Future Islands, by all accounts, sound and look like a band that fell into a time capsule and were ripped from mid ’70s Berlin, landing on the David Letterman show and wowing us millennial newbies with some quality synthwave.
However, as the band explain in the lead up to their newest LP As Long As You Are, there’s so much more to them than those trendy keyboard nerds tearing it up on late night television.
“It was important for us with this album to show the range of what we can do as songwriters. We’ve been portrayed as the band that everyone saw on Letterman,” says bassist William Cashion candidly.
“We’re always pushed to keep doing that…so we want to show that we can also do slow burning ballads, and sometimes those songs are the most powerful.”
Like many of the modern greats, Future Islands found themselves in the spotlight after they had been cutting their teeth for quite some time, already multiple LPs (and a slew of other projects) deep before the mainstream suddenly and surprisingly came calling.
“This time, we really wanted to get back to the experimentation that we explored on the first three albums. We didn’t have as much of that boldness on our past two LPs Singles or The Far Field. The success we’ve had has definitely affected us in different ways,” says Cashion.
“There is an understanding that more people will hear it, but we just want to be honest with our music.”
“Without thinking too much, on The Far Field we changed the nature of our songwriting to fit the bigger audience. We wanted to step away from that here,” adds keyboardist Gerrit Welmers.
Over their years on the road grind Future Islands have racked up a fearsome reputation for world-class performances, transforming even the grimiest rainy festival field into an arty, bohemian disco.
However, on As Long As You Are, the band wanted to cast off any of the pressures of the live show, and give themselves wholly unto the music and the limitless possibilities afforded by it.
“With this album we wanted to get rid of this idea of ‘having to perform live’ – we often surprise ourselves anyway – but we just wanted to allow that sense of freedom, and go somewhere with the songs that we wouldn’t normally,” says Cashion.
“It was so valuable to have another creative viewpoint come in for these songs and have someone else to steer the conversations about songs in a different direction,” he adds, referring to the inclusion of touring-turned-full-time drummer Michael Lowry.
“It was always exciting writing this record; the entire process actually,” chimes in Lowry.
“A bunch of the tunes came about just through spontaneous jams that I was there for when I was just a touring session member, so I was a part of the seed of that, but there are a few tunes that are just top-to-bottom that I would figure out how to fit into the canvas of what was happening.”
With all their success and exposure, and given the years that they’ve put into the project, it’s exciting to see that Future Islands have been able to maintain the musical integrity of the underground and showcase that to a much broader world.
Still, being on centre court isn’t without its challenges.
“We release what we’re told to as far as the singles go,” laughs Welmers.
When the music sounds this fresh and exciting, it’s a small price to pay.