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A conversation with Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes broke out of Seattle WA with their self-titled debut in 2008, and solidified themselves as artists with 2011’s “Helplessness Blues.” On June 16th they will release their third full-length album, “Crack-Up.”

Crack-Up holds onto Fleet Foxes harmonies, but breaks away from traditional song structure. Some songs approach the ten minute mark, some have sprawling chasms of space within the songs, all the while giving the album atmosphere though use of found sounds like a closing door or using the percussive sound of the oceans own waves to serve as an “instrument” on the album.


Robin Pecknold is the lead singer and writer for Fleet Foxes. Here he talks about how he “writes” a song, Crack-Up’s thesis statement, and tackling loneliness.


This version is edited. For an unabridged version, listen to the podcast version in the audio player below.


Justin Barney: So, I was just listening to Crack-Up. Listening to the album you really have to focus in. What are some of the things that you played around with to get that?


Robin Pecknold: I would do this thing where I took the whole idea of “writing songs” very literally.  And I would write songs without music or lyrics attached, as if I was just describing-like if you played me a song and I had to just write words that were describing that song.

And, so in doing that there was like this incredible freedom in that because you can just write something without having to record it, you know?

So, I had these really insane songs that didn’t exist and then certain songs on the album kind of grew out of how free that way of “writing” was.


Justin: Yeah.  Could you give me an example of your “writing?” You know, of what that looked like?    


Robin: Oh, it would be like a paragraph where you’re just using abstract language.  Like “this instrument comes in here and then everything just falls away.  And a new plateau is reached.” You know, stuff like that.


Justin: Oh, that is so interesting.  So like, a literary way of writing a song. That’s crazy.


Robin: Yeah, literally writing a song.


Justin: What is the thesis statement of Crack-Up?


Robin: Um, I didn’t really think about this while working on the record, I guess, but I’ve had to think about it a little bit now.

I would say that it’s sort of-if there’s a thesis both for the record and just what I’ve realized in my own life over the last few years, it would just be that “No one can go it alone.”

And no one is an island.

That’s the problem that’s presented maybe. You know, at the beginning of the album it’s very small, this kind of wounded voice saying “I’m all that I need.” But obviously not really sounding like they believe that very much.  And then hopefully at the end of the album there’s like a closeness or a togetherness that’s arrived at.


Making the record I definitely felt together and not alone. Finally.

Justin: Yeah. Then is your connection with other people a result of the music, or is the music a result of your connection with other people? Does that make sense?


Robin: Yeah, it does make sense. It seems reciprocal.  It also seems like the album is the thing that solves the problem that the album is about.

Like making the record, it solves the problem that I had, you know? Which was feeling alone, basically.

Making the record I definitely felt together and not alone. Finally.