Islands’ Nick Thorburn discusses new album

Brenna McNamara


Credit: Ron Soltys

Real quick

Islands with Saul Williams and Dragons of Zynth


The Grog Shop, 9 p.m. $15

New album, Arm’s Way, due out May 20

ALL: So tell me, what are some annoying questions you get from the media?

Thorburn: Questions that focus on The Unicorns. I don’t mind answering standard questions; I mean I have stock answers. The best interviews are the ones that are more conversational. Where the interview covers things about you without volunteering that information. I don’t mind answering bullet point questions. What does the band name mean, where do you live, what is that like? But at a certain point that’s just going through the motions and filling out a question-and-answer questionnaire.

ALL: Do you get those a lot?

Thorburn: We’re just starting to go through the interview process after a long time off so I’m just getting back into it. There are some interviewers that ask questions that are available in the press kit. Like who produced, mixed your record — stuff like that.

ALL: Speaking of that, when working with mixer Rob Schnapf, did you miss just working with friends and a kind of low-key atmosphere?

Thorburn: They have opportunities to do that as well, but this was very important for us to experience. It was a successful, healthy thing. Making a record isn’t a joke, and at some level it’s fun, but at some level you want to make sure the songs are done justice, and in order to do that you need to accept help and allow an objective ear and a technical hand to assist. You can’t just do it yourself. We thought this record really deserved a network of strong professionals behind it.

ALL: When I usually think of Islands, I picture colors and whimsical cartoon-y happiness. But your lyrics can be kind of morbid. Can you talk about that contradiction for a bit?

Thorburn: Sure. I’ve always been a fan of opposing, diametrically, juxtaposed moods or themes that lull you into thinking one thing and revealing something else. It’s always been an interest to me, kind of a sneak attack. You think you’ve figured it out, but there’s some kind of revelation.

ALL: I was nervous to interview you because I’ve listened to your work for many years, but never actually researched it to find the meaning. But I guess that’s good. I don’t know if I’d want to.

Thorburn: Yeah, you might be disappointed. You might have a way cooler understanding of the song than I would. Sometimes you need that distance in order to fully understand it. It’s kind of psychological, too. If I was having problems with my mental health, I’d see a therapist, not self-diagnose, because I don’t have the best understanding of what’s wrong. Just like me explaining the lyrical process, like I may not have the best understanding of a theme.

Contact all reporter Brenna McNamara at [email protected].