This is a thread for all those missing out on the full story of The Unicorns breakup and the details of their side-projects and current activites. I hope it is helpful for someone
, at very least. As news comes to light about various new projects and what have you, I'll try my best to keep up with these, and add them to this current overview.
First things first: Why did the Unicorns break-up?
As for why they broke up, I couldn't tell you. Sick and tired of each other maybe? Apparently Alden and Nick hate each other now, and can't stand to be around each other. Jamie is kinda the connection: he's still friends with both, but I guess he's diggin' what Nick's doing more than Alden.
A recent Pitchfork Article has shed some light on the subject:
Alden "Ginger" Penner and Nick "Niel" Diamonds, two-thirds of the Canadian fractured-pop trio, recently spoke to Pitchfork about their band's demise. "There were a lot of factors, personal and political," said Penner. "I've always wanted to play music and have it available to other people in a way that's a lot more associated with punk music or even folk music and not so involved in a business. And there were differing point of views about that. That's the trouble with being in a band."
"That's true and that's not true," Diamonds responded. "We all had the same goals in doing things a certain way. [Penner] took it to an extreme and Jaime [Tambour, the third Unicorn] and I didn't want to go with him that way. Having a label, having a manager, having a booking agent--he wanted to do it all himself. We didn't want to put our energy into that. I love Alden, I respect what he does to the fullest extent, and I love his music. As partners we just couldn't do it. We had different outlooks." He added, "It was kind of a messy breakup."
Diamonds explained that the band had been on shaky ground since the very beginning, as he and Penner always felt more like musical collaborators than friends. A nonstop touring schedule that saw the Unicorns visiting Europe, Australia, and North America multiple times in one year didn't help either. Diamonds and Penner didn't talk at all during their Australian tour, and their partnership dissolved soon after. Diamonds recalls their last show, in Texas: "We played in Houston and it was just so obvious that it was our last show. It was a dark finale. We did a screw version of 'Tuff Ghost' and chopped it up live. That was fun."
And another article, this time from December 2003 by Exclaim!
, and surprisingly honest for the band, who did have habits of telling tales of riding to school on pigs and other absurdities, shows the band on shakey ground even a year before the break-up, with Diamonds stating:
"It's fucked up. This band is a firecracker waiting to go off."
The article describes in-band-bickering and very strained relationships, particularly whilst on the road, so perhaps we should've all seen this one coming, really.
"Tension does make things happen," says multi-instrumentalist and singer Alden Ginger. "I have a habit of being passive-aggressive, which takes the sport out of argument, but if there is agreement on both sides of whatever interaction, there is no progress made, no exchange." "Mark [Lawson, WWCOHWWG?'s audio-engineer and producer] is an angel. He endured the intense emotional wreckage that was occurring during recording."' says Ginger. "We were having technical difficulties with relationships," adds Diamonds crisply. "I think that Nick and I have not had a chance to evolve out of our high school days," says Ginger, "so the stilted raw relationship that we have had is now extended to three people. Which makes things a lot more complicated."
http://www.exclaim.ca/index.asp?layid=2 ... csid1=2129
Either way, the group has now settled into two camps: Nick & Jaime, and Alden.
Nick & Jaime have formed two bands, Th' Corn Gangg, and Islands (Note: Jaime is packing up his stuff, leaving the bands, and moving to Australia, see update at bottom
). Islands is the pop outfit, a vehicle for their Unicorns left-overs and whatever else that isn't going to th' corn gangg. Here are two Islands tracks available for download:
The Unicorns, while they were still together, had some great unreleased tunes, much better than some of the stuff on "Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?" with tracks like "Abomidable Snowman" (they did a version for a XFM session which is amazing, much, much better than that crappy Islands version), "Flesh", "Livin' In The Country" and another track, previously untitled, and dubbed "Children's Chin" by Pure Guava, but now confirmed as being officially named "Rough Gem", which is fantastic as well. The two tracks released on mp3's are from an L.A. session Nick and Jaime did some time after the break-up. Nick & J'aime spoke to ChartAttack
about these two tracks:
Some of the other buzz is based on the two Islands tracks that have been circulating on the internet for the past few months. "Abominable Snow" and "Flesh" first appeared on a blog and generated a lot of publicity for the band, though not all of it good. The tracks won't appear on the band's Return To The Sea debut album.
