Future Islands (photo by Justin Flythe, PR)
As Long As You Are
The band Future Islands needed to put distance between themselves and their recent past. They needed to stop, breathe, gather themselves and start again. Now, three years after their last album, they are feeling refreshed, reinvigorated, and clear of mind.
Future Islands are ready to push ahead and that’s what they do on a new collection of songs called As Long As You Are, the sixth album from the Baltimore-based synthpop band which recently expanded from a trio to operating as a quartet. Having played together as Future Islands for nearly 15 years, vocalist and lyricist Samuel T. Herring, keyboardist, programmer and guitarist Gerrit Welmers, and bassist, guitarist and programmer William Cashion recently welcomed touring drummer and percussionist Mike Lowry into the fold as a full-time member.
As Long As You Are comes three years after their last album, The Far Field, and it was the experience of making The Far Field that influenced the band’s approach on this new one. In the aftermath of their breakthrough fourth album, 2014's Singles, the band members found themselves burned out from the years of heavy touring in support of that album. But rather than taking a break, Herring, Welmers and Cashion — who were also weighed down by the pressures of their rising fame — pushed ahead into their next project, the fifth album, The Far Field, issued in 2017.
With a prime slot at the 2017 Coachella festival waiting for them, the band decided to rush through the creation and release of The Far Field in order to have a brand new album to take to Coachella. That decision now angers the band, as Cashion stated to The Guardian, “Rushing to make that deadline was bulls**t.” Herring described the album as “condescending because I wasn’t honest in my writing.”
Compromising, acquiescing, and trusting others were all mistakes the band regrets making with The Far Field and they weren’t going to make these mistakes a second time. With Lowry on board as a full-time member and Herring feeling rejuvenated from a new relationship, Future Islands vowed to slow down and do it right this time around. Being in a comfortable space, and also having grown more mature, also helped the flow of the entire album.
Future Islands took their time crafting their new music, carefully creating the sounds, tempos, and moods we hear on As Long As You Are. The opening song “Glada” possesses a breezy airiness that captures the freedom of a bird in flight. Herring celebrates a rebirth in the song, reflecting on a new relationship with his fiancée, Swedish actress Julia Ragnarsson. The relationship, which has resulted in Herring relocating to Sweden, has brought him happiness, inner peace, and contentment. By the way, “glada” is a Swedish word for “kite.”
The synth-heavy, New Wave brand of rhythmic pop that Future Islands is known for comes bursting forth in the punchy “For Sure.” Besides the propulsive rhythms provided by Cashion and Lowry and Welmers' syrupy thick synths, Future Islands’ other signature characteristic is Herring, their charismatic frontman and lyricist. One of pop music’s most distinctive lead vocalists and dynamic performers, Herring’s rich, expressive baritone is in fine form in darker songs like “Born In A War” and emotionally honest ones like “I Knew You” and the introspective “City’s Face” and “Thrill.”
All songs were written by Herring, Welmers, Cashion and Lowry. The band produced As Long As You Are with engineer Steve Wright, who also mixed the album. It was recorded in Baltimore over the course of a year, from January 2019 until January 2020.
Future Islands mastered their craft many years ago, but As Long As You Are is proof that even an experienced band needs to learn new lessons as they progress. Future Islands is a better band now and that is reflected in their confident new album.