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Success Makes Fleet Foxes Freak Out -- A Bit

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Tuesday, August 4, 2009

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It's not a multi-platinum sensation -- or even a gold record, for that matter.

But Fleet Foxes debut album has quietly made the Seattle quintet one of the hippest bands in the U.S. and an award-winner in England, all of which has freaked out frontman Robin Pecknold and his compatriots.

"We could hardly believe what was going on," says Pecknold, 23, who formed Fleet Foxes, initially called Pineapple, with high school friend and lead guitarist Sky Skjelset. "The stuff we were getting offered to do and everything just felt like this really serendipitous sort of, kind of blessed experience. There was nothing going wrong."

Indeed, "Fleet Foxes," which was released in June of 2008 following a pair of EPs, has sold well over 200,000 copies on these shores and more than 100,000 in the U.K. -- strong numbers for an independent label -- and it hit No. 3 on the U.K. album charts. The album received the British music magazine Uncut's first-ever Music Award in 2008 and, in January, appeared on "Saturday Night Live."

"I think we felt more lucky than anything," Pecknold says. "You can't really plan for anything and, yeah, (success) is always surprising, but more than surprise I think there's a lot of luck involved, too."

Familiarity may be one of the reasons Fleet Foxes is clicking, however. The group's sound has a chiming, melodic and organic flavor that channels influences such as Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson, and the Laurel Canyon folk-rock scene of the late '60s and '70s, as well as British groups such as Fleetwood Mac and Fairport Convention. Some soul is part of the mix, too, thanks to Pecknold's father, who played in a '60s R&B band called the Fathoms during the '60s.

All of that makes Fleet Foxes a bit more accessible than some of its indie rock peers,and Pecknold says he's seen the difference in the group's audiences.

"It's a pretty broad age range," he notes. "There are some dudes who are my dad's age; I think what we do maybe has a similar spirit to what they were into when they were younger. It's cool to see them and have some guy tell us they're there because his daughter told him about us. I like that."

Pecknold and company have already started work on their sophomore album and are even playing some new songs in concert. But, just like "Fleet Foxes," they've already ditched an album's worth of songs and are back to the drawing board -- "but in a good way," he says.

"The other (songs) were like a more subtle evolution," Pecknold explains. "The new ones are a more marked difference from the last one -- not, like, a big stylistic change but more of a songwriting perspective change, a bit more directed and more fleshed out."

The goal now, Pecknold says, is to get the band back in the studio before the end of the year for a 2010 release.

"What I want to do is spend a long time writing and doing fleshed-out demos and then record in a shorter period of time, so it has a unified sound," he says. "Once we get the whole record planned out, then we'll book the studio time and pick a producer and everything and hopefully make something very quickly."

Fleet Foxes and Dungen perform Wednesday (Aug. 5) at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors oen at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22 in advance, $25 day of show. Call (248) 399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.

Web Site: www.royaloakmusictheatre.com

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