Q&A with Islands’s Nick Thorburn

Indie rockers to play Mojo’s tonight.

If you're going to be in Columbia for this Labor Day weekend, you may want to check out Mojo’s this Sunday for the indie pop sound of Islands, a band formed from the breakup of The Unicorns. MOVE chatted with vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Nick Thorburn.

MOVE Magazine: What can people expect from your show? Nick Thorburn: Well, if you are familiar with our records, they'll be familiar with the songs that we play. And we will be doing a few new songs. We probably won't be going out on tour again for a while, so it will be your last chance to see us for many years, I would say. So it'll be a pretty rare moment. An “experience”. And we're going to be playing all the hits over the last five records that we released. It will be like “The Best of…” experience with some new songs. It's going to be fun. We like to have a party when we play. It will be a joyous, uplifting experience.

MM: For people who haven't heard your latest album, what is Islands’ sound? NT: I guess it's sort of morphed a little over the years, but in essence it's the same. It's me singing songs where I'm trying to express universal themes and feelings in an original way, hopefully. We're a four-piece. We're pretty lean and mean and (use) a lot of multi-instrumentalism. (We have) lot of musical skill on display. It's got elements that permit dancing but it's focused on composition and the song writing.

MM: Who are your musical influences? NT: Over the years, (I’ve had) such a wide (range) of influences. I think now that I've been making records for so long I'm kind of on a cycle. But I'm always discovering new things and I'm always absorbing things, (from) people like J. La Crudie to T. Rex.

MM: People come to concerts and they want to hear all of the older songs that got you to where you are and that's it. And you have to showcase your newer records to keep yourself relevant. How do you plan to keep everyone engaged? NT: We do both. We go back and forth. The thing about the lineup now is that we are very adept at transitioning to turn the old material into the new stuff and (there exists) a very fluid relationship between the songs. We are able to go back and forth pretty easily. I think people will appreciate it, hopefully. We touch on all five records fairly equally, some have a little more emphasis — the first one and the newest one — but we dig into all of them.

MM: What is your favorite song to play? NT: I'm into the new stuff. We've got some brand new songs that we're going to be trying out. And that's always the most fun for me, because it's still a bit of a challenge and it's still fresh and new and scary a little bit to wrestle with these songs and get them sounding good. It's the first time people are hearing them so there's the excitement of that. So those are the favorites. We've got a new song “Snowflake.” It's nice when people get really excited so it's nice to play the old songs like “Swans” that get people jazzed.

MM: This is going to be one of your last concerts for a while. What can fans expect from Islands in the future? NT: I don't know. It's unclear. We haven't really gotten there yet. It's … anyone's guess. We are making our way there and we've got ideas about what it's going to be like. It's just fine tuning our abilities and our skill and I think it just gets better –– more subtle and more nuanced.

MM: What advice would you give to all of the bands and musicians who want to be in your shoes? NT: I would say be persistent and to be headstrong and completely (uninhibited) about your choices. Don't list to anybody and what anybody says. Be completely focused on pursuing what you want to do. If it is going to connect with people, it will. And if not, just keep trying. Keep on punching.

More Stories