By Michael Moran
Starving artists dream of the day they can turn in their server apron, or whip their final overpriced coffee drink, or remove that Lyft mustache decal from their car, and begin making a living solely off their craft. Baltimore drummer Mike Lowry remembers when he rolled what he thought would be his final bin of silverware to launch out on what would surely be a life of everything 80’s music videos promised. “Ha,” says Mike of his youthful naïveté, “I’m just lucky that I worked at a place that supported what I was doing and were flexible and took me back.” When you devote your life to performing, that’s kind of how it goes. “There’s no, no going back,” says Mike of the server by day/musician at night routine. But you won’t find much bitterness or resentment over the pitfalls of starving artist life with this dedicated musician who has cut his teeth over the decades with such local favorites as UNKLE, Lake Trout, Big in Japan, and many others. Mike is grateful for the opportunity to do what he loves.
“I really wanted to be part of a scene,” Mike explains, on his simple goals in being a Baltimore musician. “There was quite a close-knit DIY scene I was somewhat involved with in high school and I kind of got away from that for a while and just really wanted to find that again.”
If not working a day job and performing to large audiences are worked into the equation, all the better. Mike adds, “Being in a popular band was definitely an aim, but I think that I thought that that would mean I would be able to make a living.”
Now performing with local sensation turned international success, Future Islands, Mike Lowry certainly isn’t waiting tables and won’t likely be anytime soon.
Future Islands, the synth-rock rock outfit transplanted from North Carolina to Baltimore, made their network television debut on David Letterman’s Late Show last year and their success has skyrocketed. Performers know that a late night talk show appearance isn’t the direct-to-fame pass it may have been in decades past (just ask all the comedians who have traveled through Conan or Kimmel and can still be spotted regularly at the open mic down the street ) but the FI performance was so stunningly, captivating that it made a lasting impact. Millions of YouTube views, plus Letterman’s visibly genuine approval, as well as a string of inner-monologue call backs on subsequent episodes (Dave would shout “let’s dance!” and cut to footage of singer, Sam Herring getting down) have allowed Future Islands to play to massive audiences around the globe. I even caught their single “Seasons” at the Gap (my sisters forced me to buy pants from there). Oh, and the band just made another appearance on Letterman on the 28th of April. Dave was so impressed he promised “You’re welcome anytime, I won’t be here but you’re welcome anytime.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPmdeD7riJg
No musician’s journey would be complete without the request bottoming out on drugs and alcohol and the sobering up afterward. Though Mike’s rock bottom moment may not be as spectacularly, Behind the Music worthy as Nikki Sixx’s or Bobby Brown’s. Mike’s moment of clarity came as he realized he was 36-years-old and drunkenly pushing a pizza box along a street he was crawling home on) rest assured his decision get sober was prompted by much darker depths of alcoholic tragedy. Being in a successful band while sober hasn’t been a burden for Mike. “I feel like now I’m getting a second chance to really enjoy this crazy ride I’m on.” In contrast to is blurry days of touring past, “drinking then and being on the road was such a struggle I was constantly hung over, constantly making an utter ass of myself and I missed out on so much of the experience…I want to be fully aware, able to experience and remember all of it. So I can tell my grandkids about it.”
There’s something childlike about Future Island’s innocent excitement and love of music. Lead singer Sam dances on stage like a child without fear of ridicule, without irony. Mike Lowry seems to have also tapped into this childlike sense of awe at the whole thing, eternally grateful for his experiences and still ecstatic to be doing what he loves.