An Interview With Future Islands

We recently had a chance to catch up with Sam Herring frontman for the band Future Islands; we talked about everything from touring to his own doppelgänger.  Katie Moore chimes in with the interview below, which by the way was done from Hawaii...

Ultra5280: 
How do you feel about playing the Larimer Lounge? 

Sam: 
We’ve never been there - so it’ll be an all new experience.  You know the Rhino [Rhinoceropolos] is the first place we played when we went out to Denver.  It’s the only other place we’ve played besides the Bluebird - we got to play there the second or third time we went through.  We got to play at the Bluebird Theatre.  Larimer lounge is going to be new, I’m just excited to play like a different kind of room in Denver, a different kind of space - rock a real sound system.  we love the Rhino but you want to switch it up and try to reach some other people.  Hopefully some of those kids will be out at the show, and it’ll be a good time.

Ultra5280:
In Baltimore you were associated with the Wham City Collective, and also with Pictureplane - who lives here now.  Are you still close with Pictureplane?

Sam:
Oh, yea yea - Travis is my buddy.  We actually were trying to get him to be support on this tour but his album came out just before ours so he was already doing the route, just a month in advance of us.  We actually tried to do Denver with him, but he had some things coming up.  It’s one of those things, we’re both moving on but we are really good friends and we really respect what he does.  We’re buddies - definitely nothings changed but I guess what’s good that has changed is that we are both growing as artists so it’s one of those things that you can’t put together when you’ve got people that are working hard.

Ultra5280:
Your upcoming tour schedule looks painful a show in a different state every day - do you have a Delorean, steam engine?

Sam:
We’ll actually be renting a van for the first time ever for this tour to bring all our buddies and we’ll have a merchandise person with us.  We just wanted to have a little more space to spread out and I guess the plan was to cut cost but it was probably just as expensive to get a van but at least this will keep us all together.  I guess it’s hard for me to look at the tour and think it’s going to be too challenging because compared to some other tour dates we’ve done this coming up is a piece of cake we’ll be back in no time.  But then again that’s the funny thing I may have looked at that 3 or 4 years ago and thought about the tour a little bit differently.  At this point 5 1/2 weeks on the road looks nice and breezy.  I’m just excited to get out there - it’s been a while since we’ve been on the road that long of a period of time.  1st US tour in a year and a half - last May and June and that was a 7 1/2 week tour.  I’m just excited to get out there and play a place like Denver.  It’s an impossibility to like cruise over to Denver and play unless you’re doing a full US - as an East Coast band even flying to play a show in LA is a big difference that trying to get out to Denver.  We’re getting a lot of middle ground.  Denver is one of those cities that we love.

Ultra5280:
Do you guys have any touring rituals?  Farting contests? What happens in that van? What goes on?

(laughs) Umm well its usually me driving and William sleeping and Gerrit just like staring off into oblivion.  things get ridiculous sometimes usually when we start to lose our minds or if Gerrit is in a particularly awesome mood he’ll just be making jokes. Basically we’re just three best friends we know each other so well that we can get away with saying pretty terrible things about each other and to each other. Those kinds of things that would hurt someone else we can say them to each other, at the expense of one of us the other two will be laughing really hard and then it’ll get turned and but also we’ll have our friends with us.  Ed is like non stop always always making jokes like kind of a Robin Williams style in his own dimensional world of awesomeness and Devlin just laughs all the time so it’s gonna be fun i’m really excited to hit the road with those guys and they’re good buddies of ours they’re roommates they’re awesome it’s gonna be a good time in the van,  nothing too crazy but we have our assigned seats basically that’s about it.

Ultra5280:
That’s good.  That’s smart.

Ultra5280:
Speaking of comedy and people being funny tell me a little bit more about Art Lord and the Self Portraits.

Sam:
That was a band we started when we were in our freshman year of college it was an idea that me and William came up with that first semester and then over the Christmas break of our freshman year I started to kind of come up with ideas of who this person was but the art lord was this character who he was a big art star in the word in the early 80s and at a very young age 15-16 he’s getting all this recognition and he couldn;t really handle the fame and he didn’t like it he felt people were just like you know he knew loved him but he couldn’t stand it he felt like no one understood him so he ran away he disappeared for 20 years and reappeared in Greenville north carolina and decided he was going to start a band to sing his songs of woe to the world about how hard it is to be so great how it was really difficult to be so wonderful and so he brought his favorite self portraits to life it’s basically the story of Pygmalion because he tried out all these musicians and no one was good enough to play for him the only person good enough to play for him were himself basically.  it was a really awesome band and it was really sort of an art project but like a performance art piece that became a band and then of course that band became this band it’s more so a kind of commentary on how we treat our rock stars and our top icons and art starts within our culture but then it just became this awesome thing that people loved and that’s sort of the story behind art lord. it was the 3 of us for about 2 and a half years and there were two other full time members 1 who did the first album cover artwork (find name) for future islands.

