The Unicorns

Arcade Fire have been so big for so long that it’s easy to forget they emerged from the same Montreal underground scene as long-dormant indie-pop quirk-masters the Unicorns, whose Nick Thorburn later went on to form the long-running Islands. In fact, as Thorburn points out in a new interview, the Unicorns actually took Arcade Fire on their first national tour back in 2004, so the Arcade Fire shows the reunited Unicorns are opening this month represent quite the turning of the tables. Thorburn also credits Win Butler for making the Unicorns reunion happen at all:

The 10-year anniversary was coming up, and who doesn’t like an anniversary? There was some murmuring that I guess got through the grapevine and onto the Internet about possibly doing some shows again, and then we couldn’t schedule it and get it going in time [for the album's anniversary]. I guess Win Butler and Arcade Fire saw that on the Internet, and reached out and asked if we wanted to play some shows with them. In a way, it was strangely fitting, because 10 years ago this month, we brought them out on their first national tour. It was a little role reversal, but this time, in an arena.

He also spoke about learning to accept the public’s love for the Unicorns:

For many years, I tried to stay as far away from it as possible — I was embarrassed by it. People would mention Unicorns, I would bristle. At shows, people would call out Unicorns songs. I’ve totally come to peace with that over the years. I’m proud of what the Unicorns accomplished.

And what to expect from the shows:

“The three of us haven’t been in the same room in six years … so your guess is as good as mine,” he says. “This will be a real crash course of us getting together. I’m not sure how it’s going to go…”

Read the full interview at Billboard.

Here are the Unicorns’ tour dates:

8/01: Los Angeles, CA @ The Forum*
8/02: Los Angeles, CA @ The Forum*
8/22: Brooklyn, NY @ Barclay’s Center*
8/23: Brooklyn, NY @ Barclay’s Center*
8/24: Brooklyn, NY @ Barclay’s Center*
9/21: POP Montreal – Montreal, QC @ Metropolis Theatre
* w/ Arcade Fire & Dan Deacon

[Photo by Laura Crapo.]

Comments (6)
  1. Edits needed:

    “they emerged from the [same] Montreal underground scene as long-dormant indie-pop quirk-masters the Unicorns.”
    Right now, you’re saying that Arcade Fire was once the Unicorns.

    “so the Arcade Fire shows [that] the reunited Unicorns are opening this month”
    Right now, this doesn’t read well.

    • Oh. Yes. I hate to criticize in a comments section, but I had to read that first one about 8 times before I was convinced it was just poorly worded. Really, Nick’s quotes clarify the summary before it.

      This is pretty exciting news. The Unicorns ‘Who Will Cut Our Hair’ was really a phenomenal work. And it’s telling to hear Nick’s retrospective coming to terms with it. I guess it’s obvious that they weren’t taking themselves too seriously when they recorded it, but that’s a large part of the magic. It’s just fun, and meta to a point of self destruction. Which makes it stand out because it is just not an approach you often see from very talented musicians. I hope this anniversary tour and reissue can maybe inspire some new young artists to take on some of the same flippent punkish self defacing songwriting and musicianship. Charge with all your guts, and then die on the wall.

      I will also point out that the debut Islands album was also amazing in it’s own way. And I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoyed The Unicorns, but slept on the Islands.

      • Other than maybe Is This It?, Return to the Sea by Islands was the most loved album of my teenage years. Rough Gem and Don’t Call Me Whitney, Bobby will both be ingrained in my mind for life and Swans (Life After Death) is a perfect musical epic.

  2. I’m honestly befuddled by his prior disparaging of The Unicorns. Yes, it’s not “serious” music. And their oeuvre may not hold a candle to Return to the Sea.

    But Arm’s Way was middling, and every Islands project afterward fairly bland and uninventive. Tell me what compares to the sound or the fun of Jellybones?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post, reply to, or rate a comment.

%s1 / %s2