Islands is an indie rock band formed in 2005 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and currently based in Los Angeles, California.
In mid-2005 Islands recorded a debut album titled Return to the Sea, which was released in April 2006. The album was recorded in Montreal, Canada, at Breakglass Studio and in Jamie Thompson's bedroom, and was produced by audio engineer/record producer Mark Lawson.
Return to the Sea was re-mastered in England for the European version of the album, and was released there by Rough Trade Records on April 3, 2006. In North America, the album was released on the upstart label Equator Records on April 4, 2006. The cover of the album is one of Caspar David Friedrich's famous paintings, The Wreck of the Hope.
The album features numerous guest appearances, including members of Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade. Two songs, "Flesh" and "Abominable Snow", were released to the public through The Simple Mission in June 2004, though neither appeared on the debut album. "Abominable Snow" had begun life as a song performed live by the Unicorns prior to their breakup.
Return to the Sea has been described by Nick as having "some dancehall influences, some calypso... It's more diverse and sprawling and ambitious", and is "A bit more mature than The Unicorns... More of a Neil Young / Brian Wilson vibe running through it."
The band played various shows around the US and Canada throughout mid-late 2005, followed by an opening slot for Metric on their early 2006 tour. After Return to the Sea was released in April 2006, the band embarked on their first full headlining tour, playing small clubs around the US and Canada throughout May. They were joined by Cadence Weapon and Why? on the first half of the tour, and Cadence Weapon and Busdriver on the second. The band generally received critical acclaim for their live shows, which sometimes ended with the band leading the audience out of the venue "pied piper style" and onto the surrounding streets.
Positions in Islands consist of Nicholas Thorburn (main vocals, synthesizer, guitar), Aaron Harris (drums), Sebastian Chow (xylophone, violin), Alex Chow (synthesizer, violin), Patrick Gregoire (guitar, bass clarinet) and Patrice Agbokou (bass guitar).
On May 28, 2006, it was announced that Thompson would be leaving the band. He stated, "I'm just not sure that being in a successful band is all that important to me anymore. I'm not leaving because of any problems with people in the band. It's very hard to do this, Nick and I have been creating together for quite a long time now... our relationship, both creative and personal is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life." Of Islands' future he said, "I think Islands is one of the best, if not the best band out there these days, and I have every confidence that they will do incredibly well." This quote was displayed on the band's website for a short time, before being taken down. Islands decided to continue on without Thompson, and a European tour was scheduled, and further recordings confirmed.
Diamonds commented upon Thompson's departure, saying "Jamie has left Islands, but the band waltzes on! We wish Jamie the best in his new life. Islands are forever."
Following their European tour, Islands toured Iceland, the United States and Canada premiering several songs from their new album including: "The Arm", "Kids", and "We Swim". Throughout their tour, it was not unusual to hear various cover songs such as the Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset" and Sinad O'Connor's "Red Football". In interviews around this time members of the band were quoted as saying that the next album would be 'heavier,' with Nick listening to a lot of T.Rex.
In a Pitchfork Media interview, Diamonds talked about future recording: "Yeah, we're thinking January or February. I've got high hopes for a producer...This guy Jeff Lynne. He was in ELO and the Traveling Wilburys. He also did a George Harrison song that's one of my favorites, "Got My Mind Set on You". It's got the most amazing production. He gets such great sounds and vocals. Just the sound of the guitar and the drums is a perfect pop sound. I really want this record to be a good, good pop record." Diamonds later said that he was reconsidering this choice.
As well, on January 6, 2007, Diamonds posted on the band's website that he and the band would enter the studio and begin recording a new album in February. He stated that the album was already being planned out and specifically that the track list and title was picked out. Additionally, he said that he was dropping the "Diamonds" from his name and that he would be using his original name surname Thorburn from then on.
In January 2008, the band announced a short six date UK tour in February, playing shows in Manchester, Bristol, Nottingham, Brighton, Cambridge and London.
In February 2008, it was announced that Islands had signed to Los Angeles based ANTI- records, and the band appeared at the ANTI- SXSW showcase.
Islands' follow-up, Arm's Way would leak to various BitTorrent and file-sharing sites on April 11, 2008. The album would then be officially released on May 20, 2008, featuring a more anthematistical sound to its tracks than had previously been heard by people listening to a playback of their debut. In addition, the album featured a song entitled "Abominable Snow" previously performed live by Nick Thorburn's former band The Unicorns.