From the moment they took the stage at Washington, DC's Black Cat, Fleet Foxes seemed surprised by all the attention. Lead singer Robin Pecknold made several references to the size of the crowd, telling the sold-out audience he'd never seen so many people packed together. This brought a loud cheer from the roomful of fans who otherwise spent most of the night standing in slack-jawed awe over the band's breathtaking harmonies.
After a tentative start, Fleet Foxes seemed to find their collective voice, opening with "Sun Giant," the title track to the band's EP, released earlier this year on the Sub Pop label. They followed with highlights from their self-titled debut LP, including "White Winter Hymnal." Throughout the performance, the band played with a sort of bemused astonishment, repeatedly thanking the audience for their support.
The members of Fleet Foxes like to say they're not much of a rock band, but they are one of the year's breakout acts. The group's debut has earned universal acclaim for its timeless mix of folk, choral and rock. It's both a revival and a reinvention of roots music, with inspired attention given to melody and harmony.
Fleet Foxes' sound can be traced directly to the music the band members' parents played: The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, The Zombies, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Crosby Stills and Nash. "We grew up listening to the music of our parents," says Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold. "Every perennial '60s band you'd expect to find in the record collections of baby boomers."
It's easy to hear these influences in Fleet Foxes' earthy tones, jangling, acoustic guitars and pastoral imagery. The band has described it as "baroque harmonic pop." The choral-like vocals have drawn comparisons to My Morning Jacket, a band that has, itself, borrowed heavily from the past.
"To me, the most enjoyable thing in the world is to sing harmony with people," says Pecknold. "All we strove for with this record was to make something that was an honest reflection of who we are, citizens of the western United States who love all kinds of music and above all else love singing."
Fleet Foxes formed in 2006 in Seattle, Wash. After playing a number of live shows, and with the help of credit cards a tip money, they recorded and self-released an EP that same year. They followed in Feb. 2008 with the EP Sun Giant and their full-length debut in June, both on Sub Pop.