by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
How to describe Future Islands’ new record, On the Water (Thrill Jockey)? Well, if you’re Pitchfork, who gave the record a 7.7 rating, you say: “With the songs’ energy scaled back, the efforts of the other two band members come to the fore. Gerrit Welmers handles the keyboards and programming, bringing an evocative, setting-sun vibe to slowburners like “The Great Fire” (a soulful duet with Jenn Wasner of fellow Marylanders Wye Oak), while William Cashion’s guitars have the same low-end lurch of early New Order riffs.”
I picked the above quote because: 1) I agree with the New Order comparison, and 2) guitarist Cashion agreed to do a quick email Q&A, where he talks about that New Order influence (undeniable on tracks like “Before the Bridge”), the album’s concept (or lack thereof) and his love for The Faint.
Lazy-i: I hear what sounds like New Order in your music, as well as other Factory Records bands. Is that the music you listened to in your “formative” years? What other bands were an influence, and how do you balance their influence when you’re creating your own music?
William Cashion: We’re definitely fans of Factory Records, and personally I’m more into their earlier releases. There are many bands that we draw inspiration from. When we were writing/recording On the Water, I was listening to Fleetwood Mac, Brian Eno, Durutti Column, and Cocteau Twins. But our influences range from that side of things to Slayer to early ’90s hip hop. I think we have found a balance in our music, but it’s not something we really talk about or do consciously. Speaking of balance, in our song called “Balance” we used what Chester calls “disco” cymbals… and that was inspired by the Grateful Dead.
When writing the music on On the Water, did you set out early create a concept album or did the concept emerge organically as the songs were written? Some writers need the concept up front to give them a structure to work with when it’s time to write the lyrics. Are you aware of the concept when performing live, or do you file that away for the sake of the evening’s show?
William: When the album was written and recorded, we never thought of it as a concept album. It’s actually not a concept album. I think our one-sheet may have been misleading regarding the “concept.” It’s a nautical album, for sure… But not your typical Ziggy Stardust kinda thing.
According to your history, the band formed while attending art school in North Carolina. Did anyone graduate, and, beyond music, are any still involved in creating art? How has that collective art background helped the band?
William: I graduated with a BFA in painting & drawing back in 2006. Sadly I haven’t really worked on visual art much since then – I’ve devoted most of my energy to the band. I do hope to get back into it in the future – sooner than later, fingers crossed!
Despite the internet and tools like Spotify, it’s getting tougher for bands (especially new bands) to get gain awareness in smaller markets like Omaha. How do you generate a crowd in a market without a decent radio station? A good review in Pitchfork will only go so far.
William: We’ve always just toured really hard and tried to gain an audience “the old-fashioned way.” Until the last few years, we never had a publicist or a label behind us, so touring was really the only way for us to get the word out there. So I’m not really sure how to answer this…but I can say that we do have some pretty bitchin’ tour t-shirts that will only be available at our merch table!
Have you been to Omaha before? If not, what’s your preconceived notion of what Omaha is?
William: We’ve never been to Omaha before, and we’re really excited to finally play there. I was into The Faint around the time Danse Macabre came out, they’re my fave Omaha band.
Check out Future Islands’ “Before the Bridge” below:
Future Islands plays tonight at The Waiting Room with Ed Schrader’s Music Beat (Load Records). $10, 9 p.m.
Also tonight, Real Estate is playing at Slowdown Jr. with Big Troubles (Slumberland Records). Real Estate’s new album, Days (Domino Records), got a whopping 8.7 in Pitchfork (here). $10, 9 p.m.
Too bad these two shows — which share the same potential audience — couldn’t have been held together at one venue.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
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