"When Pitchfork gave one of them a bad review, I was like, 'It's not going on the record,'" Diamonds laughs. "Anyway, we don't sound much like those songs. [I mean,] We kind of do because we played on them, but they're kind of different. They might end up on a future release in some form, but for now they're just floating around cyberspace."
True recording for the actual album took place in Montreal, entitled "Islands Return To The Sea"
, currently being mastered in England, with Red Kross's Steve MacDonald, coming out some time around March 2006. The official tracklisting has now come out, and is as follows:
The ChartAttack article
- 1. Swans (Life After Death)
- 2. Humans
- 3. Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby
- 4. Rough Gem
- 5. Tsuxiit
- 6. Where There's A Will There's A Whalebone
- 7. Jogging Gorgeous Summer
- 8. Volcanoes
- 9. If
- 10. Ones
also shows how the band is currently feeling:
"We want to create a new identity," [Nick] says. "People are going to come to shows with expectations regardless, but you know, we want people to come out and we're touring behind nothing."
"We're not ashamed of our past, but we'd like to carve out our own identity, which we will when our record comes out. This isn't the ideal spot to be in, but it's a starting point and you've gotta start somewhere. It's not so bad. I can't complain that we can headline a tour, even if it's just for a week, without having anything released. Not a lot of bands who don't have any history can do that."
As of Saturday 10th of December, "Return To The Sea", despite Nick's urging, and best wishes, was leaked on to the Internet. As we speak, it is making itself more and more available, as it spread from Torrent to torrent and all around. Doing a bit of searching around these should make the album easily available to you, have you the means, though I would not, under any circumstances, encourage it, unless you intend on buying the album when it is officially released. Even then, some may tell you not to, but really the whole question comes down to you. If you do plan on downloading it, I feel you should know whow Nick feels about the whole fiasco:
This is Nick from Islands, and I'm fucking pissed.
I caught wind from a friend that someone has a copy of the Islands record that doesn't belong to them, and is spreading it around the internet. Not cool.
This is very upsetting news to me, and this band will suffer serious mother fucking consequences if this album gets out on the internet before it's official release.
Do you not release what you're doing to us? This is my life- what I spend every waking minute thinking about, and every amount of my creative energy, heart and soul goes into this band- and I want it back, god dammit.
If you are inconsiderate enough to go spreading this around the internet like it's nothing more than a concert bootleg, then shame on you. I hope you sleep well that a band you supposedly respect will be affected in an enormously negative way.
I'm sad and disappointed.
thanks a lot
Later, Nick revised a little, stating:
It's not the people on the forum I'm most concerned with.
It's once it makes it onto a file-sharing program. Then it's all over.
If you guys can keep it away from large public file sharing shit (including the song Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby- which happened without my consent)
then I'll be fine. But that's really implausible isn't it. This is the internet in 2005, not some page bearing good news in 1142.
I just don't want Islands prosperous life sabotaged by impatience.
So simply, the artist has strictly requested you do not
download the leak, or somehow let it spread to the P2Ps. It's really up to you from here. In any case, please, please buy the album when it comes out. Better yet, buy some copies for your friends too, and spread the Islands love!
Fans who have heard bootlegs of shows from Islands and Th' Corn Gangg (more on that in a second) may notice the similarity between Swans and "Thunder and Lightning", appearing on the Unicorns very, very limited, and independant debut "Unicorns Are People Too
", not to mention references to other Unicorns songs, like "I woke up thirsty" ("Ready To Die" from "W.W.C.O.H.W.W.G.?") and "Sun-smudged peach moon" (An early Unicorns demo song). Also note that "Don't Call Me Whitney Bobby" is a remake of a Unicorns demo, found on Nick's zeBOX site.
Islands started to play gigs around Montreal, earlier this year, opening for Beck here and there, but have now announced a full tour:
11-11 Montreal, Quebec - Zoobizarre
12-01 Toronto, Ontario - Drake Hotel Underground
12-02 Chicago, IL - Beat Kitchen *
12-03 Dayton, OH - Elbo's $
12-04 Oberlin, OH - Oberlin College
12-05 Philadelphia, PA - First Unitarian Church #
12-06 New York, NY - Knitting Factory
12-07 Boston, MA - YWCA
* with Make Believe, Locks
$ with the Human Reunion
# with the A-Sides
In any event, check out the "Islands Gigs" thread
, to stay up-to-date on past, and uncoming Island shows.
