Future Islands

When Sam Herring of Future Islands goes on holiday he likes being fanned and fed fruit by scantily-clad virgins by the poolside. He never travels without his tanning oil and he enjoys the occasional cannonball. He may or may not have blacked out a few times in Ibiza. Read on to discover his darkest holiday secrets.

Interview by Zofia Ciechowska. Photos shot in Baltimore, USA by Suzanna Zak

What is a future island? Is it one of those levitating Jetson homes surrounded by flying robots?
I can dig that! I like to think of it as a person who breaks off of a group due to stress or social pressures, but it’s also geological and futuristic.

Have you ever contemplated time travel? Do you think it’s possible?
In the mind for sure. Going home is always like weird time travel. Even though you’re a man, you feel like a boy again, not in the all-freeing sense, but in that weird sense of solitude. Have you ever done that? Going home and flipping through old drawings or reading old journals and realizing how you didn’t know a thing when you were a kid, and that maybe you still don’t? Always makes me feel weak and vulnerable. The same way I felt when I was a kid, unknowing of my place or what was going to happen. Going home you can go back into that child’s headspace and deconstruct yourself from the beginning and find yourself again. Sometimes these are bad things though, sometimes you time travel to places and feelings you don’t want to revisit. I try to avoid these old pieces of my youth nowadays. You can’t change the past, y’know! Boom!

Is there a time that you’d want to travel back to and re-experience?
I miss the days of being ten and playing soccer on Saturdays. I miss the college days, which I ruined and have all but forgotten. Hell, I miss three years ago. I think I miss it all. I think I want to experience it all. That’s my problem. I want the past. It’s hard to move into the future when you’re always living in the past, you know?

That’s heavy, man.
Yeah, dude…

Is there a place that you’ve travelled to that you think of fondly?
A lot of places. One of the problems with touring is getting lost sometimes and never feeling home. I love to spend time in Spain, Greece, Berlin, New Orleans, Chicago, Copenhagen and Amsterdam – so many great cities and beautiful people. Travelling is good for my writing because my heart gets broken over and over by all the beautiful women I’ll never talk to or see again.

So where does all that water on your latest album come from? Is it just waves of tears sloshing around in a big bucket?
Gerrit and I grew up just a minute’s walk from the shore, it plays a big part in my early experiences. The water samples are sounds of ship sails hitting their masts on the sound at night in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. And then the beach tide rolling in on Balance and Tybee Island are from Corolla, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, about an hour’s drive from where we recorded the album.

Do you ever travel by water?
We’ve actually talked extensively about doing a houseboat tour with our friends EAR PWR but it hasn’t happened yet. When we next come to the Netherlands we should play a houseboat venue, link a bunch together and have a massive houseboat party!

Would you wear life vests? Are you good swimmers? Is singing in a life vest even allowed?!
When you have the mic or the stage you can do whatever you want… and you should! We’re pretty fair swimmers.

How about drowning, has that ever happened to you? I nearly drowned in a blow-up pool as a two-year-old – scary.
I’ve had some bad experiences with riptide. When my brother was about twelve and I was eight, he faked that he was drowning. I ran to the end of the pier but I couldn’t swim that deep and so I just grabbed for him, crying, while he flailed in the water screaming my name… He came in when I was really bawling, saying he was sorry. Basically scarred me for life. 

So if you were drowning would you rather be saved by Flipper the Dolphin or Pamela Anderson? (I’d go for the dolphin, I like the squeaky noise they make.)
Definitely Pam, but old-school Pam. She probably makes a squeaky noise too!I’m feeling this Pam/Flipper hybrid, a truly beautiful mermaid. I think the Little Mermaid and Jessica Rabbit were my first crushes so we’re on the right track of fateful heroines.

That’s pretty tough, having a crush on someone who’s two-dimensional.
I know. The world is against children, their dreams will never truly be real.