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Nick Thorburn discusses longevity in the music industry and Islands' two new records

Louise Burns

The music industry is one of the toughest nuts to crack when it comes to longevity.

But not if you are Nick Thorburn.

At just 34, he has achieved pioneer status in the world of indie rock. Over the past sixteen years, he founded beloved bands The Unicorns, Islands, Human Highway and Mister Heavenly. He is also known for composing the theme music to both seasons of the hit true crime podcast Serial. So what's his secret to being successful for so long?

"If I had any sense at all I would have stopped seven years ago. The only reason I'm still doing it, I think, is because I made the concerted efforts and decision to keep doing it," he says. "I do not think there's this demand for me to continue, it's just what I decided to do. I'm at the point where it's all I really know how to do."

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Island's influential debut Return To The Sea, and the release of two new albums: Should I Remain Here At Sea and Taste. Should I Remain Here At Sea is a performance based, guitar-driven record that acts as a companion piece to its 2006 predecessor. "It's more [of a] retrospective look at everything I've done and everywhere I've been," Thorburn says. "It kind of feels like an assessment of everything. It's not a literal sequel where there's responses to songs and everything. [It's] your alone time, night time record for working through your emotional business."

The album's closing track "The Sea" highlights Thorburn's writing at its most emotionally raw. It layers lyrics like "know that in your darkness amongst your sorrows I shall remain" over a lush organ mixed with dream-like harmonies. It's his brand of indie rock balladry at its finest.

Taste is more dance-oriented, experimenting with drum machines, synthesizers, arpeggiated synthesizers and programming. Thorburn describes it as having "...more of a sequenced kind of sound."

With such a consistent and prolific career, it's hard to imagine Thorburn doing anything else. But he has other ideas if being a musician doesn't work out.

"I have other aspirations" he says. "I know if everything goes belly up, I wanna be a florist."

Check out more of Louise Burns' conversation with Thorburn on this month's Radio 3 podcast.