MAKE AN EVENING OF IT: For the North Carolina-born, Baltimore-bred bandmates of Future Islands, success has been a long time coming. Since forming their first band, Art Lord & the Self-Portraits, in 2003, the trio—now consisting of lead singer Samuel T. Herring, guitarist/bassist William Cashion, and synth master J. Gerrit Welmers—has been churning out some version of the dance-ready “post-wave” sound they’ve become known for. As Future Islands, which originated back in 2006, the band has successfully fleshed out their at-times out-there musical vision, mixing the emotionally wrought lyricism of post-punk greats like My Bloody Valentine and The Cure with new wave synths and dance beats (think a-ha on steroids). They’ve also released their fair share of stellar recorded material (see 2008’s Wave Like Home), and made a few notable music-scene friends (Dan Deacon, Beach House’s Victoria Legrand) along the way.
Most importantly though, the Future Islands guys finally scored their big break, signing to notable Chicago-based label Thrill Jockey Records late last year. And just this month, the fruits of their newly represented labors were laid out before us, thanks to sophomore album, In Evening Air. Throughout the disc, Welmers’s defining keyboards pave the way for Herring’s sometimes gravely, sometimes honey-like vocals. (He likens himself to a modern-day Fats Waller.) In between it all, Cashion’s bass licks act as the band’s backbone, often taking the place of drums and drum machines altogether.
“When I was growing up I listened to a lot of oldies with my mom, and I guess that’s where a lot of the soul stuff comes from in my singing,” Herring recalled from the back of his Nashville-bound tour van. “In high school I was really into a lot of underground hip-hop and jazz. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I really started listening to indie rock stuff, like Spoon, Neutral Milk Hotel, Jets to Brazil—the whiny white boy music. Then in college I got really into post-rock—Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Trans Am. I was really into Thrill Jockey and Constellation Records, and then William started really turning me on to ’80s stuff. He pretty much introduced me to Kraftwerk and Joy Division and The Smiths and The Cure.”
While those musical touchstones wax and wane from one Future Islands tune to the next, the band’s sound always remains unarguably their own, thanks in large part to Herring’s distinct vocals and deliveries.
As for the live show, which finds the band playing Muddy Waters Café (508 E. Haley St.) this Sunday, May 23, Herring and Co. promise an evening of good old-fashioned fun. When asked to describe a Future Islands show in five words or less, the trio dished out phrases that ranged from the expectant “crowded, hopefully” to the laughable “sweaty and wet” to the downright nonsensical “crowd surf your father’s shoes.” More accurately, I’m betting it will be one hot, happy dance party.
The show starts at 8 p.m. with openers Catwalk and Simple Machines. For tickets and info, call 966-9328 or visit clubmercy.com.
BOW DOWN: Also this weekend, the Sings Like Hell concert series welcomes Warren Hood & the Hoodlums to the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.) on Saturday, May 22, at 8 p.m. The Austin-based singer/songwriter is far more than your average guitar-toting, John Mayer wannabe. With an arsenal of violins, mandolins, and fiddles at his mercy, Hood composes and performs a stunning mix of pop, bluegrass, and jazz-fusion that’s both catchy and unique. And together with backing band the Hoodlums—made up of Emily Gimble (piano, vocals), Willie Pipkin (guitar), Nate Rowe (bass), and Chris Gilson (drums)—Hood’s compositions promise to shine. Need further proof? Check out his jazzy slow-burner “Stick Around,” which is part soulful piano ballad, part radio-ready love song. For tickets and info, call 963-8752 or visit singslikehell.com.