Fleet Foxes is an American indie folk band formed in Seattle,
Washington. Their first two albums were released by the
Sub Pop and
Bella Union record labels, with their third by Nonesuch and Bella
Union. The band came to prominence in 2008 with the release of their
second EP, Sun Giant, and their self-titled debut album. Both received
much critical praise and reviewers often noted the band's use of
refined lyrics and vocal harmonies. Fleet Foxes' second studio album,
Helplessness Blues, was released on May 3, 2011, and their third
album, Crack-Up, was released on June 16, 2017 on Nonesuch Records.
1.1 Formation and early years (2005–06)
1.2 Rise to prominence (2007–08)
1.3 Second album (2009–12)
1.4 Hiatus and Crack-Up (2013–present)
5 External links
Formation and early years (2005–06)
Robin Pecknold and Skyler Skjelset both attended Lake Washington High
School in Kirkland, a suburb of Seattle, and soon became close
friends. Pecknold and Skjelset bonded over a mutual appreciation of
Bob Dylan and
Neil Young and began making music together. Their
parents influenced their musical tastes early on—Skjelset's mother
Peggi was a keen listener to both Dylan and
Hank Williams while
Pecknold's father Greg was a member of The Fathoms, a local 1960s soul
group. The two shared an interest in the music of Dylan and Brian
Wilson. Pecknold played bass for Seattle's
Dolour on a US tour in
2005, shortly before forming the first incarnation of Fleet Foxes.
Originally going by the name "The Pineapples", a name clash with
another local band prompted a change and Pecknold decided upon "Fleet
Foxes", suggesting that it was "evocative of some weird English
activity like fox hunting". Pecknold took up the role of principal
songwriter, both singing and playing guitar, while Skjelset played
lead guitar. The original lineup was filled out by Casey Wescott on
keyboards and backing vocals, Bryn Lumsden on bass and Nicholas
Peterson on drums and backing vocals. Pecknold's late-sixties pop
style caught the attention of the
Phil Ek and he
helped them record their first demo in 2006, the self-released Fleet
Foxes EP. Ek was impressed with the band's songwriting, and on
hearing Pecknold for the first time, noted, "It was obvious he had
talent coming out of his ass." By late 2006 the
Seattle press began
to take notice of the band; Tom Scanlon of the
Seattle Times stated
that he was impressed with the band's lyrics and musical maturity.
By the end of the year, Lumsden had been replaced on bass by Craig
Curran, who would also handle many of the band's vocal harmonies.
With growing popularity on the local circuit, the band set about
making their first album in early 2007, spending time in the studio
with producer Ek in addition to recording material at home. However,
funds for recording were tight, so the band members cobbled together
what funds they had, which limited the time they had in the studio,
and so the majority of the tracks were recorded in various band
members' apartments, other spaces, or the basement of Pecknold's
Rise to prominence (2007–08)
Fleet Foxes performing in Copenhagen, 2008.
Fleet Foxes were becoming increasingly popular and by late 2007, they
had attracted over a quarter of a million song plays over two months
Myspace site. Although the band had not released any of
their recordings, they benefited from word of mouth exposure and their
success soon translated into a record deal, signing with Warner Music
subsidiary record label
Sub Pop on January 18, 2008. According to
Sub Pop's A&R, Sue Busch, at the time of signing the band was
still a relatively primitive set-up, being without manager or legal
representation. Robin's sister Aja Pecknold then assumed the role of
band manager. The band's frontman, Robin Pecknold, attributes much
of their success and popularity to illegal file sharing.
The band tracked their second EP, Sun Giant, at Bear Creek Studio and
performed overdubs and mixed at Seattle's Avast! Recording Co., around
the same time in preparation for upcoming tours.
Fleet Foxes began
their spring tour with another Northwest band
Blitzen Trapper on
February 28, 2008. Before the recording of the EP, bassist Curran
was replaced by Christian Wargo, whose voice, like that of his
predecessor, would become an important part of the band's harmony
blend. The band's performances, first at the
SXSW festival in March
2008, and then the
Sasquatch! festival in May 2008, moved the band
into the public consciousness, notably attracting attention from the
European press for the first time.
Sun Giant was released internationally on April 8, 2008 and the
group's brand of folk, rock and pop, marked by their use of vocal
harmonies, was well received by the press. Despite the warm
critical reception, the group said that the EP did not represent their
full ambitions, serving merely as a CD to sell while on tour. In
May 2008, the band chose to extend their North American and European
tour until September in support of their forthcoming album. At this
Josh Tillman replaced Peterson on drums and backing vocals.
Their first full-length album, Fleet Foxes, was released shortly
afterwards on 3 June 2008. The album achieved similar critical
success as the previous EP.
