2016 Artist Survey: Nick Thorburn of Islands | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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2016 Artist Survey: Nick Thorburn of Islands

Thorburn on 2016's Best Albums, Trump, Memorable Fan Encounters, First Kisses, and Scary Movies

Feb 14, 2017 Photography by Christian Faustus Artist Surveys 2016
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For Under the Radar‘s 14th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2016. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2016 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from Nick Thorburn of Islands. In 2016 Islands released two new albums on the same day, Taste and Should I Remain Here At Sea?, both via Manqué Music.

For our annual Artist Surveys we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about Trump and the election, 2016’s deaths, self-driving cars, Stranger Things, first kisses, scary movies they shouldn’t have seen as a child, which Friends character they are most like, and much more.

Pick up or download Under the Radar’s Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue for Artist Survey interviews with Amber Arcades, Austra, Faris Badwan of Cat’s Eyes and The Horrors, Boxed In, Caveman, The Charlatans, Cursive, Lucy Dacus, The Dears, C Duncan, Sadie Dupuis of Sad13 and Speedy Ortiz, Dutch Uncles, Ezra Furman, Robyn Hitchcock, The Invisible, Justin Lockey of Editors and Minor Victories, Lost Under Heaven (LUH), Lush, Midlake, Phantogram, The Range, Springtime Carnivore, Sunflower Bean, Surfer Blood, TEEN, The Thermals, Nick Valensi of CRX and The Strokes, Jenn Wasner of Flock of Dimes and Wye Oak, and Yuck.

Top 9 Albums of 2016

The sad truth of it is, I don’t listen to too much new music. I’m out of the loop, and in a total bubble. But here’s what got me this year. So dude-heavy, I realize, which is not good. Feel free to recommend something to me at @nickfromislands!

1. A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your ServiceThe first concert I attended was Lollapalooza ‘94 in Vancouver. ATCQ was in the middle of the bill, somewhere between Beastie Boys and George Clinton. It was my first exposure to them and I’ve never forgotten it. This record sounds great-what more can I say?

2. Vince Staples: Prima Donna EPI’ve been into him since his Summertime ‘06 LP from 2015. This new EP is excellent. I saw him at FYF in Los Angeles this year (I only went to see him) and it was absolute fire. He’s the best.

3. Leonard Cohen: You Want It DarkerI heard the title track before reading the final interview he gave with Davie Remnick in The New Yorker, and wow-it stopped me in my tracks. We asked for it, and he delivered.

4. Alex Cameron: Jumping the SharkThis fella toured with us this fall, and he was a delight. So funny, so weird, and such great songs and showmanship. Like Nick Cave and Robert Palmer in a blender. I predict Islands will be opening up for him this time next year (JK, I’m done with touring!)

5. Honus Honus: Use Your DelusionThis guy is such a weirdo. He’s a true freak and I love it.

6. Scharpling & Wurster: The Best of the Best ShowIt’s not really an album (it’s a boxed set) and it’s not at all music (it’s comedy) but it’s one of my favorite things on the face of this planet. Anyone who doesn’t already know-you should be listening to The Best Show every Tuesday night from 9-12 am EST at www.thebestshow.net.

7. Steady Holiday: Under the InfluenceAnother Islands tourmate. Steady Holiday is the solo moniker of Dre Babinski, and her delicate, plaintive music recalls Linda Perhacs or Sibille Baier. Put it on and settle down.

8. Sad Clowns: Frozen In TimeThis is a truly tweaked record. Made by my Islands band mate (full disclosure) Evan Gordon, this is blizzard, cabin-fever clownidelica. There’s nothing like it. Maybe if Steve Miller, Stompin Tom Tom Club, and Rick Troutman had a lovechild. This is it.9. Kanye West: The Life of Pablo—Say what you will, these are true bangers. I think being critical of Kanye is so boring anyway. The man needs a break, it seems.

2016 was regarded by many as a fairly tough and negative year. Was it also a hard year for you personally? If so, how? And also what were the high points for you?

It was a high watermark year for me. I scored two films, acted in two films, staged a play, sold two scripts, and released two albums. Huh. Weird. Anyway, enough about me-the world is burning and I feel like fighting fascism.

What are your thoughts on how the U.S. presidential election played out?

1-3 sentences won’t cut it. This country is too big. And fear runs this country.

Let’s discuss Donald Trump. What does the rise of Trump tell you about America in 2016? What concerns you most about a Trump presidency? How do you think his presidency might personally change your life? What message do you have for those who voted for Trump? What actions will you take over the course of the next four years to either protest a Trump presidency or support it?

Everything concerns me about Trump’s reign. ABSOLUTELY. EVERYTHING.

I plan to use whatever measly artistic ability I have to protest his administration with every ounce I have. And I plan to be active in whatever community I can. I plan to ally myself with the people and organizations that need it most.

We lost three highly influential music icons in 2016. What are your thoughts on the passing of David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen? And what are your favorite albums by each artist?

Easy peasy. Low, 1999, and The Future.

What do you think Prince and Bowie’s afterlife project sounds like?

Sorry to be a stick in the mud, but there’s no such thing.

Which Friends character are you most like?


What scary movie did you see way too young as a child, how’d you end up seeing it, and does it still scare you now?

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. Large Marge ruined me. I barfed seven times when her eyes bulged out of her head.

Are you ready for self-driving cars and a more automated future?

I’m ready for capitalism to crumble.

Tell us about the most memorable fan encounter you had this year.

We have one fan named Ange who drives hours to see us in multiple cities, days in a row. She’s like a one-person deadhead. We saw her so many times this year that I considered chipping in for gas. She’s a great kid.

Tell us about your first kiss.

Her breath tasted like celery.

Under the Radar has been around for 15 years now, since December 2001. How do you feel the music industry has most changed in that time, both for the better and the worst?

It’s dead and it’s been dead, for better and for worse. The industry is being held up by shitty toothpicks and to the few remaining A&Rs left, I say this to you: Enjoy your SXSW Spring Break idiot fest while you still can!

Which Stranger Things character do you most relate with? Why?

The gorgon, because no one understands me. Or wait. No. Barb. Definitely Barb.

What band, besides your own, has the best name?


What song would you like to be performed at your funeral and who would you like to sing it?

“Look What They’ve Done to My Song Ma” - Melanie Safka. I’m open to suggestions!


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