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The Unicorns
By Alexander Laurence

The Unicorns are a Canadian indie rock band, who have received a lot of hype recently. People at Noise Pop were lining up around the block to see them at Great American Music Hall. The Unicorns began in the late 1990s, when high-school friends Nick Diamonds and Alden Ginger began making some noise in Montreal. They brought out a self-released CD in early 2003. Jamie Thompson soon became their permanent drummer. Their second album, Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?, has just come out with a ton of positive buzz in the indie world. So much that the band makes fun of their own sudden underground fame. The Unicorns have played with The Microphones, Daniel Johnston, The Walkmen, and Cat Power, to name a few. I got to speak to them at their first show in California. Most of this interview was done during Noise Pop in San Francisco. The Unicorns are not into giving us straight answers. They remain a mystery, preferring to let their music speak for itself.


AL:How long have you guys played together?

Nick: As a threesome not long at all. The band existed before but it wasn't the same. It was more of a vanity project. We would just have a good time.

Jaime: We sounded different. It is now more a pop group. The thinking in this band right now is more from a pop angle. We want to write songs that people are going to like.

AL: How did you meet?

Nick: I was a nose model in Vancouver. Work was slow. The last commercial I did was for Dristan. Alden also worked on the sets as a caterer. Donuts were his specialty. He was working at the donut table. In Canada we drive great distances for good donuts. That day I was in a bad mood. I asked Alden for a certain donut. He didn't have it and we had an argument. I ended up eating one that I didn't care for and I liked it. I apologized.

AL: Were you guys going out by this time?

Nick: No. We are not homosexual. It's possible. My doctor me I wasn't.

AL: How old are you?

Nick: I am eighteen. I am a virgin too.

Jaime: The thing about Nick is that he is totally heterosexual, but he's totally afraid of girls. He won't touch them.

AL: So you apologized?

Nick: Yeah. Alden invited me over to his house to listen to some records. It was like a party. We are going to listen to music and smoke some pot. There was one girl there but I didn't see her very much. He plays me this record by the Strawberry Peach Band that blows my mind. It was amazing. I had never heard anything like it. I was used to stuff on the radio. Alden told me that he had a band that sounds like them. So I went to go see them and I was inspired and revolted. I thought that they have something but what they don't have I can make happen.

AL: How did you make it happen?

Nick: These guys didn't know what a manager or a publicist was. They had never done an interview. I am from Hollywood North: Vancouver. My nickname in the band is "Hollywood North." And the story continues….

AL: Is that it?

Jaime: Part two is this interview.

Nick: Part three is we play the show. Part four is you write the interview, and part five is that we read it and get mad at you. Part six is we send mailbombs to you, and part seven, you die.

AL: Great. Do any of you guys come from a musical background?

Alden: My dad plays acoustic guitar, very badly.

AL: Did your families have a bunch of old records around?

Jaime: Yeah. My family is from Ireland. My father to my grandfather's father, and even further, are all fiddlers.

AL: Were there ever any other members in The Unicorns?

Nick: There were two others before me. They were really bad, so they asked them to leave.

AL: Do you still live in Toronto?

Jaime: We live in Palm Beach, Florida. We feel comfortable in a community that is exclusively successful.

Nick: We commute between there and Orlando. We live here as Aliens. We have a house there.

AL: What is the problem with Toronto?

Jaime: I have a problem with poor people. First of all, I don't like to be around them. I don't like to be around lazy people. We had to get a house in Palm Beach because we wanted to around people like us: people who appreciate the finer things in life.

Nick: It's funny that we are doing this interview now. There are a lot of things that have happened in the past four months that haven't come out yet. Nobody really knows the next step for us. You can sit here like Clark Kent and ask us questions. No one is asking us about the Coke commercial or the movie soundtrack that we have done, because that hasn't come out yet. We have agreed to do these things and we are living like kings. It's weird because we have received a lot of money.

AL: People mostly know you from your CDs.

Nick: We put this CD out on a little vanity label that is secretly owned by EMI. We are trying to get some advance buzz playing some shows and sending out these promo copies.

Jaime: There are a bunch of shallow people out there who just want to listen to a band because they are cool. So if that is what you want, we will give it to you. We will put our record on an indie label.

AL: To some people, bands are like fashion.

Nick: A lot of indie rock is predicated on that fact that it is good because it is indie. People turn their backs on things that are not perceived as being indie.

AL: Alien8 Recordings is known for bands like Merzbow and a bunch of noisy experimental bands.

Jaime: The guys from EMI thought it would be a good idea to buy this small indie label and release our record. It's a good angle. We are trying to get the name out there.

Nick: It's the same thing with The Rapture and The Walkmen: they are both on these small labels that are owned by a larger company. It is supposed to appease the bullshit indie rock kids and slowly attract the masses. We are building a ground swell.

AL: It's like there is Coke. Now there is Sprite Remix, which is supposed to be the new thing. It's all advertising.

Nick: Advertising convinces people that it is cool. Our record is like Sprite Remix: it's called Alien8. It has underground creditability.

AL: Who writes the songs in the band?

Jaime: It's mostly Mark Lawson. He is a production team like The Neptunes. We are like the Milli Vanilli part of the band. We are easy on the eyes.

AL: Do you read any book that you care to mention?

Jaime: I read Rolling Stone. That is one of my favorite books.

Nick: Playboy is a good book too.

AL: Really? Alden. Any books you care to mention?

Alden: Anything by Dave Eggers or Kilgore Trout.

Nick: I like The Hipster Handbook. What haircut do I have according to The Hipster Handbook?

AL: It is sort of a mix between the Emo Combover and the Casablanca.

Nick: Ugh. Emo Combover?

AL: Have you seen any good films recently?

Jaime: Crossroads, Glitter, and In America. I cried on the plane. Nick had to go to the bathroom.

AL: How many shows have you played?

Jaime: We had played almost every day for the past six months. It's hard to keep track.

AL: Are there any bands that you played with that you like?

Alden: The Stills.

Nick: The Stills opened for us in Cleveland and Baltimore. They are neat. They are like a ska band, but it's hidden.

Jaime: They have a ska sensibility and turn it into something like eighties music. They have the heart of ska. They are from New York.

AL: I will have to check it out.

Jaime: There is a band from Chicago called The Countdown.

AL: What expectations should people have who come see you live?

Alden: The less expectations the better.

Jaime: Just come to the show. Expect to get drunk.

AL: People should be wasted by the time you get on stage?

Jaime: Doing Acid helps.

AL: So part of the band's philosophy is that everyone should do drugs?

Jaime: No. We are against people doing drugs. But if people are taking drugs it will seem like a better show. It's a catch-22.

AL: That's not really a catch-22. It would be a catch-22 if….

Jaime: Listen! It's a catch-22! Case closed! I'm out of here. (He walks out of room.)

AL: Who does your website?

Alden: We have worked with different people. We started with one person and then moved on to different people. We have two official websites. We are behind both of them. One is the sober one and one is the not so sober one.

AL: Do you love recording or playing live?

Alden: I love both. It's all good.

AL: What are you doing the rest of 2004?

Alden: We will playing shows the rest of the year. We will be at South by Southwest.

Nick: Your tape player is not recording!

AL: Yes it is. See that red light?

Nick: It's open.

AL: Oh, that part is broken. It still works. Any advice for young fans who want to start bands?

Nick: Give it up!

Website: www.the-unicorns.com


--Alexander Laurence


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