For a mild-mannered band playing inoffensive folk music, Fleet Foxes sure do get people riled up. With the Seattle-based band coming to Portland to play one of their first live shows in six years, in support of third full-length Crack Up, their first album since 2011, we wanted to look back on the surprising antipathy that has surrounded the group—some of their own design, some from out of left-field.
Father John Misty
Before reinventing himself as an ironic hippie lothario, Josh Tillman had the most thankless job in rock: playing drums for Fleet Foxes. (Think of a Fleet Foxes song. Are you hearing any percussion at all?) In a Reddit AMA last year, frontman Robin Pecknold confessed his relationship with Tillman had "fully deteriorated" even before Tillman quit in 2012. It's unclear who's at fault, but we'll go with the guy who sings "Bedding Taylor Swift every night inside the Oculus Rift" on his new album.
Seattle Alternative Media
When Fleet Foxes released its sophomore effort, Helplessness Blues, in 2011, the band's hometown alt-weekly, The Stranger, took the obvious approach to covering the album—by playing it for actual foxes at the zoo and noting their reactions. Pecknold was not amused. He called the piece "belittling" and cited it as a reason why he briefly left Seattle for Portland that year. (He's probably totally cool with this article, though, right?)
To be fair, it's pretty easy to end up in the Croz's crosshairs: All it really takes is someone mentioning your name to him on Twitter. When a fan tweeted the rock curmudgeon to ask what he thought of Fleet Foxes frequently being compared to CSNY, Crosby responded, "Could use some better songs." Which was a little weird, since he'd previously professed to be a fan of theirs. Maybe he confused them for the Lumineers?
Modern Indie Rock
Earlier this year, Pecknold and David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors got into a public conversation on Instagram about the current state of indie rock, with Pecknold writing, "Whitney, Mac DeMarco, Angel Olsen, Car Seat Headrest? Idk if any of that has 'cutting edge' written into the M.O., even if it's fun to listen to." Music Twitter scoffed at the notion of the dude in the bearded folk band criticizing other artists' lack of innovation; Pecknold took to Reddit to explain his comment was being taken the wrong way. The fact that this was the talk of the blogs for a few days probably tells you all you need to know about indie rock in 2017.
In an interview with Stereogum, Borland—you might remember him as the guy from Limp Bizkit who dressed and moved like Mr. Peepers in a Kabuki drama—responded to a question about whether his old band was good or bad for music by saying, "I think that Fleet Foxes is a negative influence on music." When the kids at the Newport Folk Festival respond to "Mykonos" by lighting trash on fire and punching each other in the face, don't say you weren't warned.
SEE IT: Fleet Foxes plays Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside St., with Chris Cohen, on Thursday, May 18. 8 pm. Sold out. All ages.