Future Islands’ journey could arguably be one of the best success stories in the music industry to take place this millennium. It took uniqueness, persistence and a big break, the perfect formula for success in an industry that has evolved an incredible amount since the band came together to create music.
In 2003, a group of students at East Carolina University formed the band Art Lord & the Self Portraits (yeah they were all art students). For a few years they created music and played it live across North Carolina, fueling the Greenville music scene. In 2006 however, some of the band members went their separate ways; Art Lord was no more and Future Islands rose from the ashes.
Composed of Samuel Herring (vocals and lyrics), William Cashion (bass and electric guitars), and Gerrit Welmers (keyboards), Future Islands took their synth-pop sound and began to tour and write music almost immediately. Now since their formation 9 years ago they have released 4 full-length albums (in 2008, ’10, ’11, ’14). Their first album Wave Like Home was a solid debut and it set up Future Islands’ repertoire nicely; one that at times will be brutally honest, yet at others be filled with joy. In Evening Air comes a couple years later and shows that these 3 guys are ready to prove themselves. To this day, this album is one of the most honest albums I think I have ever listened to. Writing it took guts and a maturity that not many bands can find for their sophomore albums. Third came On the Water, which initially seems to harp on themes from the previous LP, but as it goes on the hand loosens and the tension seems to slip away. Fourth and most recently came the album Singles. Here we see more breadth and creativity come from the instruments and production, giving Herring more space to work with and us more music to dance to. It’s a wonderful discography that sticks to its roots while evolving in a way even Future Islands may not have originally seen coming.
Apart from the albums, Future Islands have also played over 900 shows across the globe. That averages to about 100 a year! Most artists and bands don’t even come close to that number. And seeing them perform is something else. Herring commands the stage with so much charisma and emotion that it overpowers the audience and demands a response. At one moment everyone watching gets sucked in, becoming emotionally attached to lyrics they once did not understand but now do, strictly because of the way Sam performs and expresses himself. But then, all of a sudden, we are jumping up and down, dancing along with everyone, and releasing any thoughts that might have crept into our heads just a few minutes ago. Suddenly joy is felt all around the music seems to liberate everyone of anything that was keeping them down.
Future Islands finally got their big break this past year and became the success story they are because they deserved it. They did what they do best on the Late Show with David Letterman and impressed everybody watching. Herring brought his usual (yet unusual) character to the stage and blew minds. Was it the dancing, the raspy voice, or the catchy track? It doesn’t really matter because it's all a part of what Future Islands have been doing for some time now, and I don’t see them changing that or slowing down any time soon.
Check out the bonus videos below!