By Simon Weedn
With 2014 only having just begun, leave it to Canadian indie rockers, Islands, to hit the ground running into the New Year. Starting on January 16th at Pappy & Harriet’s, the band will be rolling through the American Southwest and West Coast with Los Angeles’ own Haunted Summer in tow for two weeks before departing to Europe for even more dates. However, it should be no surprise that a band that’s released five full-length records and three singles in its mere eight-year existence would be starting off its year with such a flurry of activity.
Though the band has a considerable amount of material to choose from these days, frontman Nick Thoburn makes it evident that the band’s approach to composing its live sets is simple and focused. “I guess we just sort of pick the best of the bunch; the ones that are most well-suited for a live experience,” Thoburn explains. “It can be kind of tricky, but we try and switch it up throughout the course of the evening because there’s a lot to draw from and there are different moods and tones we can hit upon.” The band also has a ton of new material ready for the stage from its most recent album, Ski Mask, which was delivered only a few months ago, to treat fans to as well. “With the new stuff, the way we recorded it was pretty live,” says Thoburn. “Most of the tracks were done live in one take so they’re all suited to the live setting.”
Ski Mask marks the band’s fifth full length outing and shows the band continuing to move forward with an ample stable of interesting, diverse indie rock, in the truest sense of the genre. The record is extremely clean and well-produced with songs ranging in sound from the quirky and bouncy, “Nil,” that’s almost an indie-pop take on classic vaudeville style to intense, gorgeous anthems like “Becoming The Gunship.” One possible explanation for the amount of range in style seen on the album is the period over which some of the songs were written. “A lot of the songs, at least half of them, had been sitting with me for upwards of six years; they’d sort of been lingering,” Thoburn explains. “I’d sort of put them aside because I hadn’t found space for them on any of the previous records. Then as I was putting together Ski Mask as a concept, as a theme, these songs that I’d been living with for six years finally felt like they belonged somewhere.” It’s these songs from the past, combined with ones from the present style, that gives Ski Mask a bit of a grab bag feel, but also a strange sort of cohesiveness as well. Though some of the tunes are radically different from others, they fit together, compliment and flow together really brilliantly. It also helps to consider when listening to this record, that Nick considers this a continuation of the band’s previous release, A Sleep & A Forgetting, which dealt with the emotions and experiences surrounding the breakup of Thoburn’s marriage. However, Ski Mask is not meant to keep on mulling over tragedy and disappointment, “It’s also about continuing and moving on,” says Thoburn. “It’s about accepting; the fifth stage of grief.”
Though the band has just released an album and its plans for the beginning of the year are pretty clear, the rest of 2014 lays wide open for the group and Thoburn makes it clear he plans to stay busy, “I’ve got a few tricks up but it might be too early to say, nothing’s written in stone, but I have plans.” If Ski Mask represents Thoburn making a bit of peace and moving on from the demise of a treasured relationship, then one can only imagine what will be coming next when he sets his sights beyond the sadness that’s gripped him for the last few years.
Islands w/ Haunted Summer at Pappy & Harriets, 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown, (760) 365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com. Thurs, Jan. 16. $8.