Features | Interviews

The Unicorns

By Amir Nezar & Todd Aman | 30 January 2004

I don’t think anyone is quite sure how the Unicorns became one of the bigger "it" bands of 2003. While most of us often question how the majority of groups garnering significant amounts of hype had even one person give a fuck about them, the confusion surrounding the Unicorns’ rise to the upper echelon of indie-rock’s proverbial "most revered" list has more to do with just how fucking weird these guys are than the quality of their music. Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? (for all intents and purposes their debut, though the Unicorns Are People Too disc, which is even stranger than the current product, circulated a year previous) certainly does have the kind of autonomous creativity that is sorely missing from today’s independent rock/pop hyperbole targets, and is probably the main reason so many of us find the record so refreshing even if, at times, it can be a little much.

CMG’s Todd Aman and Amir Karim Nezar got a chance to chat with Nick, Jamie, and Alden during the Fest Full of Rock in Charlottesville, VA, and, as you can read yourself, they’re just as much about their unique and inane sense of humour in person as they are on record. (As a side note, they’re like this in every interview I’ve been able to find; they seem to prefer brief, ad hoc answers that are so clearly false that you couldn’t possibly take it seriously, but it’s always an undeniably entertaining read). If the Unicorns really are a shtick, you’ve got to appreciate how far they’re going to uphold it. Enjoy!


CMG: Well, we’re here with the Unicorns, one of the best bands of 2003…

Unicorns: Whoa whoa whoa!

Nick: We must be done for, because it’s 2004!

CMG: No no no! Come back! I mean one of the best albums of 2003, that was a great album. Anyway, some dumb interview shit – Where are you guys from?

Nick: Jamaica!

Jamie: We’re all born in a small fishing village on the Gaspee [sic] but we didn’t actually know it. Not the same small fishing village actually. Nick and I were born in one town called Chategate and Alden was from another one called Shacootame.

Alden: Shabootame.

Nick: Yeah, Shacootame is where the fourth guy was from before we … uhm … killed him.

Jamie: It wasn’t until we were all in high school, both our hockey teams made it to the world finals for hockey which were held in Jamaica. We all met there and some guy gave us this pot, which is apparently something they smoke there. And there was this guitar player and bongo whatever and we were all high and were like, "This music stuff is crazy!" We were all hockey players…

Nick: We hadn’t even seen a guitar before.

Jamie: But I think the combination of the warm weather and the pot and the music …

Nick: We later learned that we could get pot in Canada.

CMG: So you guys basically got together under some really random circumstances, picked up some instruments, and said "This rock shit is pretty sweet, lets do it!"?

Nick: Yea, well once we got back from Jamaica we started up.

CMG: So how’s the coverage been since your album took off? Has that gotten you any benefits or is it the same old touring around with the band?

Jamie: We get to go shopping.

Alden: Before, we were too poor to even get to the next show.

Jamie: It’s stepping from the bottom rung to the second to the bottom rung, which is actually a huge step.

Nick: Two months ago, it was like making ten bucks a night playing to like three people who are just there to drink in a bar.

Alden: And who are there to beat you up.

Jamie: Luckily, ‘cause we’re all hockey players, we know what to do in scraps. Alden’s the craziest fighter in the band. He could seriously beat up the two of you and the two of us.

Alden: Except that these guys have knives, here in America.

Jamie (to the camera): America, you’re wrong! Allowing free knife dispersement is wrong.

Nick: If I had a knife, I’d just stab Jamie. How could you resist?

Jamie: You’ve got a sharp knife with some tender flesh in front of you. The sweet blood!

CMG: So, a question about your influences… as music critics, we’re always looking for names to associate and compare with new bands. Have you heard of Phil Elvrum or the Microphones?

Jamie: Yeah, Phil Elvrum, he’s the famous producer who did all the Beatles albums, Wall of Sound, Beach Boys. We’re very into that.

CMG: Any other influences?

