Fleeting Harmonies

The annual Falls Festival has had the tendency to conjure up some sort of majestic and ethereal vibe for all the punters who head to both Lorne and Marion Bay at the end of the year. For Fleet Foxes, this year's festival marks the band's second appearance on the bill, as well as a run of Australian dates.


The band's keyboardist/vocalist Casey Wescott is as excited to be getting the opportunity to immerse himself in our unique culture, as he is about playing gigs.


"It was really so idyllic the first time we were there. I think my exposure to Australia until that point was National Geographic magazine! I was just hoping to maybe see a few marsupials and play some shows.


"It was really great to just absorb yourself in the culture because the people there are very friendly and quite different from what I believe to be a typical American temperament. It was really great to go down there and I'm very excited to do it again."


For a touring musician from the northern hemisphere, Wescott reveals that he's looking forward to being thrown into what is essentially a "foreign" environment once more around Christmas time.


"There's something so peculiar about leaving a couple of days after Christmas and then finding yourself in such an idyllic, sunny, summery environment. It's very hard to recalibrate the map of your environment when you're having such oddly discontinuous experiences from Christmas, to this feeling of summer and a totally different culture. I've never been to Japan, which we're also going to, so I'm really excited about this whole round of touring!"


Speaking to Wescott, as he prepares to head out on tour with the band for a month-long European tour, I immediately get the impression that this is a musician who is so passionate about soaking up every experience thrown his way and is more comfortable out on the road.


"You've caught me at a very vulnerable moment," Wescott reveals. " It's the last day before I go on tour for a month in Europe and I'm just getting the last minute things done. Sometimes it can be a little paralysing; the prospect of getting back on the road, there's things like that that can present some challenges.


"For the most part, I'm excited to go out because, to tell you the truth, it's what is normal to me now. We've been touring more than we've been home; I don't know what to do when I'm not waking up next to 12 other guys on the bus!"


Fleet Foxes have been promoting their second album ‘Helplessness Blues' pretty hard since its release earlier in the year and, according to Wescott, the response to the band's only release since 2008 has been staggering.


"The people at the shows haven been really enthusiastic and that's been surprising. We hadn't played a show in over a year and we hadn't released something in much longer than that. I personally didn't have any criteria to calculate expectations, so I just didn't have any.


"To see that people even care to give it a listen is astounding to me, because time is of the essence and life is short, so we're very fortunate that people are bothering to bother with us."


Fleet Foxes' 2008 debut self-titled debut brought the band's fusion of folk and acoustic rock into the wider sphere and with ‘Helplessness Blues', it's almost as if they've taken their original formula and mixed in some more global influences.


With some of the more epic songs on the record, it's almost impossible to tell when one starts and one ends. For Wescott, the record took a lot of reworking and honesty, as a band, to reach a collective feeling of "completeness".


"To be honest, that ‘when are we done' feeling generally happens after you're done. So you don't really know until it happens; but there are definitely a few songs where at one point we said ‘Okay, we really have to finish mastering by this time'. You'd have to pry some of these songs from our cold dead hands, so to speak, because sometimes you don't want to let go!


"You can always discover new things about a song and at the end of the day, you have to reconcile all those ideas by what you think is being true to the song.


"We already had a false ending, so we tried mixing it in New York, hoping and thinking we were done, when we clearly we not, when we all put the cards on the table and took a holistic look at everything. I know it's like a 45 minute piece of music, but there definitely is a lot of nuts and bolts and time spent in figuring out how to present things in a way that we could live with while at the same time, being honest to ourselves and where we were at that time."


With extensive touring becoming the way of life, it can be hard to imagine where the band has time to squirrel away and formulate new ideas or expand on blossoming sounds they already have knocking about.


"It's interesting, I can be creative anywhere, whether it's in a motel room or if it's on whatever instrument is lying around. I can't speak for everybody, but for me, there are certain places where I feel very free and I feel comfortable in my own skin.


"I really just like being in my bedroom. I generally like to work with a lot of different instruments and have a lot of different strategies when coming up with musical solutions to different situations so for me, there's nothing like being at home to do that. I can be playing my piano or playing my harpsichord and stuff like that."


The critical acclaim that has accompanied ‘Helplessness Blues' harks back to that levelled at the debut Fleet Foxes record, yet Wescott remains completely humbled, even detached from the praise which has been coming from all corners.


"I don't indulge too much in reading stuff about the band," he admits. "Maybe because I just don't know what the pragmatic benefit to my life would be by doing so. It's not like I'm putting my head in the sand because I don't read it, I just don't know how helpful it is to see that stuff out, you know?


"At the same time, it is interesting to hear; it's great to hear that you're listening to the record when you could be listening to a tonne of other things."


Whilst staying away from public feedback is clearly something that Wescott is adamant about, even he offers some insight into how much both he and his band mates appreciate and are constantly surprised by their fans' support.


"When you work on ideas, when some of them work and some of them end up on the cutting room floor, you're creating in a vacuum and in isolation. It's reassuring to hear that people love something that you've spent so much time investing your live into. At the same time, I don't think that anybody should expect that everything they do is to be valued by other people. I certainly don't have those expectations."


"Time is of the essence to everybody and life is short, so we're very fortunate that people are bothering to bother with us."

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