An interview with Samuel T. Herring about his band's new record, 'In Evening Air'
‘Getting personal’ can have varying results in the world of popular music. Often, an artist’s insistence on ‘telling all’ either ends up smelling like fame-money-and-swan-burgers-ain’t-all-they’re-cracked-up-to-be-y’know? (Robbie Williams/Lily Allen), or has us hugging our knees to the laid bare warbles of Antony & The Johnsons, wishing we’d put on ‘Walking On Sunshine’ to fish us out of despair, not what must be a leaked counselling session tape set to music. A musician saying, “It’s a very personal record,” basically means, “love meeee!” or, “don’t you dare love me, I don’t deserve it.”
Occasionally, though, a band vent via their music without being phoney pop-prats or too-earnest-for-comfort. The Smiths did it with wry wit; The Cure in a pantomime parade of eyeliner and backcombing. Baltimore-based Future Islands manage it with choral electronics and the unapologetic growl-come-wail of singer Samuel T. Herring who flirts with self-reflective distress one minute and nostalgic optimism the next. ‘In Evening Air’ is their new album, and one that’s deeply personal and powerful, thanks, in no small part, to Herring’s willingness to read from his diary pages.
“I’m really proud that you feel that way,” says the frontman, cheerily. “I like to feel that I take it all out and leave it all out on stage. I take great pride in my words and how they convey a message. This record came from a very hurt place for me, but I can’t imagine singing about something I didn’t feel strongly about, or something I didn’t believe in, and it’s easy for me to perform with a lot of emotion, which I do get criticised for.”
Herring often grimaces his way through large sections of Future Islands shows, wearing on his face the pain of tracks like ‘Tin Man’ as he croaks them out like a post-punk Louis Armstrong. Other times he gently sways and looks to the lighting rig, clutching at air and softly singing. “Seeing us live is the truth,” he says, a fact he considers right of neighbouring post-hardcore friends Double Dagger.
“To be honest with you I look at a lot of other writers who inspire me because their words are so simplistic, in speaking about love and loss,” he continues. “When I discovered Daniel Johnston it just blew my mind because I found myself wrapping my own emotions in poetry where he would just come out and say, ‘I love you’, or, ‘You broke my heart’, which I would never say. But to be able to say that is amazing.”