Future Islands

Seasons (Waiting On You)Singles
RanThe Far Field
For SureAs Long As You Are
CaveThe Far Field
Beach FoamWave Like Home
Tin ManIn Evening Air
Through The RosesThe Far Field
A Dream Of You & MeSingles
Sun In The MorningSingles
Before The BridgeOn The Water

Future Islands photo 1

Future Islands (l-r) Mike Lowry (drums), Samuel T. Herring (vocals), Gerrit Welmers (keys and programming), William Cashion (bass) – promo photo Justin Flythe – “We formed in Greenville, NC, in January 2006. We had a band before that, Art Lord and the Self-Portraits, that started in the art department of East Carolina University. When that band ended, we began Future Islands with a new member.” (from a 2020 interview on the Everton FC website – Herring is a fan of the football club)


In Evening Air (2010)


On The Water (2011)


Contributor: Damien Joyce

Future Islands were originally a three-piece consisting of Gerrit Welmers, William Cashion and Samuel T. Herring; touring drummer Michael Lowry has since recently joined the band as a full-time member.

Future lslands are all about performance and are a wild live act. Their singer Sam Herring can only be described as the closest thing to a physical manifestation of the Warner Bros cartoon character, The Tasmanian Devil. Herring’s infamous rasping growl is partly due to a condition called Reinke’s edema that he was diagnosed with in 2014 and, having taken up vocal duties from an early dalliance in a hip-hop/MC background, subsequently it can sound excruciatingly painful to reach some of the high notes. That frenetic stage persona often saw him appear possessed, beating himself on the chest in physical and emotional anguish, ending up in an exhausted heap at the end of a show after going through a physically gruelling performance.

This synth pop/post-wave outfit originate from North Carolina but transplanted themselves into Baltimore, Maryland in 2008, the city having a vibrant art and music scene.


They released Wave Like Home that same year and followed it up with In Evening Air (2010) and On The Water (2011) while travelling across the US and Europe. They dropped into the NPR studios to play Bob Boilen’s Tiny Desk concert which incidentally is a treasure trove of performances from a whole range of bands over the past 20 years).

During this period of relentless touring, they continued honing their live performances and evolving their raw punkier DIY sound, with even more driving bass lines that propel their songs while creating a sense of urgency and drive, especially in those early albums. Incredibly, they reached a milestone of their 1,000th show in 2014 and that year also brought a major change when the band were picked up by the British indie label 4AD with whom they released their fourth album Singles.

Singles (2014)


The record opens with Seasons (Waiting On You) and contains the delightful Sun In The Morning, A Dream Of Me & You and Spirit. Their well-documented breakthrough occurred after performing Seasons on the David Letterman show. Herring’s enigmatic dance moves that night helped catapult the performance to go viral, bringing major attention to the band.

As Future Islands went back out on the road that year, they captured the touring experience in a short film called Road Dawgs. They played Glastonbury in 2015 and, under pressure from a growing fan base hungry for more new music since that Letterman show, they released The Far Field in 2017. The title is based on the poem of the same name in the posthumous collection of poet Theodore Roethke, acknowledged in the album liner notes. This suits the album tone, mood, and continued themes such as love and loss, with observations from their travels and their own repeated dreamings of journeys. (The earlier album In Evening Air is also named after a poem by Roethke.)

I dream of journeys repeatedly:
Of flying like a bat deep into a narrowing tunnel
Of driving alone, without luggage, out a long peninsula

(The opening lines of The Far Field by Theodore Roethke)


Future Islands image 1
‘The Far Field’ Limited Edition LP inner sleeve photo


Ran is a standout track, Cage another and Debbie Harry provides delightful vocals on Shadows. Other notable tracks are Ancient Water and North Star but I think Through The Roses has to be my own personal favourite, there’s just something optimistic and uplifting about that track.

I have read interviews with the band where they mention they felt like they rushed the making of The Far Field, with the obligation of a Coachella lineup appearance deadline hanging over them but I think they were being a little overcritical of themselves. It’s still a solid 7/10 and an enjoyable record.

Not wanting to repeat the same mistake, they took more time with plenty of hours jamming in the studio for As Long As You Are (2020) with Herring agonising over his lyrics. It is a bit lighter, more contemplative and slower paced from the outset, with examples like Glada, Born In A War, I Knew You, Thrill and The Painter while still including more danceable songs like Waking and Plastic Beach.

However, for me, For Sure is the strongest song on the album.


Those later three albums I continue to listen to a lot on vinyl and I struggled with fitting in many of my other favourites from them into a top 10 playlist, but I attempted to include at least one track from each record to demonstrate how far the band’s sound has come.

Future Islands image 2

They also have a bunch of EPs and singles that I really like, including In The Fall but I just couldn’t find the room to squeeze in numbers like Peach and King Of Sweden into the 10-track playlist:


Future Islands playlist


Cashion’s pulsating bass lines remain the heartbeat of the band with Lowry’s masterful drumming and Welmers’ refined keys, contrasting with Herring’s vocals which all come together on record magically, but even more so when performed in front of an audience. Their live performances are something special and they tend to include a setlist which covers their full discography, with good representation from each album.

Their new one, People Who Aren’t There Anymore, is due out in January 2024 with the first single, The Tower, available now.


“We’re Future Islands man, this is just what the f*** we do!”

Never have truer words been spoken by a frontman of a band.



People Who Aren’t There Anymore (2024)


Future Islands poster


Future Islands official website

Future Islands on 4AD

Future Islands biography (AllMusic)

Damien Joyce can be found on Twitter @damienjoyce and on his blog.

Damien’s other posts on here include Broken Social Scene, Foals, Kaiser Chiefs, Local Natives

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