Welcome to the Big Time

Our interview with Samuel Herring and William Cashion of Future Islands

By John Lewis


Future Islands, from left to right: Gerrit Welmers, Samuel Herring, and William Cashion. –Photo by Tim Saccenti

May 2014

The band was based in North Carolina. Why did you relocate to Baltimore?

Samuel Herring: We had a bunch of friends that we met who were from Baltimore. They were musicians that would travel through North Carolina and play at clubs and maybe stay at William’s house. This sort of brother and sister, community spirit developed. We felt we were kindred spirits in the way we made music for the love of it. I’m talking about Dan Deacon, Height, Bow N’ Arrow, Videohippos, Blood Baby, and folks like that. They were like us, on the road and having fun. They attracted us to the city.

How were you received in Baltimore?

William Cashion: We weren’t sure how we’d be received, but we were really excited to be there. The first weekend I was in Baltimore, I walked around and ran into all these people we’d met before, even though it’s a big city. It was a big shift coming from Greenville, North Carolina, but we had a foundation of friends. We quickly found out that the community here is really supportive of the arts. Everyone roots for each other, which you don’t find in a lot of other places. It’s really inspiring.

How has the city changed during the time you’ve been here?

SH: The art scene is always changing, but during the time we’ve lived here, we’ve been on the road half the time. But it’s always great to come home to familiar haunts and feel comfortable again. Baltimore just has that home-y feel to it. Certain parts of the city have changed and some bands move away, but the city is still unpretentious. Not too much changes.

You’ve toured extensively for year. How valuable has that experience been to the band?

WC: When we’re on the road, we can’t really afford to take a day off, especially in the early days. Back then, if we weren’t playing, we were losing money. We can take a break when the tour’s over. That’s engrained in us, although now we can afford to take a few days off. The other night, we had a meeting with our record label, and they said, “You guys can take some days off. You don’t need to tour so much.” But we love seeing new places, meeting new people, and seeing old friends. We have a community spread out across the country, and it’s great that, as part of our job, we get to connect and reconnect with those people.

How many shows have you averaged over the past few years?

SH: We didn’t do too much last year, but it’s been between 120 and 160 shows a year. One of the reasons we hit the road so hard was seeing our friend Dan Deacon play so many shows. Through his hard work and tireless time on the road, he started blowing up. We took a cue from him and said, “We can do that.” That hardworking spirit is a big part of Baltimore, and we’re just coming at it from a workman’s attitude and a working-class community. We push, because we don’t have the spotlight on us like New York bands. And we don’t need that spotlight. We can do it ourselves. We can do it our own way and show the world what Baltimore’s about and how we do it in our city. That’s a cool thing to share with people.

For the new record, Singles, you worked with Chris Coady. Can you say something about your approach to this album?

WC: In the past, we go on tour, write a few new songs, and sprinkle them into our set. So we’d usually have five or six songs written by the time we went into the studio. We’d record those songs and write a few others to finish an album. We never really had a set plan though. For this album, we wrote more songs than we needed before going into the studio. We wrote for six months and went into the studio last August. Chris is originally from Baltimore, and he was really excited about it. Our other albums were recorded in houses, not studios, but Chris suggested a studio outside Woodstock, New York that felt home-y. We could do whatever we wanted and we took more time recording. So we were in a real studio for the first time, with a real plan. That was uncharted territory for us.

How have things changed for the band since the video of your David Letterman performance went viral?


SH: We’ve gotten some cool offers to play festivals this summer, and there are new heads at our shows because more people know about us, which is exciting. It’s definitely strange to have someone say, “I just found out about you three days ago. Would you take a picture with my baby?” That’s new. But we’ve been doing this for so long that we just keep our heads down, work at what we do, and concentrate on playing music for our fans.


Future Islands' Baltimore Playlist

Ed Schrader's Music Beat
Gem Asylum

Height with Friends
Code of Love


Videohippos
Koolshades

Lizz King
Booty Queen


Chester Endersby Gwazda
World Killer

Chiffon
Deep Fantasies


Abdu Ali
Fuk Wit Dis

DDM
Good Times


Rapdragons
Different World

Roomrunner
Disintegrate


Multicult
Very Large Waveform

Dope Body
Lazy Slave


Wing Dam
Cocoon

Mt. Royal
Yes Your Majesty


Arbouretum
Renouncer

Wye Oak
Shriek


Romantic States
Sea Skulls

Dungeonesse
Shucks


Dan Deacon
Prettyboy

Zomes
Pilgrim Traveler


Double Dagger
The Psychic

Beach House
Used to Be


Others: 

Santa Dads: The Third Beast
Leviathan

Blood Baby
Paint the Bush Black

Stars of the Dogon
Jogging

Thank You
Birth Rattle

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