When Fleet Foxes rejoins the fray this month with their third album Crack-Up, it will be with a more educated, well-rounded frontman.

The band went quiet after touring behind 2011's Helplessness Blues, when Robin Pecknold realized he needed a change. For about half of the six years since the band's last album, he holed up at Columbia University as an undergraduate student. He learned to surf, and did a solo hike to the base camp at Mt. Everest. He composed music for an off-Broadway play. Then his muse struck again.

"I felt one-dimensional," he told Rolling Stone regarding his reasons for taking a break from Fleet Foxes. "I thought, 'We kind of did this.' If people wanted to see us, they saw us. There was no reason to milk it. I was curious what else there is to do in life.

"I had kind of an identity crisis," he continued. "I'd built this one identity, then I tore it down and built another."

After playing music since his teens, Pecknold transformed from dirty band guy to clean-cut student. But while in school, his mind wandered, always bringing a musical angle to his coursework. Eventually, in July 2016, he and guitarist Skyler Skjelset, who he's played with since childhood, met in the studio over Pecknold's summer break to see what ideas would emerge.

"Things were out of alignment," Pecknold said of his time away. "If the spark had hit, I would have given up going to school. I didn't need to be there for three years. If it had been two semesters and I felt I had the songs, I'd have left. But that just didn't happen, so I kept enrolling, semester to semester."

Luckily for fans, inspiration hit. Not only will the band return, minus drummer Josh Tillman, better known as Father John Misty, but Pecknold has also been working on a solo album.

Crack-Up is due June 16 on Nonesuch Records. You can pre-order the album on their website.

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