Fleet Foxes Dude Tries To Prove To World That He Is Utterly Of The Now, Man

Jun 15th, 2009 // 31 Comments

Robin Pecknold, the lead singer of the harmonizin’ indie outfit Fleet Foxes, thinks that we live in the best of all possible musical worlds–and it’s all because of the invention of Napster 10 years ago! The Peck thinks that the download-happy music landscape of today will only make musicians grow more, and not result in people being overwhelmed by the choices they’re presented and burrowing into safe havens where they’re only confronted by things they know they like: “As much music as musicians can hear, that will only make music richer as an artform… I think we’re seeing that now with tons of new bands that are amazing, and are doing way better music now than was being made pre-Napster.” Yes, that’s right: Fleet Foxes are so, so over the whole “music from years ago” thing. They’re all about the now, man! So what records helped the 23-year-old Pecknold come to this earth-shattering conclusion?

“That was how I discovered almost everything when I was a teenager–my dad brought home a modem,” he said.

“That was how I was exposed to almost all of the music that I love to this day, and still that’s the easiest way to find really obscure stuff.

“I’ve discovered so much music through that medium. That will be true of any artist my age, absolutely.”

Brian Wilson’s Smile and The Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle were among the albums he discovered through the service, he said.

Wow, so obscure! How on earth would anyone have ever found out about those records in the past? Imagine if he’d actually have had to seek out and talk to other music aficionados! The horror! It’s almost enough to curl one’s beard!

Later on in the story, he says that he is 100% fine with people downloading his album. While I suppose it’s nice that he doesn’t want to be all hypocritical about things, I do wonder if he’d have a different outlook on this sort of thing if the few remaining people who are paid to proselytize about music weren’t riding his band like it was a brand-new sparkly pony they’d received for their birthday. Ah, positions of privilege! Speaking from them can be such a… lofty experience, you know?

Bands “better because of piracy” [BBC]

  1. I don’t mind the downloading so much because, yeah, everybody’s doing it, but don’t tell me you got into obscure music because of it, and DON’T tell me that bands are somehow better aesthetically because of it (I’m a guy who thinks that the indie rock knows is so far inferior to the indie rock of the 90s that it hurts). Particularly when you have the nice cushion of Sub Pop Records and are playing Bonnaroo this week.

  2. I’m going to postulate that he’s just dumbing things down for the interview. Those guys reek too much of Fairport Convention and Incredible String Band to not be able to go more obscure than the Beach Boys.
    Also, he said “modem”. Even his technology is retro.

  3. I like this band a lot. Talented bunch of folkies. (And dude is only 23! Wow! Have an amazing version of him covering Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe”.) Anyway: I really don’t care if he has anything smart to say about downloading and the digital age. Not too many people do. It’s one huge clusterfuck. Like anything, good things, bad things. But, um, I’m wondering where the shout out is to the band America! These guys pulled out exact pages from their playbook. All the chimes, harmonizing, mystical lyrics on nature, etc.

  4. @brooklynradio: I think that all gets covered when people call them a Neil Young rip off. Or hippies. Or hipsters. All basically the same thing.

  5. @k-rex: I agree with @brooklynradio on the America thing. Robin sounds like a guy that fell in love with My Morning Jacket a few years ago and combined their sound with some mellow 70′s US dad-rock.

    I’m not sure if the Fairport and the ISB comparisons really hold water Those two bands sound like they were pushing the boundaries of a genre (folk-rock) whereas FF’s are sticking in the comfy confines of something that barely qualifies as a genre, MOR.

  6. @krisskraft: Yeah. I like FFs just fine, but if you think about what Fairport C. and guys like John Martyn or Jackson C. Frank were doing? That stuff was on the forefront. Fleet Foxes bring proficiency, which isn’t a bad thing, but he uses Napster/dling as saying that bands now are somewhat better aesthetically because of it, and I find no evidence–at least in his music and his contemporaries–to support that claim!

