Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Future Islands is an energetic three-piece with ties to Wham City, the famed music/art/video factory. Like the citizens of Wham City—Dan Deacon, Video Hippos—Future Islands makes joyous, cacophonous, synth-heavy music that draws from the full vibe spectrum: from gravely darkness to light-headed giddiness. Just think Joy Division, if Joy Division wanted you to smell like the sweat of everyone around you.
The band met and formed while studying art at East Carolina University in Greenville. Their earliest incarnation was a five piece consisting of Herring, J. Gerrit Welmers, William Cashion, Adam Beeby, and Kymia Nawabi. They performed as Art Lord & the Self-Portraits and lasted from February 2003 through the Fall of 2005, roughly as long as a band with a name like that should last. A year later Cashion and Welmers hooked up with Erick Murillo, who brought tight, drum machine beats to the mix to round out the group’s decidedly electronic sound. They re-emerged as Future Islands, and have been emitting a steady supply of electro-Caribbean drum samples and dancehall techniques ever since.
Live, Future Islands has an uncanny knack for getting every audience member with a heartbeat on the dance floor within a song or two. Samuel T. Herring’s vocal lines suggest Nick Cave with a vicious flu, or a nervous bear bullying hostages at a bank heist. The lines he growls out are equally gripping; herring sings songs with real characters, story, and emotional depth and has a natural sense of theatricality that’s always present in his riveting performance style. Their music is characterized by an attention to detail, openness to new sonic possibilities, and committed resistance to categorization.
J. Gerrit Welmers, Samuel T. Herring, William Hugh Cashion
Thrill Jockey/Upset the Rhythm