Led by crooning frontman Samuel T. Herring, the members of Future Islands started out making electropop music together in 2003 while attending East Carolina University’s art program. Over a decade later, the now Baltimore-based trio have earned their stripes as one of music’s most quixotic and emotionally involving performers while maintaining an admirable level of skill and pace, never slowing for the corners. Their sound is at once beguiling and irresistible. It’s one part melancholic, one part euphoric; full of animated bass lines, robust drum machines and questing keyboards, all set off by Herring’s remarkably distinct, soaring vocals.
Future Islands came to life after all three members – Samuel T. Herring (vocals), William Cashion (bass, guitars) and Gerrit Welmers (keyboards, programming) – had served their tenure in the overtly conceptual Art Lord & The Self-Portraits, a waggish band as comical as it was tender. With Art Lord they found themselves in a world of borrowed gear and frenzied house parties, spending endless hours booking tours in notebooks, burning CDRs in the van, Xeroxing sleeves. It’s the same DIY spirit that informs Future Islands to this day. Having toured tirelessly since the band’s inception, Future Islands have now played in excess of 1,000 shows, often touring with their friends, most notably Dan Deacon, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat and Talk Normal. Herring, Cashion and Welmers all hail from small towns so they’ve made it their aim on tour to play as many off-the-radar places as possible. It’s this dedicated groundwork that sets Future Islands apart from most, they’ve kept things traditional, converting people on the road, putting the time in, making friends first then fans. With each landmark album, they’ve been growing, loving, losing and leaving us wanting more.
The years since the release of their massively successful album, Singles, have been transformative for Future Islands, catapulting them from cult favorites to synthpop icons. As addictive songs like breakout “Seasons (Waiting on You)” turned the world on to sublime pleasures a loyal fan base already knew, this hard-touring band plowed forward, playing their 1,000th show in July 2015 and celebrating their 10th anniversary in February 2016. Now Future Islands returns at the top of their game with new album The Far Field, delivering 12 chest-pounding love songs and odes to the road as only they can.
The Far Field refines and builds on the breakthrough of Singles, bursting with undeniable hooks and disarmingly honest lyrics. The band began writing new material in January 2016 and continued throughout the year before road-testing these songs with a series of secret shows under fake names. In November 2016, they settled in with GRAMMY award-winning producer John Congleton at Los Angeles’ legendary Sunset Sound. The result is Future Islands’ best set of songs yet, both an emotional summation of the themes they’ve explored over the past decade and a further distillation of their signature art-pop sound. With each spin of The Far Field, Future Islands’ fifth album and second for 4AD, another of its dozen impassioned and impeccably crafted tracks will jump out as a favorite. “Shadows,” a stunner of a duet between Herring and Blondie’s Debbie Harry, offers a naked look at heartache, finding hope and power in facing pain and personal flaws head-on. Both “Time on Her Side” and “Day Glow Fire” attest to the beauty lurking in even our most painful memories and assert that even lost love can give life deeper meaning. Drawing inspiration from their community of friends and their growing numbers of fans, The Far Field brilliantly expresses the band’s central themes: that there’s power in emotional vulnerability, that one can find a way to laugh and cry in the same breath – and be stronger for it.