Tiny Desk

Future Islands

Future Islands: Tiny Desk Concert

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/136214794/136336097" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Future Islands' members showed up with the biggest amplifier we've ever squeezed behind Bob Boilen's desk. Then, because they're such nice guys, they tried to keep it down. Tamping down the levels didn't dampen their intensity, though, and by the third song, the band and the crowd were struggling to keep it office-appropriate.

The band's goal, of course, was to make us break (it) down. "I want you to cry," said Sam Herring, who sings and writes all the lyrics. "I want you to feel the way I feel." He said that, in songs like "On the Water," he's using the fewest words possible to communicate most directly. Forget miscommunication, crossed signals, all that mess. "I want to crush," he says.

In case that sounds kind of cruel, Herring reminded us that crying is a good thing. Therapists tell some people to do it more often. What Future Islands is really going for, with the mordant wit in the lyrics, the melodramatic chord progressions and Herring's yowling, scratchy voice, is catharsis. And catharsis can happen in your head and in your heart.

"Some people hear the music and they want to dance. They don't hear the words. And some people hear the words, but they don't understand the other side of it," Herring said. "Those people come together and they share that space. They get the same thing out of it in the end, hopefully."

Future Islands came to our office and played some sad songs. The band did the aforementioned weeper "On the Water," as well as "The Ink Well," a song about saying goodbye to someone. Then they commanded us to move: Just before launching into "Walking Through That Door," a song about missing your hometown, Herring said, "Y'all can dance if you want to."

Set List
  • "On The Water"
  • "The Ink Well"
  • "Walking Through That Door"
Credits

Filmed and edited by Michael Katzif; audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Erin Schwartz

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Delicate Steve performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Mar. 3, 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Delicate Steve

This fierce and lyrical guitar player writes playful instrumental music led by hooky vocals — but there is no voice, just the human-like twang of a glass slide on a guitar.

Sampha performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 7, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Sampha

A Tiny Desk Concert as intimate as it gets (that's saying something). Just Sampha, a piano and three heart-wrenching songs that seem to double as coping mechanisms.

Red Baraat performs at Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 8, 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Tiny Desk Special Edition: Red Baraat's Holi Celebration

The Brooklyn bhangra band come to the Tiny Desk in celebration of Holi, the Hindu festival of color that welcomes the coming of spring.

Tank And The Bangas perform perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Mar. 6, 2017. (Niki Walker/NPR) Niki Walker/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Niki Walker/NPR

Tiny Desk

Tank And The Bangas

Tank And The Bangas' victory lap around the Tiny Desk was momentous and deeply touching.

Maren Morris performs perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 16, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Maren Morris

One of the newest Grammy winners stops by the Tiny Desk to share her winking, sometimes tongue-in-cheek songs.

Ninet Tayeb performs perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 14, 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Ninet

One of Israel's most popular performers may fully win over fans of hard-playing rock.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band performs perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 23, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Dirty Dozen Brass Band

To celebrate Fat Tuesday, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band brought their euphoric horns to the Tiny Desk for a raucous, joyous set.

Little Simz performs perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 23, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Little Simz

Little Simz has been compared to Lauryn Hill for her self-reflective wordplay. And though the British lyricist is a relative new-comer, her Tiny Desk performance was poised and confident.

Agnes Obel performs perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Dec. 9, 2016. (Raquel Zaldivar/NPR) Raquel Zaldivar/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Raquel Zaldivar/NPR

Tiny Desk

Agnes Obel

Agnes Obel brings the Tiny Desk three alluring and powerful songs.

Esme Patterson performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 1, 2017. (NPR) NPR/NPR hide caption

toggle caption NPR/NPR

Tiny Desk

Esmé Patterson

Esmé Patterson has dropped the banjos and folk from her previous project Paper Bird, and in their place are electric guitars and a backing band worth getting behind.

Back To Top