Fleet Foxes received four out of five
stars from Rolling Stone, which compared it to the likes of the Beach
Boys, Animal Collective, and Crosby, Stills & Nash, and a 9.0
out of 10 in a review by Pitchfork Media, sharing the website's album
of the year rank with the
Sun Giant EP.
The Guardian was
particularly complimentary, awarding the album five stars and
declaring it "a landmark in American music — an instant
classic". On June 24, 2008,
Fleet Foxes went to No. 1 on the
CMJ Radio 200 Chart. The album achieved an average rating of
87/100 from 30 critic reviews on the aggregator website
While the group enjoyed moderate success in the United States, Fleet
Foxes was better received in Europe, selling over 200,000 copies in
the five months following its release. The sales were matched with
critical plaudits and their debut album won Uncut's first ever Music
Award 2008 prize. Uncut's editor, Allan Jones, said the album
"showed impeccable musicianship, and although you could trace its
antecedents, it sounded totally unique.
Fleet Foxes was just a
glorious debut." The band sold out music venues for their tours of
Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, reaffirming their
At the end of 2008,
Fleet Foxes was rated album of the year by
Billboard's Critic's Choice and in Metacritic's end of year best album
round-up it appeared in 17 lists, topping six of them. Furthermore, it
had sold over 408,000 copies in North America and over 100,000 copies
in the United Kingdom, making it the first gold certificate record for
UK label Bella Union. Their growing profile enabled the band to
make televised appearances, playing on Vincent Moon's La Blogotheque
in December 2008 and on
Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live the following January.
In 2009, they toured in Europe to favorable reviews; the Dutch
De Volkskrant said their show in Paradiso induced
goosebumps. In 2008 and 2009, the band played globally ending the
tour in September with a final European leg.
Fleet Foxes played at the
Bridge School Benefit
Bridge School Benefit curated by
Neil Young on October 24 and 25, 2009
Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. This was
the second time that they had supported Young after a summer bill in
Hyde Park, London.
Fleet Foxes returned to the Way Out West Festival
(at which they first performed in 2008) in
Gothenburg on August 12,
2011. They played at the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur
on September 11, 2011. The band was chosen by
Jeff Mangum of
Neutral Milk Hotel
Neutral Milk Hotel to perform at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival
that he curated in December 2011 in Minehead, England.
Second album (2009–12)
Main article: Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes performing at the 2009 Coachella Festival.
Pecknold said that he would have liked the album to be released in
2009; however, the band's touring schedule delayed rehearsals of the
new songs until February 2009. These sessions took place in a rented
house outside Seattle, but were mostly scrapped, losing the band
$60,000 of their own money. Further delays ensued because the drummer,
Tillman, was scheduled to play a solo tour in Europe and North America
throughout the 2009–10 winter. Pecknold later sent some demos to
Phil Ek and expressed the hope that the second LP would
emerge in late 2010.
In December 2009, Pecknold said he wanted the new LP to sound "less
poppy, less upbeat and more groove-based". He referenced the 12-string
guitar sound from Roy Harper's folk album Stormcock, saying, "That
will be the primary sonic distancing from the last record." He wanted
the band to record very quickly, with "vocal takes in one go, so even
if there are fuck-ups, I want them to be on there. I want there to be
guitar mistakes. I want there to be not totally flawless vocals. I
want to record it and have that kind of cohesive sound. Van Morrison's
Astral Weeks, to me, is the best-sounding album because it sounds like
there were only six hours in the universe for that album to be
recorded in. So I want it to have that feeling." The band
eventually began recording in April 2010 in various locations
(including West Hurley, New York) and decided to scrap the earlier
idea of a fast recording (though according to the band many of the
initial vocals were done in one take). The album features a new
six-piece band line up, with the addition of the former Blood Brothers
Morgan Henderson on upright bass and woodwind instruments.
The album, Helplessness Blues, was released on May 3, 2011 with a
cover illustrated by the
Seattle artist Toby Liebowitz and painted by
Christopher Alderson. The title track was released via free
download on January 31, 2011, and the album's fourth track, "Battery
Kinzie", was premiered in the UK on Zane Lowe's radio show on March
22, 2011. The
Sub Pop record label released a downloadable music video
of the track "Grown Ocean", with footage of the album's recording, on
its website in support of the album. A 12" vinyl double A-side single
of "Helplessness Blues" and "Grown Ocean" was released for Record
Store Day on April 16, 2011. On November 1, 2011, Pecknold's brother,
Sean Pecknold, released the official music video for "The Shrine / An
On January 18, 2012, after the band had finished touring for the
album, drummer Tillman announced that he had left the band. He
would go on to reinvent himself and record several albums as Father
John Misty, notable for his ironic sense of humor in lyrics and media
as well as often criticizing both the record industry and society in
interviews and on stage.
