Photo by Abby Nardo
Future Islands' Sam Herring, front and center at Hopscotch 2013
Most likely, it's no longer accurate to call Baltimore-via-Greenville's Future Islands
rising stars: These guys have risen. Yesterday the emotionally charged dance-pop trio announced its signing to 4AD
, making the band labelmates to big-draw acts such as Bon Iver, Deerhunter and tUnE-yArDs and part of one of the most influential catalogs in indie rock lore. This marks a split from their longtime label, Chicago's Thrill Jockey. Future Islands also revealed the March 25th release of their new LP, Singles
. There's a whirlwind February tour with dates across Europe, and then the band hits the road in earnest this March for a full-on US tour including Coachella appearances and stops in Asheville and Saxapahaw.
Yet the genesis of Future Islands' potentially biggest release to date happened in a humble hunting cabin in Wayne County; the band holed up there for a week in early 2013, writing and demoing tracks and prepping for a reunion as their former act, Art Lord and the Self Portraits.
"We always bring it back to North Carolina. That's our heart," says vocalist Sam Herring as he leaves Asheville (where the band was briefly based) to drive to the Triangle. There are several dedicated Tar Heel tracks on Singles
, numbers like "A Song for Our Grandfathers" and "Back in the Tall Grass." The week in the cabin allowed Future Islands the time and mental space to write introspectively, Herring says, but was only the beginning of a year the band effectively took off to write the record.
"We wanted a break because we've been pretty much on the road for five years straight," he continues. In the past, Future Islands has written songs in brief tour breaks—a week home here, a week home there. This time, they were able to pace themselves and eventually demo some 25 tunes, of which 10 made Singles
. And that is where the name comes from, Herring says: Each song that made the cut feels strong enough to be a single.
A different vibe emerged, too, as the band allowed itself to take a little time at home; by comparison, Future Islands played maybe 40 shows in 2013, versus its usual 150-plus. Herring, for example, went through a breakup without the distraction of tour life. Accordingly, his songwriting turned introspective.
"Usually, if I'm going through some shit, I'm just, 'Well, I'm going on the road in a week and I'll be fine.' I won't have to deal with it," he says, as emotionally honest over the phone as he is with a microphone.
Yet the band goes back to its normal speed—near-constant touring - in a few weeks. A March 5th show at Haw River Ballroom brings them back to the state of their—and their new album's—genesis.