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Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Islands' Nick Thorburn Runs a Benevolent Dictatorship in the Studio

by Jonah Flicker SPINNER.COM

"I see myself as the benevolent dictator," says Islands' Nick Thorburn, laughing, in describing his role as the band's principal songwriter. "I rule with a sweet thumb, a soft fist." Spinner caught up with the frontman a few days before the release of the Canadian group's second album and first for Anti- Records, 'Arm's Way.' But while he may be the dominant voice in the band, Thorburn takes pride in Islands' collaborative working method. "I don't tell people what they should be playing ... If I have an idea, I'll strongly suggest it, but everyone has a voice in this band. I think that's what makes it so special."

The recording of 'Arm's Way' differed from Islands' debut in that it benefited from more time, a little more money and a crew of professionals working to "make everything sound as good as it should," according to Thorburn. "We labored over [arrangements] for months and months and made sure every note was in the right place." The result is a lilting pop record lined with influences ranging from Caribbean, African, electro and cinematic. Thorburn also says that he's taking his role in music more seriously these days, while retaining the sense of humor he honed with his previous band the Unicorns. "I've owned up to my role as a musician," he says. "I'm a taskmaster, and everyone in the band has a certain amount of discipline, but I also realize that this is the greatest job we could possibly have."

In addition to the new record and upcoming tour, Thorburn is keeping busy with a variety of other projects in various stages of development, including Human Highway (a collaboration with fellow Canadian Jim Guthrie), Juiced Elfers (featuring Les Savy Fav's Syd Butler) and his hip-hop project, Th' Corn Gangg. He also claims to have at least 40 Islands songs on reserve. But such prolificacy seems only natural to him. "The songs that I write are like an extension of my being, an appendage," he explains. "There's always gonna be songs. Some will fit into the Islands sound and some won't. Some might make it on the record and some might end up as b-sides or songs that never appear again, like stillborn babies. I got lots of plans. I wanna keep making music for a long time."

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