Editor’s note: This article was originally published April 22, 2014
Future Islands vocalist Samuel T. Herring’s passionate performances include unorthodox vocal stylings that shift seamlessly from a smooth croon to the kind of guttural growl usually reserved for death-metal frontmen. Then there’s the dancing. Herring takes the grounded stance of a fighter and hops from foot to foot in a bizarre box step variation. He swivels his hips, beats his chest and cocks his head to the beat.
His moves won the Internet when the Baltimore-based indie pop outfit made their network television debut eight days before traveling to Austin for their first appearance at the South by Southwest Music Festival. They took the stage on David Letterman’s "Late Show" and threw down a career-changing rendition of "Seasons (Waiting on You)" that became a viral sensation and has been watched more than a million times in the month and a half since it was posted. Much of the traffic came in the first week as the clip was passed around top tier national music blogs. Consequently, Future Islands, a band with more than eight years of hard touring experience, came into SXSW 2014 surrounded by the thunderous buzz of a hot new thing.
We talked to vocalist Samuel Herring and keyboard player Gerrit Whelmers about the band’s characteristic sound, the current tour and their SXSW experience. You can read more about that here. (paywall) Herring also shared a story about the band’s first trip to Austin, when they learned that the locals’ love of free liquor is not limited to SXSW:
"The first time we were there we played at the Beauty Bar to about 15 people…We were on tour with our friends Ear Power. This was like August of 2008. So we were playing with this [local] band … they’re all really excited because they got this Red Bull sponsorship and the dude keeps telling us how he’s like been working on this Red Bull sponsorship deal for a long time … So anyways us and Ear Power play to these 15 people and we’re really psyched and then at eleven they were gonna start giving out these free drinks … Red Bull and vodka drinks because this band was going on and then all of a sudden like 200 people swarm in there at eleven and get their free drinks. This band plays and then everybody leaves and we’re like, what the hell just happened? Where were all those people when we were playing? "
The experience didn’t sour Herring on Austin. The band played a skate park the next day and ate plenty of tasty tacos. They love Austin, he said. Herring and crew also won’t have to worry where the crowd is tomorrow night. Their show at the Mohawk has been sold out for weeks.