CMJ: How do the venues in Baltimore shape its scene?
Future Islands - Photo by Annie Lesser
The scene changes depending on the availability of venues. When venues get shut down and don’t exist, it’s hard to have that sense of community. Right now Baltimore could use two or three more solid, steady venues. I wish the legal venue scene would capture some of the energy the illegal scene has.
CMJ: Aren’t people in the local government starting to make it easier to become a legal and legitimate venue because they want the city to be perceived as supporting the arts?
They are, and they aren’t. It largely depends on the demographic you pull and the type of people you’re bringing to your shows. The city’s very corrupt and racist and classist. The club music scene has a very difficult time sustaining. They’re always getting fucked with by the cops, but somehow they find a way to sustain. I think the city’s realizing more and more that this is going to happen and it exists, it brings people to the city. More people move to Baltimore now because the scene is really good. That thing in Rolling Stone
, while it might not make much sense to the bands or the people living within the actual community, I feel like PR people and city council are like, “Oh well did you hear this Rolling Stone
thing? This is pretty great. Maybe we should capitalize on this.” It would be in their best interest to have culture in their city that’s their city’s actual culture.
CMJ: How has the DIY scene treated Future Islands?
DIY culture is extremely important to us. In North Caroline [we played] house parties and more house parties and basements and anywhere that would have us. We’re just now in the last year, seeing more of the business side of things as we get into record labels and PR, and it’s strange to us because we’ve been doing this for eight and a half years. We make passionate music because it comes from that place where it was just some kids and we wanted to play a party for some other kids.
William Cashion (Future Islands, guitar/bass):
It’s a format for all the freaks and weirdos to get to play music that’s not mainstream and maybe doesn’t get a lot of attention. Thousands of bands in the U.S. alone tour this DIY circuit that no one knows about, under the radar.
CMJ: Why was there no Whartscape [the corporate-sponsor-free, volunteer-run, DIY music festival founded by Wham City] this year in Baltimore?
I was one of the main organizers, and I was the only consistent main planner year to year. We did it for five years, and I think it was a pretty good run, and it got to a point where I thought if it got any bigger it wouldn’t be as fun and it would lose some of its energy and magic… Umm, sorry I got distracted. It’s awesome watching Val Kilmer hand out pizza to the kids waiting in line right now. His son Jack is really rad too. Anyway, I just wanted to let it sit for a year and figure out if I wanted to keep doing festivals or maybe try something new. I don’t wanna keep repeating the same thing again and again. We’ll do something new.
CMJ: Slightly tangential, but, how you feel about Lower Dens allowing its song to be in an Exxon Mobil commercial earlier this year?
I’m gonna say no comment on that one, and you can print the “No Comment.”
I don’t need to enter into that argument. I’m gonna opt to have no comment.
CMJ: Finally, Future Islands, you ever gonna include a drummer in the band?
It could happen. You can’t put all your cards on the table.
All photos by Annie Lesser