
Nick Thorburn: Firstly, I can’t speak for the others. Evan and Geordie have a folk musician father and they grew up playing with him. I don’t think that there was any one prompt for any one of us to play. Music has always been near the creative center of my life.
First it was in a passive sense, and as a teenager it took on a more active role. Evan and Geordie play[ed] in the Magic. I was a fan of their band and asked them to play with Islands.
C: How would you describe your sound? How would you describe the overall tone and feel of Ski Mask?
N: I am loathe to describe “my sound” as it seems like a bit of a red herring. I would let the music speak for itself, which in this case is of a more aggressive and confrontational nature than previous Islands record. It’s tuff [sic].
C: What/who inspired your latest album?
N: Me…and other stupid people in my life.
C: Is there a song that speaks to you most from the album?
N: I wrote them so they all “speak to me” as it were. But for the sake of the conversation, I’ll say “Death Drive.”
C: How do you think that being from Montreal has influenced your sound?
N: Musically speaking, I cut my teeth in Montreal. I’m from Vancouver Island though. Islands, though, it was conceived and birthed in Los Angeles, was raised in Montreal. I guess we had peers in Montreal during that time (around 2005) but it was mostly an insulated affair.
C: What is tour life like for the band?
N: Arrested development. Adolescent, hedonistic, and self-indulgent. If you’re not careful, it can turn you into a real asshole.
C: What do you do when you are not busy performing, touring and recording?
N: I’m writing!
C: How does this album compare to your previous releases?
N: It’s louder, violent and more aggressive. But still within pop music confines.
C: What are you listening to mostly nowadays?
N: Our drummer Adam has a great project called American Tomahawk. This Nigerian weirdo from the ‘70s called William Onyeabor. Arthur Russell. Curtis Mayfield. Margo Guryan. Kate & Anna McGarrigle.
C: What would you like listeners to think/feel when they hear your music?
N: Sadness and regret.
C: Is there a message you are trying to convey through your music?
N: You don’t exist. You’re a hologram. Don’t bother.
C: Is there a particular memory that stands out from your musical career thus far?
N: It’s all been stamped out with drugs and alcohol.