Jamie: Have you heard the album called "Coming Out of Our Shells," the Ninja Turtles album?

Nick: Seriously, our influences range from "Coming Out of Our Shells" to "Going Back into Our Shells" to "Shell Shocked" … that’s their third album that didn’t do so well.

Alden: And then Donatello’s solo album, "Coming Out the Closet."

CMG: So can I safely say that you made a concept album about unicorns dying out?

Unicorns: NO!

CMG: So what is the album about?

Nick: Nothing.

Jamie: It’s about a collection of songs written over a period of time by a group of people and put out on a specific label.

CMG: And it all just happened to coincide with unicorns?

Jamie: It’s the name of the band! I don’t think any of the songs touch on unicorns. One song uses the word unicorns… well yeah, it’s all about unicorns.

Nick: (points to Jamie) You’re a douche bag! (points to Amir) You’re our hero! (points to the band currently on stage) These guys are awesome.

Alden: What are they called again?

Nick: Hope Spring? Glass?

Jamie: Shit? Fuck?

Nick: Glass fuck.

CMG: So you have a quirky sound? How did that come about?

Jamie: I don’t think we decided to be quirky. We just went with what sounds good.

Alden: I don’t even acknowledge that term.

Jamie: (points to Amir’s shirt) That’s a nice shirt, man. Stylin’!

CMG: Well, we heard you liked pink, so…

How many instruments do you guys play? On stage you kept switching stuff up and trading instruments.

Nick: We don’t usually do that. I’m usually just on bass.

Jamie: I’m usually on saxophone. I never played drums before; I played saxophone for like 15 years.

CMG: Did you have musical background before your hockey days?

Jamie: No. The thing is, hockey’s a lot like music. The stick, the puck, the net, the goalie, the whistles. And the dum dum dum DUM DUM DUM DUM DA DA DEE DA DA DA! The whole world is music, man.

CMG: So you guys were originally a duo (Nick and Alden). How did you (Jamie) come into the picture?

Jamie: Hockey. Nick and I roomed together at hockey school and played on the same hockey team, the Lone Rangers, for a couple exhibition games. And then we were both looking for an apartment, so we lived together for a while. We lost track a bit…

Nick: He fucked me.

Jamie: And then I fucked him. Hard. Lots of blood. And then I found out Alden was moving to Montreal, I heard some of the Unicorns’ stuff. I was like, "This stuff is pretty good." Started playing drums for their shows. After awhile, I decided that I was either going to join the band or go off and do some other band, so that was that…

CMG: Where did you end up recording?

Jamie: Do you see that there? (points to a tiny trailer). We recorded in a room that size, with 300 dollars worth of equipment.

Nick: It cost 300 dollars to make our record.

CMG: So the benefits are pretty good, all things considered?

Nick: We’ve made almost one million dollars. Sold 100,000 records.

Jamie: We could buy and sell you guys, many times over.

CMG: Are you writing new material on the road?

Alden: No, its hard on the road. You get to bed at like 3’oclock.

Jamie: We’re gonna take some time, but we’ll have some new songs pretty soon.

CMG: How long will you be touring to support this album?

Jamie: A year? I don’t know, it depends on how many places we can go. We haven’t been to Europe, Africa, Antarctica.

CMG: What are your favorite bands?

Nick: Hope Falls.

Jamie: Honestly, we don’t have time to listen to music. We listen to bands that we play with that give us CDs or bands that come to our shows and give us CDs. Almost exclusively. Some good bands we’ve heard recently: 90 Day Men, Pitter Pat, Toy Band. Spargo…

Nick: Hey man, they might see this!

Jamie: Hey, I just said I liked their band!

Nick: Oh, I thought you were being sarcastic.

Alden: Engine Down. They played here, right?

Jamie: I like RJD2, who’s playing tonight. That I’m pretty psyched about.

CMG: Alright, thanks a lot guys.

(Nick forces Amir into a game of thumb war. Amir crushes Nick.)