Herring, William Cashion [bass] and J. Gerrit Welmers [synthesisers/programming] moved to Baltimore from Greenville, North Carolina, approximately a year ago, shortly after the departure of their drummer.
“I was pretty certain that Future Islands was going to split up,” explains Herring “so I decided I was going to move to Baltimore to be around music because I was living in the middle of nowhere and was losing my mind. And then William was like, ‘I’m gonna do that too’. And we eventually got Gerrit to move up, begrudgingly.
“Moving here was great for us because it took us out of our comfort zone of being around our good friends and the routine of life. It put us on edge and got something out of us.”
Essentially, that something is ‘In Evening Air’ – a post-wave (as they call it) record of fearlessly delivered inner feelings that aches chapters of lost love, heartbreak and homesickness to eventually reveal a resonance of new beginnings.
“The opening track [the Arcade Fire-ish ‘Walking Through That Door’] is kind of about that move and about old memories of back home,” says Herring “especially for me and times in my life I’ve felt I missed out on because I was in a really bad state. Like, I had some really bad problems when I lived in Greenville. That line, I want to be the one to help you find those years that you’ve been talking about… dreaming of the south – to me it takes me back home and reminds me of those old days.
“Y’know, it’s important that we, as human beings, I mean, get out and live something else to make ourselves stronger, but, y’know, you’re always stuck in those ideas of remembering those times when you were 19 or 20. They seem so distant and like the best days of your life. A lot of the album comes from all of those feelings and feelings around the move – leaving our loved ones, going through the loss of love. Like, Gerrit split up with his girlfriend, William was dealing with those feelings of really wanting to go back home, and at the turn of the year when we started writing this album I’d just broken up with a girlfriend, so there is a combination of those feelings in there.”
Herring openly admits that a large majority of the record is about his ex, ‘Vireo’s Eye’ a final goodbye to the lady in question. But it’s not as if his head is on my shoulder. He doesn’t even sound glum as he talks about the past. Perhaps that’s because, as he says, he leaves it all on stage. Future Islands seems to be his therapy, and in turn our gain.
On paper, ‘In Evening Air’ should be uncomfortably honest, but Welmers’ pitch-bending synths and mid-tempo, programmed drums prevent the anguish of Herring and sombre bass of Cashion from being overwhelmingly sad. It’s a dark/light formula that many try to concoct and few master. If anything, the music of Future Islands is largely danceable and ambiently joyous.
Back home Herring used to rap, and is all too happy to discuss underground hip-hop (he’s particularly a fan of early 90s East Coast, anytime West Coast and the first releases from Anticon) and to recount the days that he’d battle, and occasionally “get stomped on”.
“Yeah,” he laughs. “I went to a rival high school basketball game once and I was searching kids out to battle and I found this kid who was supposed to be really good who had his whole crew around him. I was by myself and I started rapping and they all just starting booing me, y’know, just because, and I was a white boy rapping. Then he started spitting writtens at me and people were chanting along and then they all went crazy. I was like, this is terrible! I was 16 or 17 and it really took the ego out of me. I couldn’t rap for six months, and that’s kinda the power of words, which is amazing.”
Today, Herring uses the power of words not to shout down others but to call out to them; to convey the most personal of messages, the overriding one being that emotional, honest pop music, when done right, can be very powerful indeed.
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