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Fleet Foxes Lose One Beard: J. Tillman Exits Band


Earlier today in Tokyo, where it was already tonight, Fleet Foxes wrapped up the final show of their tour supporting last year’s harmony-rich, imaginative, and timely Helplessness Blues. They’d been criss-crossing North America and the globe essentially nonstop since April, and, as recounted in a SPIN cover story last year, frontman Robin Pecknold began the grueling process of working on the record way back in January 2009. A post on the Pacific Northwest folk-rockers’ official Twitter account reads, “Helplessness Blues touring complete. Thank you all so much; it’s been an absolute honor. We’ll see you soon. XO/FF”

But not all the members of Fleet Foxes yesterday are members today. For the moment, the band is down only one beard, though two other members are pursuing a side project. Here’s a roundup:

• Fleet Foxes drummer J. Tillman announced yesterday he’s leaving the band. “Back into the gaping maw of obscurity I go,” he wrote. “Tokyo is my last show with the Foxes. Sorry if I was distant and obtuse if we ever met. Have fun.” While Tillman didn’t reveal any other plans, he has released several solo albums both before and since joining Fleet Foxes in 2008, including 2009’s Vacilando Territory Blues.

• The singer and songwriter Christan Wargo, who joined Fleet Foxes on bass in 2008 along with Tillman, and the keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Casey Wescott, who signed on in 2006, are both still in Fleet Foxes, as another tweet today reiterated. But they’re also part of Seattle band Poor Moon, set to release their debut Illusion EP via Sub Pop on March 27. Download advance MP3 “People in Her Mind,” a hyper-melodic guitar-pop nugget evoking the Zombies, and check out Poor Moon’s tour dates here. Nice Canned Heat reference, fellas!

• That leaves Pecknold, Fleet Foxes’ principal songwriting force, and guitarist Skyler Skjelset. The two have been making music together since their days at Lake Washington High School in the Seattle suburbs, while other members of Fleet Foxes have come and gone. Pecknold didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail asking about the band’s future, but then again, he was on Tokyo time after just having finished the last show of a world tour.

Despite Tillman’s exit, the remaining members of Fleet Foxes won’t be able to just rest on laurels, not even until Poor Moon starts its tour in March. The band is nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Folk Album, a category that pits Fleet Foxes against Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder and Gillian Welch, among others. See the Foxes’ taste in tuxes on February 12. Will their potential award speech begin, “We’d like to thank Gchat”?

Below, watch Fleet Foxes perform the title track from Helplessness Blues on Austin City Limits. Their full-length ACL episode airs tomorrow. Here’s wondering what Pecknold thinks of Bruce Springsteen’s newest song, which offers a similar theme of being part of something larger than oneself.