Nick Thorburn Apologizes for Accidentally Covering Julie Byrne on New Islands Album


Nick Thorburn Apologizes for Accidentally Covering Julie Byrne on New Islands Album

“‘Oops’ does not suffice”
Nick Thorburn Julie Byrne
Nick Thorburn, Julie Byrne (Getty Images)

Last week, Islands came back with Islomania, the band’s first new record since Nick Thorburn quietly ended the band and briefly retired in 2016. About a month ahead of the album’s release, on May 13, Islands shared the single “Carpenter.” When the track was shared, Thorburn said in a press statement:

This one was an early song that I demoed at home as a little throwaway. Unfinished, it sat on a folder on my computer collecting digital dust until I stumbled upon it many months later. I had completely forgotten about it and listening back, I was totally caught off guard. It sounded like I was singing someone else’s song. I was excited so I set about finishing it immediately. Once I’d tidied it up, I eventually brought it to producer Patrick Ford, who helped the band fine-tune the push and pull with regards to the quiet/loud sections. Lyrically it’s like a “woulda coulda shoulda” sliding doors-type imagining.

Thorburn has now apologized after being notified that he was, in fact, “singing someone else’s song.” As Stereogum notes, the first part of “Carpenter” takes its lyrics directly from Julie Byrne’s 2014 “Prism Song.” Thorburn said in a statement to Stereogum:

Before Islomania, I had taken 5 years off from releasing music and considered myself retired. Somewhere in that interim, I heard Julie Byrne’s “Prism Song”—maybe on a Spotify playlist, though I don’t totally remember. I guess at some point between 2016 and 2019 I sat down and recorded a little cover demo of the song at home and promptly forgot all about it. A few years later, in 2019, I discovered the file in a folder of song sketches on my computer. In those years between, I had completely forgotten the provenance of the song, and attributed it to one of the many “works in progress” I had been maintaining in the growing folder of song ideas. When I started putting this album together, I took my “Carpenter” demo into the studio, thinking it was an original song. It was brought to my attention only this morning on Twitter that it was a Julie Byrne song, which I was extremely dismayed to discover! Holy fuck!

“Oops” does not suffice. As is now blindingly evident, my memory has some pretty severe limits. Being labeled a “geriatric millennial” just hit a little harder today. It was never my intention or desire to copy another artist, and certainly not to profit off of their work in any way. Thankfully, it is all being sorted out! I’ll be going to songwriter jail for a bit and when I get out, I will make sure to learn from the failings of my Swiss-cheese brain. I’m sorry to Julie Byrne for my dumb mistake! Thanks for your concern at this time, please respect my privacy, keep sweet.

Pitchfork has reached out to representatives for Islands and Julie Byrne for additional comment and more information.

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