Robin Pecknold has always appeared a lot older than he really is. At 10, he was playing Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a community theater production of Annie, putting talcum powder in his hair to look the part. "Whenever I'd move around the stage or take a bow at the end, it would send this huge white cloud into the air," he laughed the other night during a break from his cashiering job at Bimbo's. Now 20, the singer-guitarist is fronting one of Seattle's most promising new bands, the Fleet Foxes, and displaying a songwriting acumen far more sophisticated than you might expect from someone his age.
Pecknold: Not as old as he looks.
The Fleet Foxes With Panda & Angel and Tiny Vipers. War Room, 722 E. Pike St., 206-328-7666, www.thewarroomseattle.com. $5. 9 p.m. Wed., May 10.
Weaned on Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Pecknold says that by his midteens he was gravitating toward the baroque pop of the Zombies, late-period Beatles, and Pet Sounds–era Beach Boys. "I loved how they had every instrument making a melody and that it all combined into something that sounded pretty adventurous."
The Foxes' best song, "Anyone Who's Anyone"—a sumptuous, three-minute pop gem—reworks those influences much the same way XTC did on Oranges & Lemons (in fact, Pecknold's warm, exuberant tenor bears an uncanny resemblance to Andy Partridge). The jazzy guitars and swingin' rhythm of "In the Hot Hot Rays," meanwhile, plant vintage Britpop on the Pacific Coast Highway while Pecknold's croon crosses Morrissey melodrama with the breathy beauty of Colin Blunstone.
For Pecknold, who began writing in earnest last June, working at Bimbo's (conveniently adjacent to Seattle musicians' haven the Cha Cha) has been a networking boon—his songs caught the ear of local producer Phil Ek (Built to Spill, the Shins), who offered to mix six of the tracks for a self-pressed EP the Foxes are selling at shows.
"I knew Robin was into all of that late-'60s pop, so I figured it was gonna be like a Beach Boys–y thing," says Ek. "It ended up being even better than I thought. There's not a whole lotta bands doing what they're doing, and his music is really amazing, so I wanted to help him out for sure."
Despite having played less than a dozen gigs so far, the Foxes have already generated interest from several labels, including at least one New York–based major. But, says Pecknold, "I definitely wanna write enough songs for a full-length and then go make a cool record with Phil before I even start thinking about anything to do with a label. Honestly, I've always been more concerned with my songwriting rather than, like, 'How are we gonna sell this band? How are we gonna get it out there and be successful?'" Given the charm of the former, the latter seems only a matter of time.