Islands members are apparently in a constant flux, changing when appropriate. It has also been announced that solo act Jim Guthrie, also of Royal City, has been inducted an Islands member, and may appear on the album, although for now, his membership is described as "temporary". Two string players, Sebastian and Alex Chow ("No relation"), and a bass clarinetist, Patrick Gregoire, have also been added.
Islands mixing debut album "Return To The Sea" in Jamie's bedroom. Left to Right: Sarah Neufeld (violin, Arcade Fire), Nick Diamonds (Islands), Mark Lawson (audio engineer), Richard Parry (upright bass, Arcade Fire), Jamie Thompson (Islands), Becky Foon (cello, A Silver Mt. Zion and Esmerine).
Th' Corn Gangg are the Hip-Hop group, sometimes playing Hip-Hop versions of Unicorns songs. They played their first show for SXSW, which got good reviews, even though it was a short show, and cut shorter because half way through the set it began raining, forcing them to pull off stage. The second was live at The Echo, in LA, with rappers such as Busdriver, Subtitle, and Vick Booz performing with them. The show was highly bootlegged, but all to poor quality, although, in my opinion, Th' Corn Gangg stuff is excellent. Rap versions of "Tuff Ghost" and "Ready to Die" were performed, and sound great, and they unveiled some excellent tunes. They're also recording a full-length, either now, or some time in the near future.
Th' Corn Gangg, performing live
As for Alden, well, he's been collaborating with his friends, the mysterious "Adam" in particular, who, arcording to the Head and Hands website (more on that soon) played with The Arcade Fire for a time, and performed on April 7th, on CKUT radio, performing 2 folk original instrumentals, and another song, again very much folk, with lyrics, and quite nice too. They all remain untitled. He appeared, playing an acoustic guitar, and Adam with a violin an another acoustic (presumably), and their sound is very, very different to any of the Unicorns stuff, but wonderful all the same.
A recent interview with sharkandagger.com
finds Alden speaking in detail about his time with the Unicorns, his current projects and how he feels about fame:
Shark & Dagger: First off, how are you and what's new?
Alden Penner: I'm well. I'm In a new band called Dub Intefadah using circuit bent electronics and children's toys. I deconstruct the toy and reconstruct it with new parts and organs so that the new instrument is completely unique and has to be renamed. Some people who have dug up old Unicorns songs will remember the sounds during the drum solo in "Do The Knife Fight". That's Talking Computron 1, my first completed project. I've just finished Sax Magic, who was also used at some early Unicorns shows, but hadn't been named yet.
One of the most exciting things about this work is the idea of "body contacts", a series of usually two pieces of metal that represent a gap in the circuitry. When you put a body part on each contact, you complete the signal; the electricity now runs through your body and you're a human variable resistor, affecting the pitch (or whatever) of the tones being generated.
S&D: If the opportunity came by to reach commercial (or semi commercial) popularity again, Can you see your self going that route?
AP: I don't reject popularity, I reject the popular means of achieving popularity. This is called public relations Basically there is a whole department and separate industry whose job is to make things "catch on". They of course disguise this so well that we don't often distinguish between what we're being told and what we know to be true. It's amazing to think of the disparity between the history we learn from books and institutions and the oral history that is passed on to us.
I think that The Unicorns partially circumvented this industry and I don't have any regrets. But between the time we started and ended alot had changed in our attitudes and in the attitudes of the people who had set out to help us. Independent music is starting to look at itself as a stepping stone into the bigger pond and not a dynamic and important cause in itself. It seems to me that throughout the years we've had a number of names and attributes to describe the music we make from the ground--Folk, punk, D.I.Y., jedi--- all of which have or are being co-opted to some extent by the bigs. I don't think it's just the bigs anymore. Alot of "independent" labels, looking for rewards for their hard work have taken a much more aggressive commercial attack in letting people know about music.