Ultra5280:
What you didn’t mention is that in Art Lord & The Self Portraits you sang in a german accent, and we have Denver’s own faux german pop sensation group here called Total Ghost who does that as well.  Any advice?  Words of wisdom?

Sam:
Do what you love man.  If it comes out German, it’s German.  Just go with it.  Just go with it.  I want to see these guys play.  What are they called, Total Ghost?  You gotta own it.

Ultra5280:
I read a lot of interviews, and most of them compare your looks to Jack Black?  

Sam:
Yea, I mean I don’t think I completely don’t look like him in some of his movies.  It’s something about his eyes.  There’s something similar to mine.  Then again, he is also kind of just a lovable chubby guy with a lot of energy and that’s kind of what I am too, so I understand. That’s okay. It does hurt my feelings, because it’s taking the easy way out. It doesn’t help my cause that’s for sure.  For what I’m trying to be - this is a serious thing and Jack Black is a comedic actor.  And he can sing.  I don’t know, I like Jack Black - he makes me laugh but you know I’m not trying to make you laugh - that’s not really the point.  I guess that’s the thing that bugs me  but the thing about a lot criticism these days which is always troubling and I’ve heard it from a lot of musicians - is that usually you know once there’s one source that says something, especially if it’s a larger source it just gets recycled down the line.  The original person who originally thought it had a good idea, but then after you hear it over and over and it becomes stale. It doesn’t even make sense anymore.  I think I was much more of a Jack Black like character in the beginning of the band. I also get Meatloaf and I like Meatloaf better.  Because that dudes pretty cool.  He’s a pretty cool rock singer and he believes in love. And that’s what’s up.  Jack Black is totally cool but he does comedy and I do tragedy.  Meatloaf does tragedy and that’s what’s up.

Ultra5280:
I see a possibility for an album cover - Jack Black as the comedy mask and you as the tragedy mask - just saying - it’s an idea.

Sam:
Maybe I can get Jack Black to do this duet’s album with me.  That could be cool.

Ultra5280:
Have you seen the movie, Dear Zachary a Letter to a son about his father?  It’s a documentary.

Sam:
I haven’t heard of that movie.

Ultra5280:
You need to watch it because the focus of the documentary, Andrew Bagby, is the spitting image of you.  However I don’t think it’s going to help your cause very much due to the subject matter, but he does look like you.  Very much.  It’s eerie.

Sam:
Okay, I’m going to look it up right now.  What’s his name?  If you’re wrong I don’t know what I’m going to do.

Ultra5280:
If I’m wrong, you can just hang up - but I’m right.

Sam:
I might just start to cry.  Let’s see let’s see this jerk trying to look like me... (gasps) Oh no!  Holy shit that’s fucking weird!  Oh man that guy looks a lot like me and that is freaking me the fuck out!  Fuck that!  That’s so weird - that just weirded me out really bad.  OH NO!  Oh shit -  Oh my god that’s weird.  There’s a guy that looks just like me and it’s freaking me the fuck out.  Oh that hurts.  Okay, next question.



Ultra5280:
He’s dead!  He got killed by his girlfriend who also killed herself and his baby!

Sam:
Why do I look like him?

Ultra5280:
It’s just a face!

Sam:
Oh man that was fucking weird it was like my dead self looking at me through a computer screen.

Ultra5280:
You’re welcome.

Sam:
No that was terrible!  Oh no!  Oh no!

Ultra5280:
At one point you said Little Dreamer was your favorite song to perform because every time you played it felt different.  Is that still your favorite song to perform live?

Sam:
Nah, probably not.  I wonder when I said that.  I do love performing that song but there’s probably some newer stuff that I enjoy a lot more - I love the slow burn of that song at this point just the way the crowd responds to that track is just special to me.  I guess my favorite song to perform is “On the Water” which is the opening track from the new album just because I love those words and they feel really powerful to me.  they’re some of my favorite words I’ve ever written.  It is something that’s only changed in the last year or so.  "On The Water" probably my favorite jam to do.

Big shout out to Katie Moore for this awesome interview and Sam Herring for his participation.  You can catch Future Islands at the Larimer Lounge tomorrow night.