  7. I really like that Fleet Foxes album (so that’s where I stand) and perhaps they aren’t the most original band around, but let’s have some perspective here: this was their first album, most of them are in their very early 20s, and they really do have some impressive harmonizing skills (especially live). As Lucas said, they do have proficiency – and I’m curious to see for what purpose they will use it.

    That said, I don’t really buy is downloading-makes-bands-better argument, and lately I’ve discovered far many more old obscure bands by going through stacks of vinyl at the Salvation Army/Goodwill/Value Village…

  8. He needed ” a modem” to “discover” Brian Wilson? Aw, c’mon man. That’s just sheer laziness.

  9. @slowburn: I still remember having to order overpriced cd-r copies of Beach Boys bootlegs from some dodgy NYC online seller to hear SMiLE tracks (other than the box set ones) for the first time, and that was less than 10 years ago…

  10. When I was 13, with no money, growing up in the suburbs, I did indeed need a modem to find fan bootlegs of potential ‘Smile’ sequences… And to find the Zombies, and Dylan bootlegs, and Roy Harper, John Martyn, Duncan Browne, Oregon, Morricone soundtracks, tons of great music that shaped my tastes and literally changed my life. In what universe is an online music blogger scoffing at someone discovering music… online? I am pumped on the democratization of music discovery,(iTunes included) any kid can find stuff they really love. I don’t think music should be free, I pay 95% of the time, but I don’t sweat people downloading ours. Didn’t start writing songs to get a piece of those massive Folk Bucks. My angle on music quality is subjective, but I’m more excited by beach house, blitzen trapper, grizzly bear, joanna newsom, animal collective, dirty projectors, wolf parade, sunset rubdown, devendra banhart, vetiver, etc far more than any non-radiohead non-strokes non-up/k records late 90′s early 00′s music I am aware of, and I think that’s worth noting… That wide audiences are growing more receptive to different sounds is so awesome. I (and the rest of e-earth) dont think we’re as good as any of those bands, it is just inspiring to live in a time like now, exciting as both a musician and a music fan, somebody who looks up to and admires the creativity of the above. Blah blah blah. Time to go away, and apparently, apply feathers to my hair.

  11. @Thierry: Hmmm, not the most original band, technically proficient, and impressive harmonizing skills. I’m sold! Let’s break out the Kansas and Climax Blues Band records and have a party!

  12. @robinpecknold: I’ll take the Pepsi challenge of latter-half of the 90s/early 00s with Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Fugazi, Grandaddy, Sleater-Kinney, Delgados, Outkast, Built to Spill, Broadcast, Belle and Sebastian, Tortoise, Unrest, Heavenly, Missy Elliott, Sea and Cake, Bonnie Prince Billy/Will Oldham, Neutral Milk Hotel, Dub Narcotic Olivia Tremor Control, Smog, Superchunk, etc. etc. over most of what you mentioned there, but that could just be my age. But I appreciate the response. The folk bucks and feathers comments were funny.

  13. @Lucas Jensen: neutral
    Milk Hotel is my favorite 90′s band, I shouldve added merge to the up/k umbrella. I dig most all those bands you mention and think we would have a good time talking shop :). Amazing music is always being made, I guess I’m mostly praising ‘Internet’ for things like GB making the top 10 when NMH never broke through like that in that climate, on the right day Aeroplane is my favorite record ever. The posit-bilities are endless (cringe)

  14. @Lucas Jensen: Right with you on the 90′s music winning the taste test. (Almost) every band you mentioned produced music (during that time) with a slightly more gritty, original, and less calculated and labored approach.

    I think the NPR-hug of “indie” music during this decade, not to mention the growth and corporate connections of the major “indie” labels (Sub Pop, Matador, Touch and Go) and the greater knowledge and access for younger musicians to the tools of publicity has created a lot of lowest-common denominator music that is peddled as revolutionary to the coffee table culture.

    I think we’re set, cyclically, for a really invigorated music revolution to come along and make a lot of the current lot of MOR indie bands irrelevant ala The Beatles vs. Teen Idols, punk vs. prog & soft-rock, and Nirvana vs. hair metal. It’s inevitable and coming soon.

