Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Once in a lifetime: Future Islands’ great leap forward

Why Future Islands’ tipping point thanks to a TV appearance is the pop story of the year

Future Islands

Fri, May 30, 2014, 10:00


There is one music story to gladden the heart this year. It’s one of those all-round favourites, the tale of a band who’ve become an overnight success after numerous albums, tours and years on the go. It’s also the story of how a random TV appearance can do wonders for you.

In the case of Future Islands, it was their appearance on David Letterman’s TV show in March which sent them from “who?” to “WTF!”. Forget about the three albums before “Singles” came along. Forget about the endless shows they’ve played and tours they’ve done – their first headlining Irish show upstairs in Whelan’s in 2009 has become the GPO in Easter 1916 in Irish indie circles. Forget about everything, bar those three minutes and 40 seconds or so on the TV.

It’s rare to see an actual tipping point happen right in front of your eyes. We’ve seen acts like The National go large after years and years of trying, but can’t attribute that to one action. But Future Islands did it with hundreds of thousands of people in the TV audience watching Sam Herring’s visceral and unstoppable performance.

At every festival the band have played since, the crowds have turned out to see them as their profile has soared. From SXSW in March to the Great Escape earlier this month, Future Islands have become the hottest ticket around. There was so much demand for their Irish show in Vicar Street later this year that another show was added.

The band are reaping the rewards of the long run. But it’s also an indication that, even in a time when social media and new marketing machinations are the way of the walk, something as old-fashioned as a knockout appearance on a TV chat show can have the most amazing knock-on effects.