It's been six years since the last release from Fleet Foxes. The Seattle-based band's first two records met with critical and commercial success, selling more than 2-million copies and winding up on many a critic's best of list. The music found a home with a large and loyal fan base, but more than half-a-decade is a long wait.
Fleet Foxes' return is full of big ideas and subtle sounds, while retaining the gorgeous vocal harmonies that warmed so many hearts. It's called "Crack-Up" and songwriter and lead singer Robin Pecknold joined Eric Hodge to talk about it.
Below is an excerpt of Eric Hodge's interview with Robin Pecknold of Fleet Fox, edited for length.
Eric Hodge: What happened after Helplessness Blues that led to such a break for you and the band? You went to carpentry school and undergrad at Columbia in New York City. You really went out there.
Robin Pecknold: Everyone really had a lot of other things they wanted to do, myself included. I had been very all-in on music since I was maybe 14. At 26, I felt like I had taken that as far as it could go personally and creatively, and I wanted to broaden my horizons and see if that would change how I thought about music.
Eric Hodge: Are you a good carpenter now?
Robin Pecknold: Terrible. I'm a terrible carpenter. If I'd been a master carpenter, maybe I wouldn't be talking to you right now.
Eric Hodge: A tour with members of other indie bands began to bring you back. You were paying tribute to Gene Clark from The Byrds. What was it about that music and those shows that helped lead you back to Fleet Foxes?
Robin Pecknold: That was such a fun project. It was great to be in a kind of ego-less music project where it was just to honor the music itself and it wasn't any personal reflection or personal statement.
Eric Hodge: Were your band-mates apprehensive about getting back together? Your old friend Skye said "...this has to be something that's not going to make us want to kill ourselves."
Robin Pecknold: Everyone was really excited to do it again, and we had a great time getting to know each other again while we were making the album.
Eric Hodge: You've said "Crack-Up" is more of a team effort. Why did you decide to open up the creative process? How do you think that influenced the songs?
Robin Pecknold: It takes the burden off of me a little bit, in certain ways. Knowing what everyone was good at and leaving room for those things, and not trying to do all of it out of a kind-of control freak mentality. It opens up for a lot of surprising results, because you have another group of minds mulling over the same set of songs.
Eric Hodge: The opening song "I Am All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar" goes a long way toward letting the listener know what they're in for. Like other songs on "Crack-Up" it has many movements. Was it challenging to put so many ideas into a song?
Robin Pecknold: Maybe it's like the whole album itself shrunk into six minutes. The first major contrast transition maybe a minute into that song, it was kind of done to signal to the listener that this is what you're in for, and you should kind of stay on your toes at certain points.
Eric Hodge: "The Crack Up" is the name of an F. Scott Fitzgerald essay that chronicles a kind of existential crisis he went through as he was about to turn forty. I was drawn to the line "...I had been only a mediocre caretaker of most of the things left in my hands, even of my talent." How did this writing affect you?
Robin Pecknold: I did read that back in 2013 or 2012, and at first I was just really struck by the title. I thought it was evocative, and I could imagine it on an album cover and what that record would sound like. The line you mention maybe did resonate maybe more for me back then, but not now. The Fitzgerald essay is pretty fatalist by the end, and this record ends on a light note.
Fleet Foxes' new recording is called "Crack-Up" and it's out now.