    Buy a Pissed Jeans record!

  15. this argument is pointless because good music has little to no correlation with having a good record collection, but i will give massive props to the dude for name dropping oregon.

  16. As a concerned human being, and friend/band mate of Robin, I would like to state some facts on the issue of copyrights, patents and other forms of protectionism.

    1. Copyrights/patents are not human rights.

    2. Copyrights/patents are forms of government sanctioned protectionist monopolies. Economists have long understood that protectionism hinders market growth and innovation in markets. Additionally, protectionist measures oftentimes have negative effects on consumers.

    3. Copyrights are antithetical to a free market. If you advocate copyrights you advocate government intervention into a market, by protecting people/products/entities FROM competition.


    Before you attempt to refute my comments, please do a little bit of homework and edify yourself by viewing the following seminar/debate with economist Dean Baker of CEPR. Doing so will save you a lot of embarrassment.

    Copyrights, Patents, and other Protectionist Barriers:


    Copyrights: Do They Have a Future in an Economic Age?:


    To reiterate, please view these videos before trying to refute my comments. Your personal confusion will reveal itself otherwise. If you don’t believe me, see the anonymous poster I took to task:


    Again, please make sure that any attempted refutations are not discussed in the above links. It will be quite clear who is informed on the economic issues surrounding copyrights/patents and who needs to do some research before posting a comment.


    Casey Wescott
    Fleet Foxes

  17. @Casey Wescott of Fleet Foxes: I’ll talk shop any time! Wait…Casey? Are y’all using the same account? Confused…

  18. @Casey Wescott of Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes songs are public domain then? Who cuts the Fleet Foxes publishing royalty checks? ASCAP or BMI?

    Also, on what topic exactly were you attempting to comment?

  19. @Casey Wescott of Fleet Foxes: thank god you’re here to save us from embarrassment. but who, pray tell, will save us from the condescension?

  20. Dear iantenna,

    I agree my candor is testy and I apologize if people believe that I am condescending. However, I don’t think that this approach is unwarranted given the candor of the article and with people posting comments without holding themselves responsible for what they say, and without engaging in the information/links that I provided (as an Anonymous poster did on TorrentFreak). Again, I am grateful that people are excited to discuss this issue, but I admittedly have qualms with some of the approaches people take and would like to recontextualize the discussion. Again, apologies if I seem less than professional on this issue. I feel Robin was attacked in this piece, as opposed to being held responsible for what he said.

    Dear Lucas,

    Please feel free to talk shop. Let me know if you want to talk to me directly/offline…I have my own account on this site… pardon any confusion. In general. I must warn you that I am currently on France time and am getting a little sleepy, so I may take a bit to respond :)

    Dear Krisskraft,

    The issue I am commenting on is copyright/patent protection. Piracy is a violation of the aforementioned forms of protectionism. I thought it was appropriate to contextualize piracy within the current laws that piracy violates.

    No, our songs are not public domain. I must admit that my opinion on this issue has changed quite a bit in the last few months, after researching the issue in more depth. You do bring up a good point regarding our publishing. Currently our songs are copyright protected. This is an issue we have begun to discuss. Personally, I am open to distributing our music without copyright protections. However, this doesn’t address any of the institutional issues that Dean Baker and I mention. The institutional/legal frameworks would still be in place and would affect every other artist not participating in non copyrighted music. I think that this can create undue animosity towards other artists who don’t participate. Such animosity could likely be misappropriated by people defending copyrights. Whether or not someone participates in copyright protection is a tactical move, and like any other form of protest, should be considered in the context of the protest/actions’ implications.

    Personally, I am interested in creating/providing institutional alternatives, not individual alternatives for just our music. As a software developer (currently developing in the SuperCollider language), I am working towards developing an open source, simultaneous online music creation and distribution facility, that would receive the same government recognition/rights as religious organizations and facilitate tax credits for donors. These donations could fund the participating musicians in exchange for free music created in the system. Again, This is what I am working towards in my free time, and I think that the creation of such a system would be much more effective then by taking an isolated action for ourselves.

