As you certainly heard a few weeks ago, Fleet Foxes drummer J. Tillman has announced he is leaving the band after their upcoming tour of Japan to concentrate on a solo career. Tillman, like most other members of Fleet Foxes, wears a beard.
Although the band has not announced its plans for replacing Tillman, it is believed they will pick another bearded drummer. Beards play a major role in the music of Fleet Foxes, adding to the depth of the band members’ tightly woven Rug Harmonies. The challenge will be finding an appropriately bearded drummer, one whose beard compliments the beards of the other band members. This promises to be no easy task. It’s no surprise that the continuing members of Fleet Foxes have called on Rock Town Hall to consult them in the selection process.
If you’ll recall the discussion over our recently introduced RTH Glossary term, the Rhythm Beard, it’s not necessarily a beard that a band member will sport to bridge the various personalities and Looks within a band, to help coalesce the band members’ collective Rock Superpowers. In the soon-to-be altered Fleet Foxes dynamic, for instance, it’s been a band member’s Rhythm Baby Face that has kept the band’s tight harmonies from veering off course, into the dangerous territory of the Ragged Canadian Chorus.
For the past few years in Fleet Foxes, the member we’ll refer to as Rhythm Baby Face has bridged the competing elements in the band’s fierce Beard Dynamic. Lacking the unifying Lead Beard of a Levon Helm, the Foxes have juggled variations on the Teach Your Children and a half-assed Shape I’m In, toyed with a Hudson, and in the case of the Fox seated at the far right of the photo above even shot for the moon with a time-tested Midnight Rider. Tillman’s mildly scraggly, unassuming Bangladesh Beard was the most centered of the band’s beards; it was the one beard that was truly at peace with itself. One can only imagine how many intra-band squabbles were settled when Tillman’s beard entered the band’s rehearsal space. It was more a Harmony Beard, we might say, than a Rhythm Beard. Perhaps anticipating Tillman’s departure, one band member in the photo above seems to be introducing a possible Harmony Toque.
What can rock history teach us in the search for Fleet Foxes’ Replacement Beard? The long and winding history of Fleetwood Mac is rife with lessons in beard replacement. Following the Mac’s early days under the follicular domination of Peter Green, the band experimented with the incorporation of one then three Rhythm Blonds before Mick Fleetwood finally grew comfortable with his Townshend and added the dynamic duo of a second blond woman and a dude who looked like the Sexy Apostle in Jesus movies, or what Jeff Lynne might have looked like without the shades and with a California upbringing. Blond dudes with wispy blond facial hair would no longer be welcome in the band. Fleetwood Mac reached the perfect equilibrium of beards and broads, and their career skyrocketed. And what was the moment when the band would forever have to struggle to maintain its unity and massive popularity? That’s right, when Lindsey Buckingham abandoned his beard.
I’m not suggesting that Fleet Foxes replace J. Tillman with a sexy, bearded drummer and two fine-looking, clean-shaven women. But the search is on, and you, Rock Town Hall, have been asked to identify the Look of Fleet Foxes’ next drummer. Thank you.