Back in 2016, Islands announced their retirement from music to focus on other pursuits. The retirement was short lived, however, and now the band is back with a brand new album called Islomania. Despite the extended break, the new album picks up right where the group left off, complete with jangly guitars and infectious shimmering melodies that have arrived just in time for Hot Vax Summer.
To celebrate the new album, frontman Nick Thorburn sat down to talk Megan Thee Stallion, Uncle Buck, and Lollapalooza ’94 in the latest Indie Mixtape 20 Q&A.
What are four words you would use to describe your music?
Misunderstood genius, woefully unappreciated.
It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?
If anyone remembers me in 2050, I’ll be pleased as punch. I don’t want to get greedy, but if they remember me fondly, I’d very much like that. But ultimately, I’ll settle with just being remembered at all.
What’s your favorite city in the world to perform?
Zagreb, Croatia. These people really get it. They get a perfect audience score from me, 10 out of 10 every time.
Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?
Brian Eno has been a touchstone since starting Islands. As a fellow non-musician who relies heavily on instinct, I often think of the way Eno would work, either as a producer, or alongside Roxy Music, with his early vocal records or his subsequent ambient music. He approaches writing and songcraft from a place that few technically proficient musicians do, and I identify with that.
Where did you eat the best meal of your life?
Every time I go home, my mom cooks what is always the best meal of my life. Nothing can beat your mom’s home cooking, am I right?
What album do you know every word to?
Velvet Underground’s Loaded.
What was the best concert you’ve ever attended?
I don’t know if it was the best, but a very pivotal concert was my first — Lollapalooza ’94. I was 12, and Smashing Pumpkins were one of my favorite bands. Green Day played first (and stayed at the same Super 8 as me!) and A Tribe Called Quest, George Clinton, The Breeders, and Beastie Boys also played. It was a pretty good cross-section of stuff.
What is the best outfit for performing and why?
Something comfy, something loose fitting, perhaps something with an elastic band, or made from soft, stretchy material. No! Comfort is not a factor when performing. You must look incredible and dazzling and glamorous and stylish. You shouldn’t look like you just wandered out of the audience onto the stage. You should look exceptionally attired.
Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter and/or Instagram?
Any hot and sexy influencer with over 400 thousand followers, because they tend to tell me all of the things I need to buy or wear to be cool and special and interesting and lead a meaningful life just like them.
What’s your most frequently played song in the van on tour?
It’s a toss-up between “The Hamster Dance” by Hampton The Hamster and “Chase” by Giorgio Moroder. One to annoy the sh*t out of everyone, and the other for those moody late-night drives across an empty stretch of country.
What’s the last thing you Googled?
“what is an uproxx”
What album makes for the perfect gift?
My new album, Islomania, out June 11th.
Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?
The Unicorns crashed our van somewhere between St. Louis and Nashville in February 2004, after hitting black ice, spinning out and hitting both sides of the highway guard rail, nearly flying off a cliff and narrowly avoiding a tractor trailer. I was relieved that the first song on our album “I Don’t Wanna Die” with the line “I see it now, I die in a car on tour” was not, ultimately, a prophetic announcement.
What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?
At the age of seven, my family up and moved from a small fishing town to another small fishing town much further north in British Columbia. It was a very disruptive thing, moving at such a young age. One of the first things we did was to go see a movie at the local theater. The movie we saw was Uncle Buck, starring Sir John Candy. John Candy is an angel from heaven and his performance in Uncle Buck soothed me. Over the years, I would revisit Uncle Buck whenever I was feeling sad or stressed out, and he became a kind of patron saint to me. I felt it only fitting to get a small picture of his face, from his Uncle Buck-era — my only tattoo — above my left hip-bone, as a small reminder that there are good things in this world.
What artists keep you from flipping the channel on the radio?
If I’m listening to the radio, it’s probably a Hot 97-type thing, and Megan Thee Stallion always has my attention in that sphere. If it’s not Hot 97-ish, I’m probably tuned to some oldies station that’s playing Simon & Garfunkel. I’ll never get enough of those sweet sweet harmonies from Garfunkel.
What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?
Gonna have to go with what I can only assume is the standard answer here, and give it up to moms and dad for summoning me to Earth.
What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?
Again, everyone probably answers this the same, but I’d tell myself to a) kill John Connor and b) try and enjoy your youth while you still got it. You’re not as ugly and pathetic as you think you are!
What’s the last show you went to?
Martin Rev (from Suicide) solo show in LA at Zebulon in February 2020. It was extremely loud and incredibly antagonistic! I can always appreciate when a show is the musical equivalent of a middle finger.
What movie can you not resist watching when it’s on TV?
Uncle Buck, naturally!
What would you cook if Obama were coming to your house for dinner?
The theme would be “2008 Afghan wedding” and it wouldn’t be any good, partially because I don’t think I could master the subtle flavors of Afghan cooking and partially because he drone bombed an Afghan wedding in 2008, killing 47 civilians including the bride.
Islomania is out now on Royal Mountain Records. Listen here.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.