    Thanks for the great comments/questions,

  21. @Casey Wescott of Fleet Foxes: Does this Dean Baker fellow pay you to plug his theories?

    I think maybe what @iantenna was getting at was that when you recite someone else’s theories in an almost identical manner on multiple blogs, you come off a bit like our blond, ponytailed fellow in this video clip:


  22. Dear krisskraft,

    You are correct that the ideas that I presented are attributed to Dean Baker. I don’t believe that I insinuated otherwise, although I synthesized some of the ideas into different sentences. I don’t think Dean Baker or CEPR will sue me for plagiarism as I believe that I properly attributed the ideas to Mr Baker. Furthermore, I don’t think he would mind me discussing this material.

    Referencing data and analysis is not a “plug”. Am I “plugging” Descartes if I discuss the theory that is the cartesian coordinate system? And no, Dean Baker does not pay me to discuss his theories/data. I happen to appreciate his analysis and feel that his assertions have yet to be refuted on this or the TorrentFreak site that I posted on. If you are serious about this issue, please work up a solid refutation of his ideas and share them with us. I find his content much more valuable than what you have brought to this discussion.

    Additionally, I have no problem with posting the above information twice, seeing as these sites likely have different audiences who might enjoy exposure to the aforementioned content. Clearly audiences on both sites are interested in parsing this complex issue, and I felt that the content was more than appropriate to include. If you are concerned about duplicate postings, why not bring this up with the author of this post, who is poaching a BBC article?

    Furthermore, krisskraft, your last comment is a pretty weak rebuttal and does not begin to address the issues discussed. Consequently, I don’t think that readers should take your comments seriously. I don’t need a youtube clip of a bad movie to illustrate this point as you have done a sufficient job of doing that yourself, in your own words.

    Please confirm your real name for future posts please.


  23. @Casey Wescott of Fleet Foxes: Where is your manager while you are busy posting rebuttals to valid opinions from serious music fans like a privileged, petulant little child? I’m sure you have a publicist who is around to keep you from embarrassing yourself.

    It was just a couple months ago when your leader was lambasting major labels without realizing (or deftly obscuring) the fact that your US label is half owned by a major label and your UK label is distributed by the biggest record label in the world.

    Most outlets will lap that crap up, but I have to give Maura credit on a spot-on post and calling a dude out on some pretentious and ridiculous comments. I mean she pretty much nailed it with this last paragraph:

    “Later on in the story, he says that he is 100% fine with people downloading his album. While I suppose it’s nice that he doesn’t want to be all hypocritical about things, I do wonder if he’d have a different outlook on this sort of thing if the few remaining people who are paid to proselytize about music weren’t riding his band like it was a brand-new sparkly pony they’d received for their birthday. Ah, positions of privilege! Speaking from them can be such a… lofty experience, you know?”

    Really, you should be happy that people are discussing your band in any context, and not insulting them by citing some relatively obscure intellectual property theorists who have obviously never been in a working band. Are you that insecure that you have to travel the internet to try to prove a potential fan’s opinion wrong? Remember, so far you’ve made one mediocre album that somehow (luckily) was extremely overhyped. If you even want the possibility that people are going to stick around and give your future material a chance, you best be nice.

    You need a bit of sense of humor too. I mean anyone reading these comments are going to know that the Good Will Hunting clip was spot on. If you can’t even see a little bit of that, than you are so much that guy in the clip that there is just no hope for you. And Good Will Hunting? A bad movie? That movie is perfect. I’d love to know what you consider a good movie.

    And thanks for “taking me to task” like you did the anonymous poster from that other website. You are truly a badass.



  24. Joey,

    I will concede that I likely take this issue more seriously than many of the people posting. I suppose I should have taken your comments with a sense of levity. Admittedly, I was upset by being accused of “Stalinist Grandeur” on another site. It doesn’t feel that bomb to be likened to a mass murderer of millions for things that I say. When I read articles and comments like these, it can be very difficult for me to recognize what are legitimate beefs or misconceptions people have with/of us, and what is fun armchair analysis, that does not require accountability or clarification on my/our part. I was kind of hoping for a lively/focused protectionism debate, and this admittedly may not be the most accommodating venue. The fact that no one wanted to really discuss this issue on this thread is evidence of that.

