The Future is Here

future-islands-by-henry-gorseTalking with Future Islands

By Lindsey Lowe Osborne

In 2014, American synthpop band Future Islands—who spent the first four years of their career, until 2008, releasing music independently—had their “big break,” a spot on the Late Show with David Letterman. “That really got our music out to a much wider audience,” says William Cashion (bass, acoustic, and electric guitars). Watching even a snippet of that performance (on YouTube, of course) can help you reach the same conclusion I have: These guys are passionate about their music. Lead vocalist Samuel T. Herring (who writes the lyrics as well) has some sweet dance moves and a Johnny Cash-like intensity on stage. Whatever they’re selling, I’m buying.

Based in Baltimore, Maryland, the band booked themselves from 2003–2010 and managed themselves until 2013 when they signed on with 4AD. “Dan Deacon and Valient Thorr introduced us to the world of house shows and the DIY touring circuit. When those bands started to get national and international recognition, it felt like, ‘Hey…we can do that too!,’” Cashion says. “Success didn’t seem as far away and unattainable as it used to. They showed us that you can create your own path.” Their 2014 release, Singles, launched them to new heights as a household indie band that’s “made it,” hopefully passing that same hope along to other fledgling artists, Cashion says.

And they have made it, if you can measure success in crowd sizes and festival stages—after all, they’ve toured across Europe to giant rooms filled with fans and performed on the main stages at Coachella and Bonnaroo. Cashion says it’s nice to take stock and realize that many of their dreams have come true: “The first time we toured Europe, I was still doing all of our booking in North America…and when we all of a sudden found ourselves in Germany playing to large crowds, I remember we were all kind of like, ‘What did we do right? How did we get here?’” But while the crowds are nice, they’re not the ultimate measure of success. What is? Knowing that their music has shaped other people. “We’re just returning the gift,” Cashion says. “Our music is honest. We hope that our music moves people in some way. It’s exciting that our music can become such an important part of other people’s lives. It’s always nice to hear that our music has helped people out.”

The band, which includes Gerrit Welmers on keyboard and programming alongside Herring and Cashion, released its fifth album, The Far Field, in April of this year, and they’re currently in the midst of a two-year-long tour to get it out into the world (which includes a stop in Birmingham at Iron City on Sept. 10). “We’re excited to share our newest batch of songs with the world! The songs deal with what’s going on in our lives, so in that way, each album is a kind of a document of that time for us both individually and as a band,” Cashion says. “We’ve always thought of ourselves as more of a live band, though we’re starting to get more comfortable in a recording studio. But when we’re on stage, playing our songs live, that’s the truest form of our band. That’s when we’re in our element. We love it.”

young-the-giantUpcoming Events

9/26: Young the Giant at the BJCC Concert Hall.

Listen: “Titus Was Born” from the “In the Open” series

9/27: Lillie Mae at Saturn.

Listen: “Wash Me Clean”

10/7: Wilco at the Alabama

Theatre. Listen: “California Stars” 

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