Q&A with Robin Pecknold
Between touring, recording and re-recording, Seattle natives Fleet Foxes have had an intense year. The band’s sophomore album Helplessness Blues came out this May to critical acclaim.On the record, singer and frontman Robin Pecknold’s words and vocals float on cooing harmonies and swimmy, reverb-heavy instrumentation. Pecknold recently took time out during a sound check in Big Sur, Calif., to talk to Assistant Diversions Editor Allison Hussey about Fleet Foxes and the band’s current happenings.
DIVERSIONS: How is the tour going so far?
ROBIN PECKNOLD: It’s going good. We played a show in Berkeley last night at The Greek, which was really, really fun.
DIVE: Why did you choose The Walkmen for your opener on this tour?
RP: I’ve been a huge fan of theirs since their first album, and we knew we wanted a really solid band that everyone would be really stoked to see every night, and they’re one of the few that really qualify. It’s been really kind of surreal to see them every night, because we’ve been fans for so long.
DIVE: What can your audience expect from a Fleet Foxes show?
RP: We have a bunch of projections now that my brother made. He directs all of our music videos and he made these rad projections for the show, so we have this big visual element to it now.
We play about twenty songs, it’s just sort of a chill. We try to make it as good as possible.
DIVE: You maintain a pretty strong online presence — is that important to your band?
RP: Twitter is kind of a fun way to show different sides of yourself, maybe, or just talk to people. Just sort of keep in touch. That’s the only one that I really pay attention to. I don’t really use Facebook or MySpace or whatever.
DIVE: In Helplessness Blues, you mentioned a few times both the “wide-eyed walker” and a place called Innisfree. What are those and what is their significance?
RP: Innisfree is—I think it’s from a Yeats poem — but for me that poem is typed up and posted on the wall at my grandparents’ cabin in eastern Washington. It’s been up there for, like, thirty years.
I was there last year while we were working on the record, and I noticed that again. It just became sort of like a cipher, kind of a knowingly unrealistic dream or something. The wide-eyed walker, I guess, is just a character in the album. Again, sort of a someone with a knowingly unrealistic perspective.
DIVE: What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment when it comes to music?
RP: I don’t know. I’m pretty proud of the two records we’ve done. I think that would be the sort of main accomplishment would be just putting out, finishing albums. I think there are a couple of songs that I feel like I really got across what I wanted to get across. “Montezuma” and “The Shrine,” those are my favorite accomplishment-type songs on the new album.
DIVE: What was the biggest challenge with making Helplessness Blues?
RP: Probably having to re-mix it. We went to mix it last September, and we spent, like, two weeks doing that, and it just didn’t work out. We had to re-record and re-mix the whole album. Er, not re-record the whole album, but re-record some stuff, and we mixed the whole record.
It ended up working out for the best, for sure. That was a really challenging period after that mixing period, that kind of failed mixing session. We really had to power through the rest of it without losing our minds completely.
DIVE: What about your success has most surprised you?
RP: Probably the different age range of the fans. Most of them are pretty young, but then there’s some very young fans and some fairly elderly fans, which I wasn’t really expecting. I guess I didn’t really have an idea of what it would be, but I wasn’t really expecting that.
DIVE: You recently relocated from Seattle to Portland. What motivated that?
RP: I mostly just wanted to come home and be in a new city from when we were coming home from tours. That was probably the main idea. I moved right before we started going on tour, and that was sort of the main reason — wanting to come home and feeling excited about being in a new place.
DIVE: What question are you most tired of hearing?
RP: There’s none that I get a lot that I don’t want to answer, but sometimes I get stupid ones, like “Who has the best beard?” or something.
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