Helplessness Blues was nominated as
Best Folk Album
Best Folk Album at the 2012 Grammy
Awards, held February 12, 2012.
Hiatus and Crack-Up (2013–present)
On June 15, 2013, an image of a home recording set-up–including a
laptop computer, microphone and guitar–was posted on the Fleet Foxes
Facebook page with the caption "Step one". On June 16, 2013, an
image of a broken mandolin with the caption "Step two" was posted.
These images were later deleted, but led to speculation that the group
was working on a new project, possibly a third studio album.
On April 23, 2014,
Robin Pecknold posted to the band's Facebook page
that he had moved to New York to get his undergraduate degree at the
Columbia University School of General Studies, a liberal arts college
Columbia University in New York City.
On May 18, 2016, while answering fan questions on his Instagram
account, Pecknold confirmed that
Fleet Foxes were working on new
material with drummer and frequent collaborator Neal Morgan, best
known for his work with
Joanna Newsom and Bill Callahan. Describing
Morgan as a "full Fox", Pecknold also admitted he "had to up my
songwriting game for homeboy." However, when Pecknold posted a photo
of the band minus Morgan on Instagram, he clarified that Morgan was
one of three drummers involved in the new album, and that for the time
Fleet Foxes would consist of Pecknold, Skjelset, Wescott, Wargo
and Henderson as a "five-piece 'core band'", but they would still use
a drummer for live performances and additional musicians for certain
shows. Pecknold also said that the new material would be "a
different vibe" compared to Fleet Foxes' previous output. On
November 14, 2016, the band confirmed (via their Facebook account)
that their new album was nearly complete.
On December 25, 2016, Pecknold posted a photo on his Instagram account
which showed four albums in the Fleet Foxes' queue in his iTunes
library: the first studio album Fleet Foxes; the
Sun Giant EP; the
second studio album Helplessness Blues; and an unknown third album
entitled Ylajali. This led to speculation that the band's third
album would: 1) be named after a character from Knut Hamsun's novel
Hunger; 2) contain a photo from Japanese photographer Hiroshi Hamaya
as the cover art; and 3) be released through Nonesuch Records, since
the label's logo can be seen on the album cover.
In an email newsletter on January 1, 2017, production company Mason
Jar Music confirmed that
Fleet Foxes was working on a new album, since
they contributed to the production. The album was called Crack-Up,
F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald essay of the same name. The album is a
concept album and was recorded at
Electric Lady Studios
Electric Lady Studios and Sear Sound
in New York City.
On March 7, 2017,
Fleet Foxes announced their third studio album,
Crack-Up, released on June 16, 2017 via Nonesuch Records, a new label
for the band. The lead single, "Third of May / Ōdaigahara", was
released the same day. On April 4, 2017, the band posted the album
trailer for the new album on YouTube. The trailer briefly presents
various songs from the album and shows some images while they were
recording them. The video was made by Sean Pecknold, Robin's
On May 15, 2017,
Fleet Foxes made their live return at the Wilma
Theatre in Missoula, in which they performed nine songs from Crack-Up
along with a selection of older material and a cover of "In the
Morning" by Bee Gees. The band's current live line-up includes
Matt Barrick of The Walkmen, who is also the most heavily featured
of the three guest drummers who contributed to Crack-Up. Barrick has
continued to play with the band, but has not become an official
On October 10, 2017, the band announced the release of a new EP,
entitled The Electric Lady Session, for Black Friday Record Store Day
2017. The EP will be released on November 24, and is a collection of
live performances of four songs from Crack-Up, originally recorded for
their session at Fordham University’s radio station WFUV.
Fleet Foxes performing in Seattle, 2008.
Robin Pecknold – lead vocals, guitar (2006–present)
Skyler Skjelset – guitar, mandolin, vocals (2006–present)
Casey Wescott – keyboards, mandolin, vocals (2006–present)
Christian Wargo – bass guitar, guitar, vocals (2008–present)
Morgan Henderson – upright bass, guitar, woodwinds, violin,
percussion, saxophone (2010–present)
Matt Barrick - drums, percussion (2017–present)
Bryn Lumsden – bass guitar (2006)
Craig Curran – bass guitar, vocals (2006–2008)
Nicholas Peterson – drums, percussion, vocals (2006–2008)
Josh Tillman – drums, percussion, vocals (2008–2012)
Fleet Foxes discography
Fleet Foxes (2008)
Helplessness Blues (2011)
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Fleet Foxes at Nonesuch Records
The Fleet Foxes
"White Winter Hymnal"
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