Band of the Week: Fleet Foxes

Music Features Fleet Foxes
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Hometown: Seattle, Wash.
Fun Fact: Fleet Foxes’ debut album cover sports a painting called Netherlandish Proverbs by Pieter Bruegel. The band's Sun Giant EP cover is a collage made up of photos from the Library of Congress.
Why They're Worth Watching: Fleet Foxes’ rococo harmonies capably quarry the breathless spirit of their parent’s musical zeitgeist with an evergreen ardor of their own.
For Fans Of: Crosby, Stills & Nash, Fairport Convention, Midlake

A small amount of cognitive dissonance joggles the brain when Fleet Foxes’ pastoral frontman, Robin Pecknold, annotates his childhood in Seattle. “When I was a kid, I had horrible allergies in the spring and the summer. Even if just a window was opened I would inhale and it would be bad. I wasn’t an outsider but I didn’t have many friends.” Since Pecknold was detained in his home by his sinuses, he dedicated his ears to his parents’ music collection with longtime friend Ske Skjelset.

“We’re so far removed from their moment in the sun that it’s not really something to rebel against. If anything it’s the other way around,” Pecknold remembers. As they ran their fingers over those well-worn LPs in the basement the two friends came across music from Crosby, Stills & Nash, Judee Sill, Love, Simon & Garfunkel and Fairport Convention. “I started playing guitar when I was about 13, but I knew at 14 that I wanted to focus on learning music instead of college,” Pecknold says.

A seemingly incongruous prod toward that goal came from Super Nintendo soundtracks like Final Fantasy III and Chrono Trigger. “The music was well-composed and interesting, but so repetitive. It's really memorable but it never gets tiring. The music enhanced that feeling of escapism in those games,” he says.

You can hear that escapist sentiment on Fleet Foxes’ proper Sub Pop debut. Following luminous EP, Sun Giant, Pecknold continued his success with family friend and producer Phil Ek (Built To Spill, The Shins, Band of Horses) with flourishes of modern reverb serving as the backbone.

After Pecknold started to practice guitar with Skjelset, mysteriously, his allergies began to subside. By his mid-teens he could enter the natural world without his sinuses imploding, and no doubt some of that culture shock and awe snuck itself into Fleet Foxes’ inaugural studio sessions. The now hirsute 21-year-old assembled three more friends to sing the block harmonies and play his harmonic baroque pop. Alongside Pecknold, keyboardist Casey Westcott (Seldom), drummer Nick Peterson (Headphones, Pedro the Lion) and bassist Christian Wargo (Crystal Skulls) now comprise Fleet Foxes.

The band's quick-turn explorations of folk tropes link well with a moniker that evokes animals often resigned to the role of the proverbial trickster. In actuality, to Pecknold the moniker is quite arbitrary. “It sounded like something an English fox hunter would say using fleet as an adjective for speedy,” he says.

The acoustically-inclined Seattle band has certainly tapped into a particular ilk of people that devour indie-folk acts on blogs everywhere, resulting in a rabid following. The blogosphere’s manic enthusiasm for new bands often becomes deflated later on, which instigated a recent Fleet Foxes MySpace quote ("Hey friends. It's just music. We really love you.") “If I could have that quote say ‘don’t expect anything,’ I would put that,” Pecknold quips. With a band as prone to reinvention as Fleet Foxes to helm, it’s hard to doubt his forecast.