Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday May 22nd 2019


No Longer Fleeting

By Shelby Nalepa

Ten years ago, Seattle-based indie folk band Fleet Foxes quickly began its rise as one of the most successful bands to come out of the genre in the last decade. After positive responses to their self-titled debut in 2008, the band was propelled into prominence, playing sold-out shows and on nearly every festival lineup imaginable.

That momentum carried through to their Grammy-nominated second album, “Helplessness Blues,” in 2011. And although selling millions of records worldwide between the two, the pressure began to weigh on frontman Robin Pecknold. An extensive touring schedule left the band feeling burnt out.

Adding fuel to the fire, drummer Josh Tillman quit to pursue his own project under the name Father John Misty. Pecknold also wanted to explore some other areas in his life besides music, which led to the band’s three-year hiatus.

But after some time away, the vocalist and principal songwriter is happy to take some of the pressure off of being a full-time musician, and just enjoy making music again.

The band is currently on tour to promote their newest album “Crack-Up” and will play Sunday night at the Soul Kitchen in Mobile. Released last June, it marks Fleet Foxes’ return after a long six years since their last record.

“This time it’s been really fun,” he said. “I remember touring as being exciting, but also really stressful. This time around we’ve been having more fun, the shows have been more fun. Certain tours in the past have felt almost never-ending.”

Pecknold said that this was one of the reasons he decided to put the band on hold and pursue other endeavors for as long as he did.

“I was kind of worried about a full-time touring schedule again honestly,” he said. “That’s why I took so long.”

Pecknold said that he didn’t necessarily feel like he needed a break from music, but felt more of a desire to pursue other things.

“I never felt like it’s this live or die thing if I’m not playing a show,” he said. “There was so much more I wanted to do and things worth exploring. So it was always about exploring those feelings more than feeling like I needed to take a break.”

After doing some traveling, in 2013 Pecknold moved to New York, enrolled at Columbia University and took up surfing. He also tried his hand at writing film scores.

“I had never gone to college, so I never knew what that was like,” he said. “I’ve always admired the commitment in that context and I’ve always wanted to see what school was like. I didn’t know if I would have the privilege of being a full-time musician for the rest of my life, so I wanted to see what else was out there.”

When he finally decided to start working on a new album, Pecknold said that it was a challenge to get back in the mindset of writing after so long, especially with a certain goal in mind.

“I wanted to at least once make a record that existed on its own terms; not part of a cultural movement, no expiration date,” he said. “I wanted to feel more engaged in what was going on. It was fun to work on this one, chasing an idea for its own sake. I didn’t want any cross-referencing or comparing or looking at what’s popular on a blog from one day to the next.”

Pecknold said that he was feeling isolated when he first started writing material.

“I was pretty isolated during that period, but kind of like by choice,” he said. “I was missing connections to people I had before. Independence and missing connections is what ended up being the headspace I was exploring. I wanted the album to exist on its own terms, and I wanted to exist on my own terms too. I also missed my friends. It ended up being a mixture of those things that made me want to start writing again.”

Pecknold said that bandmates Skyler Skjelset—whom he started Fleet Foxes with as teenagers—Casey Wescott, Christian Wargo and Morgan Henderson were on board when he approached them about wanting to make another album.

“We agreed that we wanted to make it more fun,” he said. “We did keep in touch, some more than others. We didn’t go more than six months without talking. Now being on tour we are enjoying each other’s company. We want it to be fun. That’s a big priority now.”

Not wasting any time, Pecknold said that the band is already working on material for their next album.

“It’s been awesome playing and using this muscle again,” he said. “I think in the future we are going to try and make everything really special. Planning special tours and having special guests on our albums. We came up at a time when there was this predetermined way of making albums and how long each album cycle needed to be. That’s just not the case anymore. Moving forward, we just want to make everything feel fresh and new.”

WHAT: Fleet Foxes with Natalie Prass
WHEN: 8 p.m. Sunday, March 11
WHERE: Soul Kitchen, 219 Dauphin St., Mobile
COST: $35-$50