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FOOL’S GOLD is a Los Angeles collective that weaves together western pop aesthetics with African rhythms and melodies. The group started as a side project of two young L.A. musicians, vocalist/bassist Luke Top and lead guitarist Lewis Pesacov, who set out to explore their shared love of various forms of African music (specifically Congolese, Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Malian), Krautrock, and ’80s dance-influenced pop music. They quickly wrote a few inspired songs and asked friends, friends of friends, and even strangers to join them on stage.
“We are serious students of these styles of music – the inherent polyrhythms, lilting yet catchy melodies, and deep, driving beats,” says Pesacov. “There is definitely an element to our songs that makes people want to dance, but there is also something deeper and more purposeful going on, maybe even akin to the early spirit of The Smiths – kind of like as if Congotronics were fronted by Morrissey.” Lewis, although raised on reggae and world music, holds a degree in classical music theory and composition. He studied under American avant-garde expatriate composers Mark Randall-Osborn and Frank Cox in Berlin and has had pieces performed in halls throughout Europe. Luke, who was born in Israel (his mother is from Iraq, father from Russia) and moved to Los Angeles at the age of three, instinctively alternates verses between Hebrew and English, thus personalizing the songs and allowing a unique interplay between his deceptively simple soul melodies and a propulsive rhythmic backdrop.
Not too long after their communal beginnings, Fool’s Gold developed organically into a full-time band. Although some of them met for the first time on stage, they soon became an airtight collective. The cast of characters includes Garrett Ray (of Foreign Born) on drums, Jimmy Vincent and Matt Popieluch (of Foreign Born) on guitar, Amir Kenan (childhood friend of Luke’s from Israel) sings backup vocals and plays keys, Brad Caulkins and Mark Noseworthy on saxophones/flute, and on percussion: Orpheo McCord (who studied percussion in Ghana as well as moonlighted as drummer for The Fall), Brazilian/Mexican visual artist Salvador Placencia, Argentinean pop star Erica Garcia, and Michael Tapper (ex-drummer of We Are Scientists), all of whom play a beautiful array of hand-made instruments including: ewe, gungon, and djembe skinned drums; gankogui, banana bells, and claves; kashishi, nut-rattles, goat-toe rattles, chekeres, axatse shell gourds, and an oversized tambourine (mizhar) bought on the street in Cairo, Egypt.
The songs for the self-titled album were mostly recorded live over a two-day session at the Sunset Lodge recording studio in Los Angeles in 2008, to be later completed in closets and apartment living rooms in 2009. Lewis and Luke collaborated on the music, written over a three-year span. Luke would then weave in the Hebrew/English lyrics. The Hebrew initially tied him to a birthplace that he barely knew, but evolved to be the perfect vehicle to express the overarching themes of duality that are the heart of the songs. Leaving a land with a rich and tumultuous history for one that is constantly forgetting and reinventing laid a personal foundation for Luke’s lyrics, which often explore the tension between one’s personal identity and the outside world. The songs resonate beyond just the immigrant experience to one that is understood by anyone who has struggled with dispelling illusions of the ego and the world. Although the melodies are jubilant, the irreverent and whimsical lyrics belie the tension of one exploring the existential and physical self.
The track “Ha Dvash,” which means ‘honey,’ delves into how easy it is to be dissatisfied when one relies on dreams alone. The verse translates to “I have no time to kiss you; I only have time to fall apart. I have time to drink from the faucet and dream of the honey.” In “Poseidon,” the mythological earth-shaker ironically is so self-involved that he cannot move forward despite the abundance that lies beyond! The lyrics translate to, “There is someone knocking at my door, I hold my heart in my pocket, and let the voices crash like waves, against the cool summer moonlight.” “Yam Lo Moshech” is a song about the simple beauty of things going right, and how sometimes there is a strange sadness when everything seems okay. “The air is still; nothing frightens me… The tide is not pulling me in and the rain is not falling.”
At first listen, it might be tempting to label Fool’s Gold as “world music,” but the band is, in its essence, a Los Angeles band; it is music made for hot nights in a sweltering desert. The multi-cultural group of players was born from a city that is a melting pot of neighborhoods and cultures. Fool’s Gold has shared bills with artists as diverse as Cat Power, Fujiya & Miyagi, and the Senegalese kora master Youssoupha Sidibe. They headlined the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and the Getty Center. They were recently profiled on the French music television program Tracks and featured in the Los Angeles Times Magazine.
Please visit myspace.com/foolsgoldla.