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

Holly Macve performs a Tiny Desk Concert on May 5, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Holly Macve

Backed by a suitably low-key band, Macve would sound subtly radiant just about anywhere, from your nearest country bar to the most dreamily lit stage in Twin Peaks.

Tigers Jaw performs at NPR's Tiny Desk on May 19, 2017. (Raquel Zaldivar/NPR) Raquel Zaldivar/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Raquel Zaldivar/NPR

Tiny Desk

Tigers Jaw

The duo strips down to acoustic guitar and keyboard for a strikingly intimate set, illuminating their close harmonies that tangle like garlands.

Penguin Cafe performs a Tiny Desk Concert on May 2, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Penguin Cafe

Penguin Cafe folds in sounds from around the world and throughout music history — Africa, Kraftwerk, Brazil and Franz Schubert.

Perfume Genius performs at NPR's Tiny Desk on May 15, 2017. (Raquel Zaldivar/NPR) Raquel Zaldivar/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Raquel Zaldivar/NPR

Tiny Desk

Perfume Genius

The band's long-awaited performance at the Tiny Desk was both beautiful and, at times, intense, featuring three deeply personal songs by frontman Mike Hadreas.

Violents & Monica Martin performs a Tiny Desk Concert on March 28, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Violents & Monica Martin

While her band was on hiatus, Monica Martin joined Jeremy Larson's project Violents, yielding a lush record of electronic pop, translated into a quieted set at the Tiny Desk.

Nick Grant performs a Tiny Desk Concert on May 8, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Nick Grant

The Atlanta-based MC came through with the flu and coolly earned our praise. How sick is that?

Royal Thunder performs a Tiny Desk Concert on May 10, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Royal Thunder

What happens when you ask a hard-rock band to unplug its thunder? It draws power from a raw, desperate vulnerability.

Gabriel Garzon-Montano performs a Tiny Desk Concert on May 3, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Gabriel Garzón-Montano

Gabriel Garzón-Montano spent three years writing and recording his beautiful, dense album Jardin -- but for his Tiny Desk visit, he stripped it all down to two elements, the piano and his voice.

Julia Jacklin performs a Tiny Desk Concert on May 1, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Julia Jacklin

A restrained, whisper-soft Tiny Desk concert from Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin with songs taken from her debut album Don't Let The Kids Win.

Troker performs at Tiny Desk Concert on April 5, 2017 (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero /NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero /NPR

Tiny Desk

Troker

Mexico may not be known for its jazz, but the young lions of Troker are a promising hope to make the country and its capital city a destination.

Back To Top