Tiny Desk

Future Islands

Download Audio

Future Islands: Tiny Desk Concert

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

Tiny Desk Concert with And The Kids. Morgan McCloy/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Morgan McCloy/NPR

Tiny Desk

And The Kids

The trio's music is full of life, with dissonant sounds that still feel suited for singalongs.

Tiny Desk Concert with Oddisee Colin Marshall/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Colin Marshall/NPR

Tiny Desk

Oddisee

The charismatic Brooklyn-via-D.C.-area rapper creates just the right amount of space in his music.

Tiny Desk Concert with Hop Along. Maggie Starbard/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Maggie Starbard/NPR

Tiny Desk

Hop Along

Frances Quinlan's raspy voice whispers one moment, then lets loose a gut-punching howl the next.

Tiny Desk Concert with Timothy Showalter, songwriter and producer of Strand of Oaks. Maggie Starbard /NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Maggie Starbard /NPR

Tiny Desk

Strand Of Oaks

Timothy Showalter's music is filled with bite and sometimes regret, but also a good deal of warmth.

Tiny Desk Concert with The Prettiots. Morgan McCloy/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Morgan McCloy/NPR

Tiny Desk

The Prettiots

The clever trio shares its love of everything from Law & Order to old-school girl groups.

Tiny Desk Concert with Anna & Elizabeth. Emily Jan/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Emily Jan/NPR

Tiny Desk

Anna & Elizabeth

If you've never thought your tastes would lean to mountain music, breathe deep and soak it all in.

TK Morgan McCloy/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Morgan McCloy/NPR

Tiny Desk

Genevieve

See a singer with a powerful voice and extremely encouraging message.

Tiny Desk Concert with Zac Sokolow (left), Frank Fairfield and Tom Marion. Emily Jan/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Emily Jan/NPR

Tiny Desk

Frank Fairfield

A young man with an old musical soul has a spellbinding voice and fluid fiddle playing.

Tiny Desk Concert with Jason Vieaux and Yolanda Kondonassis. Meredith Rizzo/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Tiny Desk

Jason Vieaux And Yolanda Kondonassis

Watch the Grammy-winning guitarist and acclaimed harpist play music influenced by Africa and Asia.

Back To Top