Islands with Active Child and Steel Phantoms
9 p.m. Thursday
113 N. Crawford, Norman
$10 advance, $12 door
$12 advance, $14 door under 21
Soft-spoken and assured, Islands' frontman Nicholas Thorburn, who intermittently goes by the stage name Nick Diamonds, shared why all his hard work with the band is worth it.
"I feel so blessed that I get to have this expository voice for how I am feeling. It's such a privilege," he said. "Really, Islands just feels like it's an extension of me."
It sounds more like the talk of a solo artist, because it sort of is.
Islands formed in Montreal in 2005 on the heels of the demise of the beloved indie-pop group The Unicorns. Joined by that act's drummer, Jamie Thompson, Thorburn founded the group with a decidedly more mature sound in mind.
Islands released its debut album, "Return to the Sea," to critical acclaim in 2006. In the time since, it has released two more albums, "Arm's Way" in 2008 and "Vapours" in 2009, and toured internationally.
The term "band" should be used in the loosest sense, because not much of the original Islands is left.
"Islands has just never been a consistent thing," Thorburn said. "The lineup has been in flux since it first began. I don't necessarily know why this has happened, but Islands will always be in a state of flux, and that's just how it is."
Thorburn speaks of both the lineup and in reference to the largely different trio of albums Islands each member incarnation has produced. There was the poppy, calypso debut album; a heavy, orchestrated sophomore effort; and the electro, dancehall-fused "Vapours." These not-so-subtle differences might stem from the constant lineup change, or it might be the other way around.
Or maybe, it's just Thorburn " the only member who has remained in the band the full five years " not knowing exactly what he wants.
"I guess I'm 'polystylistically' challenged," Thorburn said with a laugh. "It just stems from an inability to make decisions. I just lack the ability to focus on one overarching aesthetic."
It starts to make more sense in that way. Thorburn is in full control of what Islands produces, and actively chooses to pursue a different feel for each record. Shifting the lineup only aids the cause. Islands is now at its leanest lineup yet at four members, down from its peak of seven around the time of "The Arm."
"I've tried to scale back the excess and make something that's a little more understated, subtle," he said. "Performing old songs with the stripped-down arrangement has really given the songs a chance to breathe. Sometimes, it's nice to have these huge, seven-piece groups, but at a certain point, something gets lost."
That scaled-back arrangement has inspired Thorburn to work toward unifying Islands' sound in their next effort, which is already partially written.
"I just want to get back to where I started: back to writing hooks," he said. "The next album will be this sort of amalgamation of all of our music so far. It will be stuff that is really true and honest to me."
Islands might have found a formula for stability, but with Thorburn behind the helm, the ship is sure to change direction. It's only a matter of time.
"I like the ability to do different things and make different types of records," he said. "I just really like to explore different things. I always will." "Joshua Boydston