There’s something vaguely religious and impenetrable about Fleet Foxes, but there is also something romantic and safe about them. So in this video for “White Winter Hymnal,” when bearded clay people control the stars with the wheel of a ship that every so often starts going too fast, it makes total sense. What doesn’t make sense is when claymation beards move with minds of their own, each individual strand wiggling in the wind. Creepy. After the jump check out Sam Hockley-Smith’s Gen F on Fleet Foxes from F54.
Fleet Foxes’ Great Escape
Story by Sam Hockley-Smith
Photography by John Francis Peters
Being sick sucks. When I talk to lead-vocalist and acoustic guitarist Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes, he’s laid up in a hotel in DC in the middle of tour, feverish and barely able to finish his thoughts. This is the exact opposite of how Fleet Foxes sound. Live and on record, they soar unselfconsciously, their four-part harmonies conjuring awesomely unfortunate images of hawks swooping across blue skies and flowers blooming. This is not what their lyrics are literally about, but they might as well be, because more than anything, Fleet Foxes make music that feels more than it describes. “Every song ends up how it will end up,” Pecknold says. “And that is a symptom of what our instincts end up telling us to do.” And their instincts couldn’t be farther removed from their surroundings. Fleet Foxes are from Seattle, a city where most bands are met by crossed arms and permanent poker faces and where it seems like it’s only sunny for ten minutes a year. (This isn’t a stereotype, I spent 21 years of the first 22 years of my life living there.)
But now Fleet Foxes are playing their sweeping alternate world Northwest ballads to audiences around the country that have been hording any Fleet Foxes song they can get their hands on until the release of their self-titled Sub Pop debut in June. At a show in Austin, Pecknold sat on a chair while his bandmates Nick Peterson, Syke Skjelset, Christian Wargo and Casey Westcott stood around him. Their melodies and lyrics converged into a blissful mash of folk-hymns. “That’s something any genre of music can benefit from, strong or…” Pecknold trails off, too sick to focus, and finally finishes with, “…like, intentional melodies.”
Folk music might be back, but when almost every band is a downer, it doesn’t hurt to hear music that reminds you of the last time you went to a renaissance fair and thought it was cool, before you discovered that girls were cooler. Listening to Fleet Foxes you want them to be as cut off from the modern world as they sound, and when I ask Pecknold if there is anywhere he likes to go to inspire him, he says, “My parent’s basement.” I laugh uncomfortably and he continues, “I like to drive for an hour and be somewhere that’s secluded. There’s a rainforest over on the peninsula.” I’m not sure if he’s saying that because it’s what I want him to say, or because it’s actually true.