Matson on Music
Interview: Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes
Posted by Andrew Matson
Photo by Sean Pecknold, used courtesy of Sub Pop
In writing a recently published Pacific Northwest Magazine cover story about Eastside and Seattle music, I interviewed a lot of local musicians, including Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes. Because he was tracking a new Fleet Foxes album at the time, we were unable to meet or talk on the phone. I sent him questions via email, he wrote me back. Information from his responses made it into the article, but no specific quotes. Here's most of what we wrote to each other, unedited:
When you were growing up in Kirkland, did you ever have a feeling like, "God, I hate this place. All the cool stuff happens in Seattle..."?
Yeah for sure, but once our group of friends started getting learners' permits that became less of an issue, and we would take the bus into Seattle pretty often on weekends. But yeah, suburban malaise, smokin' cigs, listening to Elliott Smith, hanging out at Sheri's, that whole thing.
Did you grow up going to a lot of concerts? If so, what type and where?
There was a period of time when I was trying to impress a Food-Not-Bombs / Crimethinc type teen rebel, which meant going to shows at the old Paradox, or the Graceland, the Firehouse, the Punkin House, etc. Obviously every Folklife and Bumbershoot was attended. As a teen I would also play open mics at places like the Chai House, "Intermissions" (a short lived cafe next to the Cineplex Odeon in Kirkland Parkplace), Victor's in Redmond, etc. but that's sort of a different thing from the Playskool Olympia vibe.
Do you remember when the Kirkland Teen Union Building was established? Did it make any impact on your life?
I do remember that! I never really hung out there, but I had friends that would skate at the nearby skate park. I wasn't an active member of the KTUB family. I learned to swim at the pool behind it though.
How did you regard Lake Washington High School when you went there? Did you feel like you fit in? Were you aware it had a history of producing bands?
I only attended LW for a year and a half really, after which I went into the Running Start program through BCC. But yes I was aware of the LW / B.E.S.T. band lineage. There were the Votolato's for music and the Tuiasosopo's for sports.
Do you recall knowing that Modest Mouse/Sunny Day Real Estate/Blood Brothers were from the Eastside? If you knew, did it matter to you?
Yes of course, we were huge Modest Mouse fans, probably the band I've seen most in my life still. I worked at PCC in Kirkland and William Goldsmith / other SDRE folks would come through, and Johnny Whitney would come around because his mom worked there. So yeah I was well aware of all of that. In Junior High / High School our friend group was a combination of Food-Not-Bombs-Vegan-GlowPt2-Smiths-ness mixed with "Let's watch the Fellowship of the Ring trailer 16 times a day in the science room instead of eating lunch in the cafeteria while listening to King Crimson"
Are you aware of the Old Firehouse in Redmond and did ever you have any connection to it?
Yes I went to shows there all the time, especially when we (my fam) lived in Redmond for like 8 months. I was into it but wasn't a Sult-level participator. Fleet Foxes first show (when it was just me and Skye) was at a Firehouse open mic, and first booked show was there too.
Can you tell me some of your favorite bands with Eastside roots that aren't famously from there? No biggie if no.
I think there have been a lot of great bands that have come out of the Eastside but when I was going to shows there as a teenager it was mostly to be social and hang out, only rarely would a show happen that I was super stoked on the band, and most of the time the stuff I wanted to see most was 21+ at the Showbox or something, Modest Mouse, BTS, etc. I'd go to any show just for something to do and that meant seeing a lot of crappy Vagrant-era-type emo bands, which I was NEVER into except for ONE Dashboard Confessional CD (full disclosure) that I listened to for about three days before coming to my senses. There was a lot of that type of thing going on in my heyday so I don't recall many hidden gem bands.
How do you regard the sliding roster of musicians that make up Flexions, Truckasauras and Past Lives? Are they peers to you?
Morgan Henderson is my best buddy, but I don't know anyone else from that particular contingent well enough to say how we relate to each other in terms of being peers or not.
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