Future Islands finds a home and its sound
A lot of bands pack their things and head to Brooklyn to establish themselves, but the electro-pop trio Future Islands, playing the Black Cat on Nov. 4, decided they wanted to settle in Baltimore.
When the band played a small Baltimore club, "there was just this really awesome crowd and energy. It felt really like something was rolling here, more than I felt like in any other city up to that point," recalled bassist William Cashion in an interview over Natty Bohs at the Mt. Royal Tavern.
The move seems to have paid off. In the roughly three years since leaving Greenville, N.C., the band has become one of the marquee names in Charm City; its energetic live shows bring packed crowds to most every indie club and warehouse space.
The uptempo combination of Cashion's rolling bass and Gerrit Welmers's mix of synthesizers and electronic beats creates exuberant pop songs that send the crowd into a full-on, sweat-soaked dance frenzy. The two can also produce somber and reflective dance pop, supported by Sam Herring's soul-bearing lyrics.
The energy in the band's live show comes from Herring: a dynamic frontman who scans the front rows, stares into the pupils of fans and dramatically air-punches to the beat between verses. When he extends his open hand into the crowd, then closes it into a fist, he looks, and sounds, like an actor delivering the most intense version of a soliloquy from "Hamlet."
The band's second proper LP, "In Evening Air," melds new sounds with their existing styles, the dance-y and the downbeat, to create a work with a cohesive flow.
"We wanted it to be listened to as a whole. Like, not really like a singles album, more of an album that stands on its own," Cashion said. "Like a slow punch, if that makes sense, like a slow burn."
It was the band's first LP for the venerable Chicago indie label Thrill Jockey, and Cashion said that having the label's backing has helped raise their profile across the U.S. and in Europe, to the point where they are coming close to being able to live solely off their art.
The realization that taking a chance on moving has paid off may come on Nov. 20, when the band headlines the Ottobar, one of the most established clubs in the city.
"For us as a band to grow into that room-- we don't know what it's going to be like," Cashion said. "We hope it's, like, crazy."
Future Islands plays the Black Cat on Nov. 4 with openers Lonnie Walker and Romantic States
| November 4, 2010; 4:24 PM ET
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