Back with a warm new album, Robin Pecknold talks about how the pandemic cured his anxiety – and how the Beach Boys’ golden falsettos changed his life
In June, “when everything was that young green”, Robin Pecknold went driving through upstate New York. Long drives, along empty roads, with the windows down. The pandemic was then spreading across America, and as he drove he saw how remote towns stood still, signs warning outsiders to quarantine. He kept driving, stopping only to buy gas.
Back in the city, the spring had been bewildering. When Covid-19 reached the US, Pecknold was in Los Angeles, recording Fleet Foxes’ fourth album, Shore, but as the gravity of the situation became apparent, he had hurried back east. But the days were unsettled: Pecknold’s New York apartment lies opposite a hospital and for three weeks the neighbourhood rang with ambulance sirens. For a time the street was lined with trucks operating as makeshift morgues. “The air was really bracing and brisk still at that point,” he recalls, “and then it was just silent in a way it had never been.”