Music | No Man Is An Island


Despite the band’s ever changing line-up, guitarist and lead singer Nick Thorburn assures Paul Fennessy that Islands are here to stay.

Since the breakup of his previous band, The Unicorns, Nick Thorburn has spearheaded Islands, a curious project which combines laid back, woozy vocals with a swirling psychedelic backdrop of sound.

Ever since Islands’ inception in 2005, Thorburn has hired and fired band members on a regular basis and the recent departure of drummer Jamie Thompson left Thorburn as the sole remaining original member of the band.

Thorburn admits that the sudden exit of Thompson, who he had been making music with for ten years, was difficult to come to terms with, but overall he believes Islands emerged from this mini-crisis relatively unscathed:

“At first it seemed pretty significant, it threw everything into question, whether we were going to be able to continue. It affected the band ultimately in a positive way, because I was able to pick up my boot straps and get stuff taken care of.”

The outcome of the aforementioned disharmony was the ambitious Arm’s Way, the band’s second album, which is considerably darker than their debut.

When asked whether this shift in direction was a conscious decision, Thorburn issues a witty riposte, jokily exclaiming: “I was conscious when I decided to [change direction]”, before admitting that the creative process was more of an organic experience than a methodical one:

“I never said I’m going to do something entirely different. My influences changed and my temperament shifted a bit, but it really wasn’t as calculated as that.”

One of the most distinctive elements of Islands’ sound is the humorous, playful tone which features in their best work. Therefore, it is no surprise to learn that these qualities also permeate Thorburn’s everyday speech.

Despite having worked with groups such as Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade, he portrays himself as the archetypal introverted artist, while simultaneously punctuating his affirmations with self-deprecatory pronouncements:

“The music scene is generally a pretty solitary, competitive environment. I think it’s either that or else I’m just a real loner and anti-social”

“I think in any scene, people keep to themselves and it’s not too incestuous. Everyone’s working on their own thing and doing their own projects and there are times when you can meet up and relate to one another and share with one another, but it’s (generally) a pretty solitary, competitive environment. I think it’s either that way in all scenes or else I’m just a real loner and anti-social.”

However, his penchant for humour is superseded by a driven mentality which borders on obsessive. The edginess which inflicts Thorburn’s persona is demonstrated not only by his propensity to dispense of musicians at an alarming rate, but also by his voracious work-ethic.

He details how Islands’ future is already mapped out to some extent due to the meticulous level of preparation which he has exerted on proceedings:

“I have two Islands records written. I haven’t brought them to the band but I have an entire two albums that are ready to be learned and recorded. I have two projects on the go and tons of other stuff. There’s no shortage of material, it’s just strategising I guess.”

While it would be foolhardy to precisely predict what is in store for this enigmatic frontman and his coterie of contemporaries given their turbulent past, he still claims that “Islands is pretty secure right now” and that he does not foresee himself having to enforce any further drastic alterations upon the band.

One thing is certain though – the band will always remain staunch purveyors of quirky indie-rock. Or is it? On the topic of major labels, he seems enthusiastic, stating: “I’m open to anything”, thereby epitomising Islands unrelenting capacity to be predictably unpredictable.