As Long As You Are

As Long As You Are

If 2014’s Singles was Future Islands’ unexpected breakthrough, its follow-up, 2017’s The Far Field, was a reminder to slow down. “We’d played 800 shows and then we did Letterman, and all of a sudden, our star was on the rise for the first time ever,” frontman Samuel T. Herring tells Apple Music. “At 30 years old, we were in the spotlight, which is kind of weird. Things just got bigger than we could control, and we essentially gave a lot of decision-making away, to make our lives easier. What we're trying to do now is put the load back on our own shoulders.” While The Far Field was made quickly in an effort to capitalize on the momentum that Singles had generated, the Baltimore outfit spent an entire year recording and rerecording, reworking and rewriting all of As Long As You Are until it felt finished. The result finds Herring, newly in love, singing about pressing political issues (a first) just as soulfully as he would matters of the heart. “It's funny, because I told my partner, when we first started dating, that I would never write a song about her,” he says. “I didn't want to screw it up, like I did all the other people that I wrote songs about. But then you find yourself in those moments: You write about your life, and what you feel. Just having that person in my life—someone who really trusted me, someone who I trusted—gave me more space and confidence to write about things that I was afraid of.” Here, he walks us through every song on the record. Glada “A glada is a type of bird in Sweden, a bird of prey with a large V-shaped tail. That song was written in the countryside in Southern Sweden, the Skåne region. A big part of Swedish life is spending time in nature—in the summertime, you're basically not allowed to go inside your house until it's time to go to sleep. The song is about the rebirth of spring, and the rebirth of feeling love again, with Julia in the countryside. And I think the bigger question in the song is the question of feeling deserving of love. When we met, I'd given up on the idea that I'd ever find that kind of love, the kind that makes you feel giddy—like a young love. We deserve the good feelings, and the bird is just evocative of that.” For Sure “I feel like our music has always been imbued with certain amounts of hope, within the darkness. It's the idealism of a song like ‘Light House’—which is a song about suicide—and hoping that someone will save you from yourself. People find hope in that song because it’s there. This song in particular is filled with those understandings of love and trust, and feeling free to be oneself. And being given the courage to do the things that we want to do in this world, because someone else gives us that courage.” Born in a War “I work completely off feeling and vibe. I don't really have an agenda—the world is an inspiration, especially right now. To me, gun violence in America is a huge issue. And growing up—where me and [keyboardist] Gerrit [Welmers] and [bassist] William [Cashion] grew up—everybody has guns and everybody goes hunting. And then they go to church. It's just a way of life. The second verse of this song is about being a man, and being told to man up, saying, ‘Why don't you have a gun? What's wrong with you?’ One of my favorite lines of this album is ‘Raised up in a town that's 80 proof/Shotgun shells under every roof, every jail.’ We are in that mind state, a mental jail of our own making.” I Knew You “This whole song is a true story. It’s one of those things written about a person that I said I would never write another song about, as an agreement—someone that's canon in Future Islands' work. They pulled some crazy shit one night. And I have to write this down. I have to tell this story. ‘This has lived on record and I'm going to end it on record,’ is how I felt. I was told that I was poison to this person, and that I ruined their life. I say it in the song: I was happy to hear these things. This person left with no closure. They left in radio silence. So this was me finally getting closure.” City’s Face “‘City’s Face’ was inspired by a relationship that I was in, my only relationship that I had in Baltimore. It's the relationship that ‘Seasons’ is about, and it's about somebody that really hurt me. They cheated on me a bunch and made me feel paranoid in my own city. I didn't deserve to be treated that way. She didn't deserve to be treated that way. I think I was allowing myself to be a victim, and not owning up to my own bullshit. Hating a place just because of a person is kind of crazy.” Waking “This one I fought with a bit. Sometimes the guys write a song that's so good and catchy that I don't think that I can do anything with it. We're at a point culturally, in our society, where we can't just sit back and not say something, or not do something. It’s as simple as helping your neighbors. That does mean something. It does mean something to say hello. It means something to reach out to people within our communities. That song is about those self-defeating feelings, and trying to get over them. And knowing how the hardest thing sometimes is just starting something, within our daily lives, to better ourselves.” The Painter “To me, ‘The Painter’ is about race in America, and the way that we see things and we paint things. We're art school kids, but I always thought that to be able to make a painting that everyone saw the same exact way was the greatest possible thing that you could do. It's like, ‘Why can't we see it the same way?’ And understanding that we fight these ideological battles, but this isn't something that we can debate over, when it's people's lives that we're talking about. So ‘The Painter’ is about red and blue, and it's about black and white. And it's about red, white, and blue, and what the hell that means. I think it's about people that paint it the way they want to see it, and say that they don't see color, but that's all they see. It's a charged song, and it's begging of those people to open your eyes. Because this isn't a painting, this is life.” Plastic Beach “I have had issues with my body since I was cognizant of what that meant. This song is about those struggles with self. I spent a lifetime in the mirror trying to change myself. And all those ideas of the way you love your family and who they are, and then you look at your own face. How can you hate it, when it has those bits and pieces of your own family in it? I think a lot of things were heightened through our visibility, through Letterman and things like that, where you can become a meme or a joke online. It's easy for people not to see how that might affect us. ‘Plastic Beach’ is a song that's a thank-you to the people who see us for who we are, who see people for who they are. And thanking the people around you, for loving you for those reasons. I'm getting a little emotional talking about it.” Moonlight “It's very much a love song. It's also a love song about depression. And another song about acceptance. The line ‘So we just laid in bed all day/I couldn't see/I had a cloud in my arms’ is to say, ‘I was carrying a rain cloud.’ This gray thing—it’s my depression. ‘But if I asked you/Would you say it's only rain?’ Which is to say, it doesn't matter how you feel, I still love you. You don't have to apologize for those feelings, I still love you.” Thrill “The setting of this song is Greenville, North Carolina, where some of us went to college. And it's about feeling completely alone in Greenville. It's about drug addiction. It's about alcohol abuse. It’s about being drunk at the bar, being refused drinks with no friends around. It's about being drunk on the way to the bar. It's about being drunk on the way home from the bar. And it's about that isolation, and that anger, and that fear of feeling different in this place. Greenville is a quintessential college town, and in a big way, it's a quintessential Southern town. There's definitely issues of race there. On the north side of town, there’s the Tar River, which is famous for flooding. This song is about this diluted, dirty river that's been used for hundreds of years by Americans. It’s about all of that stuff spilling over into the river, spilling over into us, our American experience, and that question of how will we feel when this water rushes over us—will we sink or swim in it?” Hit the Coast “I had this old tabletop desk recorder that we used to record jam sessions and pratice tapes on, back in 2009 or 2011. It’s the actual deck that we sampled here. I played a loop through the vocal mic, recorded that, and then we laced it in. If you listen back, right when I say that line, ‘Pressing play on this old tape was a bad move/Reduced to hiss/Some record I love/Some record I've missed,’ you'll hear it. And then the song ends with me pushing stop on the tape—just that big p’chunk. Sometimes I think a record label will usually tell you to start big, go with your hit, go with your single for the first song, and end things more somber. And we just wanted to flip it on its head. It made sense to end on this kind of triumphant note.”

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