Nick Thorburn Admits to Accidentally Plagiarizing Julie Byrne on Islands' New Album

The release of 'Islomania' just got awkward as all hell

BY Brock ThiessenPublished Jun 17, 2021

Nick Thorburn just released the new Islands album Islomania, but the record has now led him to face quite the awkward situation. As the Canadian songwriter has now admitted, he's directly plagiarized a song from Aussie folk Julie Byrne on the album — though accidentally.

The offending Islomania song is "Carpenter," which came as a pre-release teaser track over a month ago back in May. In a press statement at the time, Thorburn wrote the following:

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.

As Twitter has now pointed out, Thorburn really is singing someone else's song — Julie Byrne's "Prism Song."

Byrne's song came from her 2014 album Rooms with Walls and Windows, and on Islands' "Carpenter," Thorburn straight up copied the track. You can check out both songs for yourself below.

In efforts to explain the incredibly awkward situation, Thorburn offered the following explanation to Stereogum:

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.

As of press time, Julie Byrne has yet to address the situation, so it's unclear if there will be any legal consequence for Thorburn's pretty embarrassing slip-up.


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