Fleet Foxes singer Robin Pecknold has made no secret of his struggles to overcome the dreaded “sophomore slump.”
After the folkie Seattle combo reached critical acclaim with their self-titled debut in 2008, it seemed that topping that effort would be difficult.
But with Helplessness Blues, it seems they have topped themselves. The songs are confident, richly acoustic and full of the energetic introspection that seems to hit artists hardest in their 20s. (Everyone from Rumer to Zach Galifianakis is into the new album.)
Pecknold has said the reason that it took so long to write and record their follow-up was his picky nature, which even led to him scrapping recordings the band had reportedly spent several thousands of dollars on. But it has paid off.
How does it feel to finally take these songs from the incubation process of writing and recording to audiences?
It’s been good to have the chance to sort of make the songs more physical and less cerebral. You can play louder or have it sound huge without feeling like the sound is too big and without the kind of hemming and hawing about what you’re doing in the studio. So that’s been good. It’s not like we had the songs all worked out live before we recorded, so this has kind of been our first chance to get to know them in some ways.
Were there any challenges in making that jump?
We had to rehearse for almost a month just to get all the parts down and all the chord changes. So that took a while, but it was fun to do as well.
What’s been the biggest surprise as far as crowd response?
There’s been a few. It really just depends on the crowd. We open the show with the instrumental from the album. It’s kind of funny that people are like, “Yeah!” for this little, small instrumental song. And there’s this one line in one of the new songs where I really push my voice, and after that line in The Shrine people are always like, “Yeah!”
There are a lot of fruits blossoming within the lyrics of these songs. One goes, “If I had an orchard....”
My grandpa was an orchardist in Wenatchee, which is in Washington. It’s a big apple-growing region. There’s an apple and orchard iconography up at the cabin. He’s passed away now, but me and my brother Sean just go up there and work on stuff together, and there’s a lot of stuff up there that’s apple-related and there’s Yeats poems on the walls. I feel like that’s probably where a little bit of it came from. The orchard thing is not literal at all, or wasn’t meant it to be. I didn’t even think it would be taken literally. I mean, I probably could have done a better job, but it was sort of a personal version of If I Had a Hammer, like that sort of meaning.
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