Fool’s Gold

Photography by Emily Sure

When Luke Top, Lewis Pesacov, and Orpheo McCord of Fool’s Gold sit down and mull over an Ethiopian menu, the first thing they ask the waitress is, “If we get one meat combo and one veggie-combo, we’ve ordered everything on the menu right?” Right. This is the best way to sample a country’s cuis-ine: put as much of it on the table as possible.

Similarly, the best way to get to know a band is by listen-ing to their album from start to finish in one sitting. Though as a required pastime of musical appreciation, it is a dying act in the age where the iPod shuffle is king, queen, and jack. Where some take repeated listens, Fool’s Gold’s self-titled debut has you at “shalom.” (Their vocalist and songwriter Top sings in Hebrew).
Touareg Blues, Highlife, Eritrean Synth Pop: Fool’s Gold is a band with a distinct variety of influences. Nevertheless their take on African and “world music” is based more on feeling than academics. On first, second, and third listen, the songs sound like a field recording from a tropical nation not yet discovered. Watching them play live is nothing short of touching. Your insides get warm, vibrate and hum as if caught between the prongs of a struck tuning fork.

Top and Pesacov are devotees when it comes to music they love. Born in Israel but raised in the San Fernando Valley, Top’s education began at age five with Jewish folk, Arab orchestral, the likes of Fairouz, ABBA, and the primal leanings of new wave masters Adam and the Ants. Top assures, “They’re huge in Israel.” Pesacov grew up immersed in island sounds though his love for them was latent. His father moved the family from Barbados to Los Angeles to follow his dream of becoming a reggae producer. It was not until Pesacov studied western classical music theory in college that he would discover the sounds of his youth as his true comfort music.

Then there’s the other 10 members of the band, ranging from ex-members of the Fall and We Are Scientists, to a childhood friend and an Argentine pop star. With so many hands in the candy box it’s no wonder that the band’s beginning jam sessions were of the “come one, come all” variety. Top remembers, “At first, people would just come on stage with us—they would literally just jump up and grab an instru-ment. It was really communal.” With a group of committed players they whittled their 20-minute jams into an album that still keeps their initial spirit intact.

The self-titled recording, out on the IAMSOUND label, is a genuine creature. The songs are a conversation not a lecture. It is music different by design; not manufactured for effect. Top says, “Music just has another context in other countries. It has another function, especially in Africa. It is very much ingrained into their daily lives.” Traditionally African rhythms are modeled after speech patterns and vice versa. Musicians are taught to speak rhythms before playing them. These rhythms inform everyday life from weddings to war.

While the boys and girls from Fool’s Gold are not by their own admission trying to be African, they are gleaning the most important elements from their inspirations. They are making music that lives and breathes, that walks and does not need to be carried. Fool’s Gold is not giving us an album to sing along to, but an album that teaches us how to sing.

Fool’s Gold’s self-titled and otherworldly romp through music is now out on IAMSOUND RECORDS.

– Daniel Dehnhardt