When it came time for Fleet Foxes to record the follow-up to their breakout self-titled effort, the Seattle folk pop force found themselves faced with the age-old problem of sophomore expectation. Though the band initially planned to start work on the second album in the fall of 2008, the group's initially humble touring schedule soon exploded and the plan obviously changed.
"It sort of makes you rethink what you actually even do," singer-songwriter Robin Pecknold tells Exclaim! over the phone from Portland, where he just relocated from Seattle. "We were obviously really excited that the band was well received, and it was fun to be doing all these cool things we wouldn't have the opportunity to do without the band. But there's also an element of it where I don't think any of us were looking at stuff at the level that we end up getting to."
The long recording process for Helplessness Blues began in Seattle in the spring of 2010. Once again working with producer Phil Ek (Built to Spill, the Shins), what resulted was an album of unmistakable Fleet Foxes sounds, though the extensive touring the band had done found its way into the more elaborate structures as well.
"It was definitely a record [made] with the knowledge that we would be touring it," Pecknold says, going on to explain that the band prefer not to make the songs stage-ready on record, but instead, to leave room for them to grow in a live setting. For Pecknold, that also meant putting more stock into his lyrics.
"I wanted the lyrics to be relevant to me not just at the time that the record was made or the song was written, so that I could sing those sings with meaning, and it wasn't just an act, or a performance."
Pecknold frequently struggles with the delays of the music business. Recently, he released a three-song solo EP via the band's Twitter, something that he hopes to do more of, not just with his own material, but with Fleet Foxes as well.
"The record took so long and was such a sort of exhausting process. I just wanted to record [the songs] in a day, and just get it out. Just [for] a different experience than the record," Pecknold explains. "I think for Fleet Foxes we'll probably try to put things out more frequently as they're written instead of waiting to put an album together. We'll do another album down the line somewhere, but release some songs before that."
Fleet Foxes are supporting Helplessness Blues with a world tour that starts with a pair of shows in Vancouver later this week and also includes a Toronto date. See the schedule here and check back on Tuesday (April 26) to steam all of Helplessness Blues here on Exclaim.ca before its May 3 release via Sub Pop.