Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold Addresses Making Music As A ‘Straight White Male’ In 2017

06.12.17 1 month ago 2 Comments

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Fleet Foxes was a defining indie band of the late 2000s, so with Crack-Up, their third album and first since 2011, coming out in just a few days, music fans are going to be talking. That includes the good folks over at Stereogum, who published an early review of the album on Friday (ahead of its June 16th release). Tom Breihan, the author of the piece and a senior editor for the site, had mixed feelings about the album, and seemed disappointed that Crack-Up was more about Pecknold and his feelings than the world around him:

Crack-Up is a personal album, one that addresses the inner workings of Pecknold’s skull rather than the things happening outside it. […] It bums me out to hear Pecknold and his band coming back, after six years, in total sleep-mode.”

Music writers don’t necessarily expect the targets of their criticisms to actually read them, but Pecknold caught wind of Stereogum’s piece and had enough feelings about it that he was compelled to pen a lengthy, 900-word response. In the article’s comments, one of the main points he addressed was the challenges of making meaningful and culturally aware music as a “Straight White Male” artist:

“Also. Speaking as a Straight White Male music listener, I’d say, generally speaking, that the Straight White Male is the last voice of ‘cultural relevance’ that I’m actively looking to, or sympathetic to, in this particular cultural moment. Just, who cares, you know? This obviously creates a problem for the Straight White Male artist who still desires to make relevant art – do you attempt to gentrify the landscape, White Savior yourself, and demand through inference or testimony that your voice is that of a leader for these times, when your phenotype is culturally inert if not malignant, and that even presuming to have something genuinely important to add is arguably an invocation of privilege? This approach seems like a fool’s errand to me.”

Pecknold went on to write that “this record is more present-aware than you’re giving it credit for, it’s just more from the perspective of an observer, or participant, than it is from that of one sent from on high.” He later added that to him, “biographical details and lyrics” are two of the elements he finds the least interesting about music, both as a creator and consumer, saying he is “most moved by and interested in chords, melody, dynamics, structure, texture, arrangement, flow, scale, invention, instrumentation, mood, contrast, depiction, et cetera.”

For the record, Breihan took Pecknold’s thoughtful and non-combative comments in stride: He later tweeted, “My man from Fleet Foxes came through with the most civil, thoughtful response to a bad, petty review (mine).”

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