Full-bearded Seattle rockers Fleet Foxes have staged something of a takeover this year. Or, at least, whatever the polite, nu-folk equivalent of a takeover is. With a critically adored album in the charts and sold-out tour dates in the offing, we spoke to band leader Robin Pecknold about shuffling into rock’s big league. Just don’t expect him to drink Ozzy, Liam or Keef under the table…
Do you party much while on tour or is life on the road as mellow as your music?
Everyone in the band is different. Some people hang out after the show and some people just go to bed. I’m definitely in the ‘bed’ camp. I’m always worried about my voice so I don’t want to stay out too late. I’m naturally paranoid [laughs].
So folkie stereotypes about camp-fire songs and herbal-tea sipping don’t bother you?
Well, it’s better than the alternative. I think if we were doing heroin every night and sleeping with prostitutes it would make the music bullsh*t. There are worse stereotypes to fit into. We feel that if we just put everything into the music then we don’t need to do that stuff.
How do you stave off tour bus boredom, then?
I’ve got a bike which I put in the back of the truck on tour and every morning I just ride off. Bike riding and record shopping are awesome things to do. I play a lot of video games too — I’m a total Portal 2 fan. And I watch a lot of TV crime shows. Although what I usually do is get really invested in something before losing patience and reading the ending on the internet.
There was a three-year gap between your two albums. Will it be just as long until the next one?
There are songs that I’ve written that will come out [in some form] soon, but we’re going to take a little time out to think about the next band album. This record [Helplessness Blues] is sort of the end of a chapter, and I think the next one will be a new beginning.
You’ve spoken out in support of file-sharing. Does music piracy not bother you?
There’s nothing you can do about technology. When the product leaves the disc it’s not chained to a physical format any more. It’d be different if we were sculptors because you can’t download a sculpture — not yet, at least. We’re unlucky in that our medium of choice is easily transferable over the internet, but that shouldn’t really matter. You’re not trying to make discs — you’re trying to make music. The medium shouldn’t matter and people will still reward you by buying records or seeing shows if you do something that they like. I’m a music fan and that’s what I do.
Are you looking forward to playing UK festivals such as Glastonbury again this year?
There are some good ones, such as End Of The Road, which are really fun, but some are tough. The more time you have to set up at a festival and make sure that everything works, the better. And there are festivals in the UK and the States that give you 10 minutes to get ready, and those festivals usually end up being a nightmare [laughs]. I guess that it’s just how they programme them to get the most bands possible [on the bill]. [Glastonbury] will be fine but I just think that it’s too big.
Is there a dream venue that you’d love to play?
We’re trying to book a show in this underground place in the UK. They found a venue under a city and we really want to play it. I’m not sure where it is but we’ve got it in the works. That would be cool.
Did you have any nightmare jobs before you made it as a musician?
I worked in a burrito place for three or four years and I could still roll you a pretty tight burrito today. I didn’t really have any of the classic bad jobs, though. I was never working as an incinerator in a morgue, or anything. Bagging groceries and making burritos was as rough as it got.
Helplessness Blues is out now (Bella Union). UK tour starts 23 June; fleetfoxes.com