I think of all this in very simple terms. I'm not looking to buy or sell something. I'm just looking for some kind of relief, to unload some of what comes through me. I want information to travel as directly from point A to point B as possible. Cut out these middle men before they cut me out, because all they're interested in is this thing I'm making. This impractical, emotional confession that somehow gets people to reach for their wallets.
I'm going to use more discretion and here's an example: you won't see me on any kind of music television. I don't see that sort of thing as an opportunity. But I'm here, not too far away. You just have to come and find me.
S&D: Generally speaking, Is life good for Alden Penner?
AP: Generally speaking, I am in a transition that sees me reconciling music for myself and the degree with which I want to let others in on it. Whether this reflects my whole life or not I can't say, because I know for certain that's for me and my family.
Alden also released a 7", which he cut in Melbourne, during the Unicorns tour of Australia, Nick and Jaime apparently not acompanying him to the session because they "didn't want to get out of bed". He recorded one song, "The Ghost of Creaky Crater", a rough, raw pop song, very much Unicorns material, but extremely stripped down, with none of the signature dual vocals, or synth lines they've come to be known for. He released it, and another song, "L'Espair" (formerly known as "We are fighting the demons of cote st. paul", and recorded in 2002 through a friends 4-track) was sent to the record label as a B-Side. The track is an instrumental French murder mystery theme, to sum it up best. The origianl pressing was for a very limited 100 copies, with cover art designed by Architecture in Helsinki's Cameron Bird, but has apparently recieved another pressing through Alien8, for a US release, with different art. Cameron's cover was a colour-by-numbers piece, printed onto cardboard, and sent with a pack of crayons to colour it all in. I haven't coloured mine as of yet, and don't plan to any time soon, haha.
Alden is working with the Montreal Youth group "Head and Hands", as the volunteer events coordinator, and plays here and there. He's said in a recent interview, that he'd like to tour Europe with Adam and maybe more in the near future, but for now is happy where he is.
Alden at a Head and Hands event
He has also been playing quiet, low key gigs with the band Fantômes Fantoches, and has taken the name "Dub Intefadah" for concerts performing recently, although little is known about these gigs, and whether Alden at this stage wants to take this Fantoches project any further.
Since the Unicorns break-up, several mp3's of Alden's previous band "All Makes, Parts & Collision" have surfaced over the web, and right here in our own forum. These tracks do highlight Alden's flirtation with Folky rock, even before the Unicorns creation or demise.
Finally, Alden has scored a film. He provided the soundtrack for Canadian Film by Larry Kent called "The Hamster Cage" earlier this year. Producer Robert French said this: "Alden has completed the work, which includes film score and original songs, for the film, which is just completing post-production." Now of course, the film has been released, and is being screened in select locations. Shark & Dagger again covers Alden, this time talking about "The Hamster Cage":
I was more interested in Larry Kent as a person than by the film he made. I had alot of fun just talking with him. As a truly independent filmmaker, apart from both the NFB and the establishment, he has really inspired me with his achievements. It's hard to get a film done period. And Larry has managed to do this over and over since the sixties against great odds. He worked for years in printing in Vancouver and Montreal and still had this incredible output. I think he stands as an example of the tenacity and necessity of independent film. That said, I think that the festivals that end up hosting these films are generally charge too much to viewers and have questionable sponsors.
You can watch the Trailer here: http://www.hamstercagethemovie.com/hamstercage.html
The CKUT Session, Echo show and Vinyl rip of "The Ghost of Creaky Crater" are in circulation, I believe anyway, as well as a tonne of Islands Bootlegs, and now (sadly) "Return To Sea", and you should probably be able to find these around if you look hard enough. Besides that, if you're a good forum member you should know where you can find them anyway
So it's May 31st, and Return to the Sea has been out in pretty much every country since about April. I'd suggest picking it up, if you haven't already, from Amazon
, fo example. But I'm not updating this because of that.
In an interesting turn of events, Jaime has left both Islands, and assumedly, Th' Corn Gangg, and is heading off to start a new life. 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 Island's 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.
" 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.
The move has stunned many Islands fans, leading some to debate about real reasons, and why this is happening (2 leavings from 2 bands, with people he was supposed to be very close with looks very suspect, anyway).
Islands are continuing on, with a tour through Europe already scheduled, but no replacement drummer currently announced.