Future Islands, they will insist to you, is a band that makes pop music. Whatever you call it, the music they make is deeply felt and gorgeously presented, and perhaps like the moniker “pop music” itself, full of contradictions. The danceable sheets of sound provided by Gerrit Welmers’ synthesizers and William Cashion’s bass are punctuated by Samuel Herring’s throaty, masculine voice and often-times tender lyrics. Hearing them is to think New Order got together with Danzig to sing Elliott Smith lyrics about being dumped, and seeing them live is an exercise in pure cathartic bliss, as Herring leaps around the stage, pumping his fist into his chest, and looking alternately like he’s going to punch someone in the face or have a complete emotional breakdown. We caught up with the crew, who are currently at L.A.’s FYF this past weekend to talk the Mayan apocalypse, psychoanalysis, and the new P. T. Anderson film.
How has the upcoming Mayan apocalypse affected your recording plans?
SH:We’re putting it off until 2013.
How do you guys write your songs, what’s the process?
SH: We’ve always operated on the principle of jamming, I do the words and they do the music. But since Gerrit’s taken over production, he’s started coming to us with ideas too. Sometimes we just sit in a room with a tape recorder and jam. Things just pop out.
Your lyrics are pretty deep. Do you ever keep dream journals or do psychoanalysis or anything like that?
SH: Depth is all on the surface, it’s what you have there already that you want to share. There’s a lack of real honesty in music, especially pop music. And we make pop music, however you cut it. Our songs are about love and loss, but they can be catchy. They’re dark too.
If you guys could add any musician to the band, who would it be?
WC: Brian Eno. Or Erik Satie.
SH: I’d take the drummer from the Smiths. Or Johnny Marr.
Are you excited about the P. T. Anderson film The Master that comes out this month?
SH: Gerrit has a movie idea.
GW: It’s about an elementary school where the children are sort of objects that can be kicked around.
SH: But that’s all you get, we’re in the wrong town to share movie ideas!
Fair enough. Your live show is so intense. Are you guys totally wiped out after you play?
WC: If anything, we’re more amped. We played Santa Barbara last night, and we were all so tired before the show. And then a few songs in, I was like man, I’m not tired at all.
SH: Is that Anthony Bourdain?
Yes. I think it is. Yeah, it totally is! Speaking of, who here at FYF would you be most excited to meet?
WC: I’d really like to meet the Vaselines.
Can you talk about the song “Balance” a little bit, since that’s one of your most recent hits?
SH: When we create, we would like to write a song that’s harder and darker, since that’s a stronger feeling than on the lighter side. On some level we wanted to have something that’s true, and the truth of life is that it’s not all bright light.
WC: It’s about putting a spotlight on the shadow, I think. Sometimes our songs are more upbeat, but even the songs you think are light can have a duality of meanings.
SH: I don’t think of our stuff as dark, honestly. I think of our stuff as honest.
Photography by Myles Pettengill.