The Psychotic Non-Verbal Genius Of Samuel Herring

October 10, 2018

I suppose there were more important things going on in the world on March 3, 2014, than Future Islands making its network debut on the Late Show, but I doubt it. What I remember is lead singer Samuel Herring acting nuts and being utterly transfixing, even with the sound off, which is how I watched the performance because I was on the phone. The man on the screen, even muted, was mesmerizing. Even though I couldn’t hear the words or the melodies, I was able to follow his heartbroken story through the sweep of his gestures. It was a master class in expressive non-verbal communication. In the space of a four-minute song he gave us the following moves:

He Beat His Chest Like King Kong
He Pulled On His Collar Like A Deranged Rodney Dangerfield
He Preached To The Heavens
He Reached For The Audience Like He Wanted To Pull Us Out Of A Moving Car

It was all riveting. It made me think of the necessity to be visually arresting when giving a presentation. It’s not easy to hold an audience’s attention these days when we’re all so distracted. No one’s really listening. Recent research out of Florida State University and Michigan State University says that two months after listening to a talk the average listener will only remember 25 percent of what was said. And the forgetting starts quickly. The same research shows that we lose one-half to one-third of the content within eight hours. So how do you be remembered?

Enter Samuel Herring. That guy just decided to let it rip. He must have thought that people can love his performance or hate it but he was going to be himself, with all of his unbridled eccentricities on display. It certainly was a gutsy performance. And it worked for Letterman. Dave, a cranky sort, just about lost his mind when it was over. “I’ll take all of that you got! That was wonderful!” He started bragging about the band to Paul, even though the band was standing right behind him. It was like he was a 16-year-old falling in love with a group for the first time. It was lovely to see. He even made a gesture with his own right hand that I had never seen him do in 33 years: he went in for a second handshake.

Maybe there’s something we can all learn from Herring. Be bold. Be fearless. Go big. Put yourself out there. Be vulnerable. Dare to be unforgettable. Dare to be ridiculous. Why the hell not?

Take a look at the performance yourselves. Do it my way if you want. Watch it with the sound off. I promise you won’t miss a thing.