Future Islands' new album is titled 'As Long As You Are'.
Future Islands have been through a lot in the run up to the release of their sixth studio album, 'As Long As You Are'.
Standing out, though, is the global pandemic, one which caused the forced separation of the band's lyricist and vocalist, Samuel Herring, from his partner (who lives in Sweden).
Other personal and professional trials and tribulations of the Maryland synthpop group are present, and it's these events, Samuel says, that have shaped the introspective nature of the band's newest studio release.
"When you write songs for the people you think are your audience. . . you're actually speaking down to them. . . you're just giving them an emotion." - Samuel Herring
Despite a recent happy reunion with his partner, given 2020 Samuel often finds himself in a state of foreboding. "Unfortunately, the effects of this pandemic aren't going to disappear if, or when, there's a vaccine.
"It's going to be something that's a mental stain on the world for years. For everyone, for children that are going through this are going to carry this.
"I think there'll be a lot of PTSD and anxiety marked on our global consciousness, and that's scary.
"You can't go through this and not be affected. Being reunited with my lady made everything go away, but I think about those five months, and it still hurts."
Addressing themes of loneliness within the album and reflecting on the parallels with his own relationships, Samuel began to think loneliness isn't at all about being alone. "Like when you're in a crowd of people, you can still be alone," he says.
"In a way, the album title – which we came up with during this pandemic – in a way is also representative of that feeling of belief and reassurance that maybe isn't doubt, but we have something to believe in.
"For me it became, 'as long as you're there, I'll be ok here, even though we're not together, I know you're there', and that gives me some hope and strength.
"That title is dank, and applied to a lot of things, but when it becomes a pandemic, the word 'long' became loaded!"
There is one word that resonates deeply as you listen to the sonic elements and passionate emotion of the album, and that is density.
'As Long As You Are' is a work of incredible density, and yet, it feels so light. A remarkable dichotomy.
As a full, multi-textural package there's a lot going, but when you pick it apart, it's easier to bear – much like that sensation of loneliness in a big crowd.
By unpacking often delicate and intrusive sentiments, Samuel was reduced to a state of introspection. "Sonically with this record, I feel like we were trying to put as much into it as possible," he says.
"Mixing it for the first time – this was the first time we've co-produced a record – being there through the process instead of letting someone else decide what the song was supposed to sound like, we were very much about building in, carving away, building in, carving away, allowing certain sounds to come forward, trying to get every, little sound and space.
"Lyrically, I wanted the voice to be very forward. In the ear, intimate. I don't know if I can give ourselves complete credit for those things as choices so much as [they were] hopes, if that makes sense; to be able to cover that amount of ground and reach emotional qualities."
Samuel attests the emotional complexity expanding into every crevice of 'As Long As You Are' wouldn't have existed on releases like 2014's 'Singles' or 2017's 'The Far Field'.
"A big thing was to allow for songs to come back into our album fold, that we had lost on our previous two albums but would have been in our second ['In The Evening Air'] and third ['On The Water'] albums," he says.
Again, even in their efforts to be uninhibited – in thought, in feeling, in musicality – Future Islands are still creating from a very deep place.
"The big thing with this record is, we were unhappy [with] our last album, we felt we rushed it and didn't lean into the things that were going on in our actual lives and talking about them.
"When you write songs for the people you think are your audience and what they want to hear, you're actually speaking down to them, not giving them the chance to find their own emotions; you're just giving them an emotion.
"This album was, I was really trying to go back internal and find real inspiration from things in my life, as they became.
"Not like 'I need to write a song so I'm going to sit down and write a song, pull a feeling out'. I was really wanting for the instrumentals to strike when they needed to, when they gave a feeling."