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Islands’ Nick Thorburn on the Making Of His Band’s New Rockumentary Spoof, Starring Michael Cera, Bill Hader + More

Todd Weaver

In a bid to build their legend, or maybe just to sell more records, indie rockers Islands created a star-studded rockumentary (watch it below) to launch their fifth record, ‘Ski Mask.’ The hilarious spoof features Michael Cera, Bill Hader and Alia Shawkat and is styled as a “making of the album”-type documentary.

Some might say that making a star-packed fake rock doc is par for the course for this Los Angeles band. But thanks to a plot that twists and turns like a writhing snake on acid, casting that pairs the mightiest mouths with some mind-blowing bon mots and astute cinematography and direction, the video isn’t just an exercise in lining up a bunch of famous faces. It’s about creating a legend — or at least a viral video.

Hyperbole aside, ‘Ski Mask’ arrives just in time for Halloween, as its cover features a spooky-looking tarred face — whose face we neither know nor care — and wittily titled songs like ‘Of Corpse’ and ‘We’ll Do It So You Don’t Have To.’ Islands just launched touring for ‘Ski Mask’ on the West Coast, but in between shows, they took time out to take Diffuser.fm behind the scenes of the video.

As singer Nick Thorburn, onetime leader of the Montreal-based Unicorns, tells us, the band simply took inspiration from those around them. Call this interview the making-of the making-of-the-documentary spoof of making-of-the-album documentaries. (This spoof stuff is contagious.)

Congratulations on the documentary. It’s very ambitious and amusing. What are you sending up here: rockumentaries in general or Islands’ bid for superstardom and legend status?

We were sending up the general tone of these classic album documentaries and their inclination to mythologize the recording process to a point of ridiculous and unintentional self-parody. And, of course, the idea that Islands could [create] an instant classic was a fun thing to play with.

Will Islands ever have their own real album-making rockumentary then?

Yes please!

So, how will you earn legendary album status, what becomes a rock legend most?

Dying, at 27 preferably, from drugs or, to a lesser extent, suicide.

Glad we cleared that up. Michael Cera’s known for being a bit of an indie rock fan, and he was touring bassist for your side band Mister Heavenly. Are you guys passing acquaintances or pals?

Big-time pals. We pal around all the time and even play music together, sometimes in a very pal-oriented way.

Okay, it’s hard to say whether you’re kissing and telling or not. How did he come on board for this?

Through our mutual admiration and long-burgeoning friendship.

What about Bill Hader. Is he among your big-time pals too?

He’s friends with Derek Waters, the director, and a fan of the Unicorns.

Hader does a great smarmy manager, don’t you think? Was your manager offended?

Our manager’s name is Geoff, and I suggested Hader’s character should be called Geoff. But there was a miscommunication, and his name was spelled Jeff, which killed the joke but prevented our manager from getting too offended.

Anyone who has spent time in the music business has met these characters, though. Albeit a bit more two-dimensional. There is the pompous journalist and also the record producer character, who doesn’t really know which band or album he’s talking about.

That’s [played by] Rich Fulcher, a very funny comedian from ‘The Mighty Boosh’ and ‘Snuff Box.’ We were pleased as punch to have him on board and he nailed the part of every producer I’ve ever met.

You may never record again having said that, you know. However, having said that, care to relay real-life stories; you don’t have to name names.

My lips are sealed!

What a tease. What is your favorite rockumentary of all time?

‘Some Kind of Monster’ is pretty amazing.

Are you a ‘Spinal Tap’ fan? Or how about ‘A Mighty Wind’?

‘Spinal Tap’ is one of my all-time faves, and Christopher Guest is incredible. ‘Waiting for Guffman’ is the best. But, ‘Spinal Tap’ taps into how dumb every single rock musician truly is.

Watch Islands’ ‘Ski Mask’ Rockumentary:

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