Baltimore-based trio Future Islands made strides over 2014 like a long-distance runner over the finish line. They’ve made appearances on big-name late-night talk shows, released their fourth album On the Water, and toured both nationally and internationally. Cashion sat down to talk about what exactly the group’s been up to.
MIN: It seems you’ve had a pretty eventful year with your latest album released last March and appearances on shows like David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live and Jools Holland. I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about that?
FI: Yeah, it’s been kind of totally crazy and we’ve toured pretty hard. We usually work in a DIY sort of way but we knew this year was going to be a little different, which I guess started with the David Letterman deal. We did a short promotional tour last February to promote a few singles, and it was on that tour when we found out Letterman wanted to have us, and we had about two weeks to get ready. We were nervous as crap. And it’s just crazy, I mean people are still sharing that video all over the Internet and it’s exciting for us to see that happening. We never expected this.
MIN: I agree. You guys have definitely come a long way since On the Water (2011), and seeing you on Letterman was pretty exciting. But speaking of your mini promotional tour, I was wondering if you had a favorite performance in mind?
FI: Awesome, thank you. There were so many cool performances this past year, but… I guess my favorite was at South By Southwest [Festival]. We had heard so much about it and we kind of avoided it, but I remember that show being one of the highlights for me this year. There was just such a crazy energy there. I think it was our third show of the day, and by the time of our last performance we just wanted everyone to go completely crazy and gave an extended invitation to crowd surf. It was a really surreal moment. And there were a lot of press people there who I don’t think were fully prepared to deal with a bunch of punk kids, so that was really fun. We also played in London for, like, a full house of 2,400 people, which was kind of a milestone. And we’re getting ready for our 1,000th show in July!
MIN: Could you describe the general process you take in composing your music? Does it usually begin with lyrics? With melodies?
FI: It’s usually the same formula—just the three of us in a room, jamming until we catch on to a good chord progression or melody that works, then we just kinda build on it. That’s how we wrote “Seasons.” It takes awhile to work out the nuances of a song, but it’s usually written pretty quick. And we actually like to play new songs live before we take them to the studio, just to try them out. Although I think our manager is wanting us to… not do that [laughs]. Or he at least wants us to take a break between albums.
MIN: Wow, I’ve actually never heard of someone doing that before. But I know you guys are usually super DIY, I mean wasn’t some of your earlier stuff recorded in a living room?
FI: Oh yeah, our first record was recorded in a warehouse space above a skate shop in North Carolina, and our second was recorded in our house in Baltimore. So this was our first time in an actual studio, which was great.
MIN: There’s definitely a distinct sound you’re all making and I’ve heard some people define your music as electro-pop, indie-pop, all that jargon. But I was wondering how you, specifically, would define your music?
FI: We’ve always called it “post-wave” since we got started in college, or “post-wave dance music.” We want to blend the best elements of post-punk and new wave. Plus it just sounds cool.
MIN: Huh, it does! And this is a bit silly, but I was wondering… if you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, which would it be?
FI: Ugh, one album?… I’d say Staring at the Sea by The Cure.
MIN: Why is that?
FI: Well it’s a compilation of singles and it catches a lot of their diversity, which I like. Or maybe I’d also say Discreet Music by Brian Eno, just because it’s so beautiful and it would be a good instrumental background. I guess if you’re listening to one album forever you probably won’t want someone singing to you the whole time.
MIN: Both are solid choices, my friend.
FI: Well, thanks! And thanks for the chat.
Jackie Braje can be reached at Jacquelyn.Braje@theminaretonline.com