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Live Music Week happens bi-annually at WERS to raise money to keep our station running. We ask if you can pledge your support in order to keep us live on air, bringing you live performances from your favorite musicians. Pledges can be made here.
Amidst the plethora of cables, a hefty pedal board with delays, and tremolo glows like a treasure trove at the feet of Islands frontman Nick Thorburn. “Can I get some reverb, a little slap-back, please?” he politely asks, tapping his microphone with his finger. Islands join WERS live in the studio for Live Music Week and begin to pluck and pop the buttons, strings, and switches of their fanciful music gear as they warm up.
Islands hail from Canada, but have been living in Los Angeles for some time now. They’ve just released their fifth studio album, Ski Mask, which is the very first to appear on their new label, Manquè. “It’s been a really positive experience,” said Thorburn when asked about what it’s been like running their very own label. “We’re sort of directly responsible for the success and the future [of the album] and so it’s interesting to be driving the ship in the business capacity, but it’s been positive, though, and I’m really enjoying it.”
They begin by playing “Shotgun Vision,” the eighth track on Ski Mask. This song is a slower-tempo tune rich with bluesy-funk guitar riffs nestled between sparse snare and kick. Key player Geordie Gordon sways back and forth from behind his microkorg and sprinkles in a subtle synth melody that warmly glides into Thorburn’s vocals.
Next they play “Here, Here” and Thornburn begins with a guitar intro drenched in silky delay as his fingers whirl along the top strings. He sways side to side in a baby-blue blazer and bright, red socks peek out from beneath the cuffs of his pants. He sings with his eyes closed, “Sad, as a pretty lake dried up and frozen into a snow flake…” Nostalgic oh’s are spread in-between the verses harmonized with Geordie Gordon’s falsetto backing. The song closes with twinkling guitar high-notes and a crash that cascades into silence.
Over the years, Islands has taken on different forms and has seen a heavy rotation of band members. Last month a promo mokumentary was released that even poked fun at the fact. The mokumentary stars Michael Cera as an old bandmate and Bill Hader makes an appearance as their band manager who confidently asserts vague statements such as, “You got a guitar player who’s playing along, and then you got another guy who’s kinda dangling on top of that…” Thorburn mentions how director Derek Waters is a close friend and they had thrown around the idea of working on something together and finally around the release of the album the time arose.
With Live Music Week in mind, the band is then asked to share any of their thoughts on public radio. Geordie Gordon makes mention of how when he was growing up in Canada he contributed to his local radio station. He recalls fondly how it was an opportunity to interact with music on different levels and how it exposed him to “weird music” he might not have otherwise encountered. Next, the band closes with “Death Drive,” the second song on Ski Mask. The keys are punctured and wrapped in rivulets of laser-like synth. Thorburn flings his arms out in the sudden tempo-changed portions of the song as all in the studio tap their toes to it’s varying rhythms. Once the song comes to a close Thorburn and all the members kindly thank everyone in the room. The cables are wound and the cases pop open, then snap closed as they head off to another island one might presume awaits them with microphones and speakers.