Indie trio Future Islands riding big wave en route to Billings show

2014-03-28T09:30:00Z Indie trio Future Islands riding big wave en route to Billings showBy CHRIS CIOFFI ccioffi@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

What does your band sound like?

It’s a question that Gerrit Welmers gets a lot.

The programmer and keyboardist for the indie-rock trio, Future Islands, has a ready answer.

“We try to describe it as just pop music,” he said simply, and then clarified. “We throw some ‘80s new wave in there, but mainly just pop. With a twist.”

Future Islands plays Monday at the Railyard Ale House in Billings with opener Ed Schrader’s Music Beat.

The band’s synth-pop sensibilities and up-tempo melodies fit well with lead singer Sam Herring’s unique vocal style, which has been described as theatrical.

If there were a Broadway musical made from their four releases, though, it could get a little sad.

The band’s first three offerings featured the same upbeat and synthy vibe, but Herring’s lyrics leaned toward love and heartbreak.

On the new album, “Singles,” the songs could be described as more upbeat and idealistic.

“This album has a variety of different songs on it,” Welmers said.

Herring writes all of the lyrics.

On the song, “Sun in The Morning,” Herring draws parallels to what real love means to him and how he sees this love in the natural world.

”My moon always beaming/Sun in the morning/My sun every morning/She feeds me daily soul,” he sings.

The ideas for their songs come from the band’s collaboration. Each member brings in ideas for a new melody or intro.

“We’ll jam on it, and jam on it more, and then come up with a structure,” Welmers said.

Herring’s lyrics come from somewhere deep within the sessions.

“When we’re all jamming, Sam will start writing the words down and sort of freestyling in his head,” he added.

The band’s roots go back 11 years to Greenville, N.C. The group met as students at East Carolina University. They started off playing house parties, Welmers said. Their practice space was Welmers’ bedroom.

“We couldn’t be really loud, and I had to sit on my bed to play bass,” he said.

After touring around the southeast for several years, the band decided to set up shop in Baltimore, Md.

“We started taking our craft seriously,” he said. “We toured constantly.”

A Future Islands concert is an experience the group takes seriously. They hope it will stir something deep in the souls of those in the audience.

In concert, Herring struts across the stage throwing down some dance moves that rival Mick Jagger.

“A wide array of feelings can come from our shows,” he said, but he hopes they will leave on “a pumped note.”

A recent critique left a lasting impact on Herring, “A fan said; I was terrified; I cried and had the most fun of my entire life.”

With the release of their fourth album, the band is on the verge of breaking out nationally.

Appearances at South by Southwest and on “The Late Show with David Letterman” have given them more exposure. They hope to capitalize on the shot of notoriety with a monthlong tour across the country before taking their act back to Europe for a fifth time.

This tour will take them across the country. They will play some towns they haven’t played before, like Fargo, N.D., and Billings.

The band most enjoys playing in places that may not know of Future Islands, he said.

“People don’t know what to expect, and everybody is really excited,” he said. “We’re just really excited to come to Billings.”

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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