    Regarding Good Will Hunting, I have always felt that whole, “It’s not your fault” scene is pretty Patch Adams. Just an opinion and by no means am I trying to start some Siskel vs Ebert action on this issue.

    Apologies if any comments were below the belt.


  25. @Casey Wescott of Fleet Foxes: dear casey,
    i’m no economist, nor much of anything else for that matter, so my apologies for lacking proper terminology, etc., etc. and please consider the entirety of this this thing completely and thoroughly sic’d (the half bottle of wine and a couple of beers probably aren’t making conditions any better for me, either). but, and please correct me if i’m wrong, are you equating art to anything else that is patent or copyright protected? because it seems to me there should be some distinction. most other shit’s value lies in the thing itself; i would have a hard time using a particular type of computer chip, or pesticide, or whatever the widget, to sell bud light, or perfectly compliment a scene in a movie, or get people to patronize my bar/cafe/etc. but i’m could sure as shit use the fleet foxes to do that. in your ideal world, should you not be compensated for those uses? what if our u.s. marine corps thought “white winter hymnal” was the fuckin’ jam to get dudes all hyped up to join?

    are we to also assume that you have no problem with others directly profiting off of your art without you seeing a penny? if “copyrights are antiethical to a free market” should i be free to distribute your mp3s for profit without paying you a penny? or heck, even bootleg the record/cd itself and sell it at a more competitive price than subpop is able to? i understand this point when it comes to your average widget in an idealized free market. if i can find a way to make the same thing for less, and faster, then great, fuck you, i win. but how do i make a cheaper, faster, fleet foxes? based on your logic i don’t, i just steal the one you’ve already made.

    finally, and perhaps most importantly, i don’t think i ever said i wanted a free market in the first place, the concept of which leaves a lot of issues that are important to me out in the cold.

    in drunken, and potentially flawed, discourse,
    ian hetzner

  26. Hi All,

    I really want to take another opportunity to apologize to everyone on this thread. I have reread my comments several times and have really come to regret what I said. I was condescending and it really didn’t make the discussion any more constructive. I am super sorry for how I conducted myself. This is the result of some self reflection during the last hour. It is probably best that I bow out now, as I have abused my posting privileges. Again I am really sorry for how I conducted myself and should not have been so confrontational or baiting. I did not properly manage my inner defense mechanisms constructively and it showed. Apologies, esp to Joey, iantenna, Lucas and anyone else who witnessed my poor behavior.

    Please forgive me,


  27. @Casey Wescott of Fleet Foxes: While it is true that this probably wasn’t the best forum to have this sort of discussion – particularly since you cannot assume similar levels of interest/knowledge/ability to put those position in concise blog post form – your interest and passion about this issue seem pretty remarkable (though you should be careful, otherwise Robin will give you the same look Larry Mullen gives Bono everytime he goes on a mid-concert speech about Jubilee 2000/DATA/Ireland/Israel/etc.!).

    That being said, if you ever want to discuss the brilliant directness of the Monks’ recorded output, do come back! :)

  28. @Casey Wescott of Fleet Foxes: Aw. To quote the Goonies, “Hey, Ma! I think I’m beginning to like this kid!” Listen, man, it’s the internet. People say all kinds of crap. One thing I’ve always enjoyed about the Idolator forums is that we can have these sort of debates with 50% less insanity than a lot of other sites. Come back anytime.

  29. Wow . . . people are fucking mean. if you hate FF, fine – I think they make sublime music – but why just attack them? What are you getting out of it? A new man purse imported from Williamsburg? Nothing better to do? Read a book. Drink some coffee. Listen to a record. Get a fucking life.

  30. “When I was 13, with no money, growing up in the suburbs…”

    Is this guy for real?

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