Future Islands

On their new album On the Water, Future Islands’ growling tenor Samuel T. Herring rasps with the same deep longing as on their landmark album In Evening Air. Now he might not be quite the fashion icon, but according to bass player Monseigneur William he does look mighty fine dressed like a young priest.

 ‘Of course I’ll rock tight pants if I want to.’

Skype interview by Brenda Bosma. Photos shot on film in Baltimore by Suzanna Zak.


Hi Sam, what are you wearing right now?


Sam: Umm, green slacks, long johns underneath, long black socks and black leather converse, a white undershirt and a grey cashmere sweater over top.


This is for our fashion issue by the way.


S: Oh great, we’re just the most unfashionable band ever!


Are you big fans of clothes in the aesthetic sense?


S: I like clothes. We just haven’t figured out a way yet that makes us look good in them.


William: We’re gonna need this fashion issue to help us decide what the hell we should be wearing!


S: You could do one of those pin-up models with different sets of clothes and dress each of us the way you want!


W: And please include fake moustaches in the mag, fuzzy ones, none of these paper staches.


I’ll pass it on. What would you, Sam, let William wear? Which colours make his essence shine?


S: William surprisingly pulls off a pink boa pretty well. Maybe some silver sequin pants. Tight ones. And an alligator coat. Bright green.


Because that matches his golden moustache perfectly, of course.


S: No doubt. For Gerrit just a robe and slippers. With a top hat.


I can imagine it must be difficult to move around in such clothing.


S: Well, I would wear something a bit more low-key, yet dapper.


W: Sam would wear non-pleated pants and a short-sleeve button-up with no collar, like a young priest.


Do you have clothes that hold sentimental value?


S: I have a wall of ripped-up clothes in my bedroom, things that I’ve had for years and are beyond repair. I’ve pinned them up there. That’s sentimental.


Why don’t you just throw them away and hang up a poster?


S: I have weird attachment issues, I guess. Plus, they look awesome! They’re their own works of art.


Your room must smell like fabric softener.


W: He didn’t wash those clothes before he hung them up.


S: That’s a pure untruth!


Is there something you would never wear?


S: Skinny jeans. I have a firm bottom. Actually I never wear jeans. Last time was at Halloween so I could be Morrissey.


Then you spilt some meat onto your pants and decided it wasn’t for you?


S: Haha, of course I’ll rock tight pants if I want to.


You go girl! Wear it like you mean it.


S: Exactly!


What is William wearing right now?


W: Black jeans and a plaid. Now that it’s winter I might wear double or triple plaid-on-plaid-on-plaid shirts.


What’s your opinion on white tees tucked into pants?


S: Own it, that’s what I say.


W: If you’re gonna tuck a T-shirt, it shouldn’t be white. In fact, I don’t think you should tuck it at all. Tie it to the side like they did in the ’90s.


Which clothing revival would you want to unleash?


W: Definitely slap bracelets.


S: Maybe slap pants and T-shirts too. They should invent that!


W: That would hurt! I also like to see heat sensitive shirts come back. Mood ring clothes!


I would carry a blow-dryer with me all day. What about crimes against fashion? Ever commit one, like wearing Uggs?


S: I wear black and brown together. And blue and black. And black and brown and blue. And I always wear white the day after Labor Day. Usually all white, from head to toe.


W: I think bruises are beautiful.


I know your ‘Little Dreamer’ is wrapped in wool, but what does she wear in your dreams when she’s awake?


S: I guess something floaty. The dreams go so fast.


In the first and last song of the album, you can hear sounds of dreamcatchers.


S: Sometimes William hangs dreamcatchers from his bass when he plays.


To keep the slapping sounds away?


S: Yeah, gotta keep those in the mist.


W: It’s the sound of ropes clinking to the mast of a boat at the shipyard across the street from where we recorded the album. Now you know why my bass sounds so dreamy.


The album breathes a lot of longing.


S: We are romanticists. In fact I’m holding flowers right now, but I can’t give them through this screen.


They smell lovely. The beautiful painting used as the album cover is made by your girlfriend. Is it a portrait of you?


W: Let me handle this. Thanks, we all love her work. We wanted the art to be vague. It is open to interpretation.


Sam: The original title is ’80s Jazz.


The ’80s and jazz. That’s an as intriguing combination as a Bergman retrospective on Ibiza. On ‘Tybee Island’ they seem to have this annual parade where people shoot each other with water guns. Did you participate in this to get the feel of ‘On the Water’ right?


S: Haha, no but it sounds fun. It’s a beautiful place.


Which items would be in your suitcase if you were to go to a future island?


S: Tobacco seeds!


W: Ha! I’d first bring a puppy, if the suitcase is ventilated properly, an inflatable raft, a walkman and some mixtapes, batteries, a volleyball. I’d also take a ukelele. Seems like the kinda thing I’d want to learn to play on a future island.


Future Islands play on 29 February in OT301 in Amsterdam and on 01 March in Ekko in Utrecht. Both shows are free for Subbacultcha! members. Other live dates: 28/02 – 013, Tilburg