Islands Accidentally Plagiarized Julie Byrne Song On New Album
Upon the release of “Carpenter,” the final single from Islands’ new album Islomania, Nick Thorburn wrote:
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.
Well, there’s a reason for that. As it turns out, it actually was someone else’s song. Although Islands’ “Carpenter” diverges in the second half, the lyrics in the beginning are, word for word, taken from folk singer-songwriter Julie Byrne’s “Prism Song,” a track from her 2014 album Rooms With Walls And Windows. Here, listen:
So what’s the deal? How did this happen? In a statement provided to Stereogum, Thorburn apologizes and explains that the mix-up was a genuine accident:
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.
Oops. We have also reached out to Julie Byrne for comment and will update this post when we hear back.