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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fleet Foxes' New Video, Plus Robin Pecknold on the Questions of Adulthood and Touring with Joanna Newsom

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 5:00 AM

Fleet Foxes
  • Fleet Foxes


If you saw Fleet Foxes at the Greek Theatre in September, you'll remember the stunning kaleidoscope-galaxy-paper-cutout projections that accompanied their performance. "It's kind of nerve-wracking, the idea of touring with the Walkmen," Fleet Foxes front man Robin Pecknold said before the show. "Because they're so good and such a great, energetic live band, I think we're gonna have to use some smoke and mirrors." But the "smoke and mirrors" projections created by Robin's brother, Sean Pecknold, did not distract. Rather, they brilliantly added to the dynamics of Fleet Foxes' live act.

The message left on the backdrop as the audience filed out that read "Good luck in the rest of your lives" left you wanting more, no? Well, looks like the good luck has arrived, because brother Pecknold has now produced an 8.5-minute long animated music video for "The Shrine/An Argument" (watch it after the jump).

Listen to Fleet Foxes lyrics, and it's no wonder they've inspired such interesting visual accompaniment. It's not often that you hear a popular musician ask questions like, is music really what I should be doing? What causes am I fighting for? Why haven't I achieved what my parents had by this age? So, after some literary-analysis-prone obsessing over the lyrics of their sophomore album Helplessness Blues, I spewed some theories about Robin Pecknold's take on the boomerang generation in this article for the Chronicle.

But a shared existential crisis was only a small portion of what Pecknold revealed when we spoke in September. Other fascinating tidbits include what he does on tour to stay sane, how a 1948 film noir made him think about settling down, and why he was intimidated by playing with Joanna Newsom. All that, plus Fleet Foxes' new video, after the jump.

Fleet Foxes - The Shrine / An Argument (OFFICIAL VIDEO) from Sub Pop Records on Vimeo.

In "Helplessness Blues," you read my mind, being a musician and not knowing if that's what I should be. "Montezuma" seems to apply to a broader audience, to the New York Times calling us "emerging adults," who cannot reach the landmarks of adulthood -- like buying houses, getting jobs, getting married, and procreating -- that our baby boomer parents could by our age. If that is what you were talking about, can you tell me more about the lyrical themes? Yeah, totally. I think it's all that stuff. For me, making music has always been this sort of selfish, almost entertainment. It's like a leisure activity. After the first album and having to live with those songs for so long and "Now this is what you are and this is what you do," that just came up in my mind more often than before, when I was just working at a restaurant. For that song, I think you totally got it. When my bandmate left to attend nursing school I felt like an asshole because I was going to be a musician while she was going to be saving people every day. Are you questioning your path less now that you've reached a certain level of success? I'm feeling a little more at peace with what you just said. I think the people who are compelled to go to nursing school are doing it for the same reason that musicians who are compelled to make music make music. It seems like there's a certain amount of personal fulfillment and you just have to know yourself and what fulfills you. In "Montezuma," when you talk about being the age your parents were when they had their first child, does that go beyond questions of what it means to be a musician and speak to our age group in general about the emerging adulthood conundrums? People my age or older who don't play music, like my friends and siblings, are kind of dealing with the same questions, so it can't all be chalked up to just being a songwriter. It's the flip side of the other song ["Helplessness Blues"], looking at it from a more personal perspective. Thinking about having kids or making more steps into adulthood is tough. There's a big part of me that really wants that at some point, and not when I'm 45 or something, and then another side that for some reason sees that as limiting your options. I was watching The Naked City. Have you ever seen that movie?

 No. It's a noir movie from around 1949. One of the main characters is 25, which is how old I am, but he's a veteran and as soon as he came home from WWII, he got married and started having kids. If you had some event in your life that was this crazy... I feel like if I had been in WWII, I would just want to chill out for the rest of my life afterwards. That was the main thing that happened to me, and now I'm just gonna chill and feel totally justified in doing that. Since I haven't felt anything like that, there's a certain restlessness. People are waiting for something important to happen before they make that call, "Yeah, I'm going to settle down now." I interviewed Graham Nash recently and we talked about folk music, who's carrying on that tradition (we talked about you guys), and how it would break our hearts if it died out in favor of electronic beats and Auto Tune. How do you feel about carrying on that tradition, because you're so often compared to the greats of the '60s and '70s? And how is the face of "folk" music changing? Folk music is a certain set of rules that's separate from whatever arrangement choices you're making with songs. With some of the stuff on the new album, it was like "This is going to be in that mold. It won't have a chorus or bridge, it will just be this lyric and this melody." Just like the blues is two lines of the same lyric and one new lyric, or certain chord shapes, you can do stuff that sounds like the blues but isn't that exact set of restrictions. As gross as it is to categorize your own music, do you consider it folk? It's sort of song to song. Certain songs are meant to be in that particular mold and then some are intentionally not and it is more pop or whatever. After the jump: Why Joanna Newsom is a "panther."
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