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Fool's Gold (the west coast answer of the Vampire Weekend)


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from Los Angeles,California.




“…who else is weaving cantorial yearning through the tuneful electricity of Afro-Islamic jangle and the tribal antics of Adam & the Ants?” - L.A. Weekly


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 LA 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, Ethiopan, 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 underneath 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 air-tight 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, 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, Bananna bells and claves; Kashishi, nut-rattles, goat-toe rattles, Chekeres, Axatse shell gourds and an over-sized tambourine Mizhar bought on the street in Cairo, Egypt.


The songs for the forthcoming 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 ones 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 ok. “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. On September 29th they will release their debut record on IAMSOUND Records. Remixes will soon be available from Micachu & The Shapes, Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal, Sizzla, Acid Girls and Phaseone.


“Their sound, rustic tropical rhythms that have been grown, harvested, dried, ground, and mixed with Luke Top's vocals, fried every molecule in the room." – Los Angeles Magazine online



- Continuously compared to Vampire Weekend, Fools Gold are a Californian 12 piece that consist of members from all over South America as well as former We Are Scientists drummer Michael Tapper.


What separates Fools Gold from fellow Californians Vampire Weekend is singer and bass player Luke Tops decision to mainly sing in Hebrew, adding an original touch to an already eclectic sound. Fusing Afro beat with synths and 60s guitars is a mix that looks erratic on paper but actually comes together in a most surprisingly joyous way. Yam Lo Moshech, which consists of tribal drums and spiky guitar riffs, is a perfect example of Fools Gold mixing their musical ingredients competently.


Surprise Hotel makes for a joyous opener with its looping drums and guitar riff, whereas Nadine provides a required increase in pace in terms of drumming as well as a helping of Columbian horns. Poseidon provides the album with its most popish sounding track, adding funky guitars and a melodic chorus which is backed up brilliantly by a backing group of singers. However, it's on stand out track Ha Dvash that Fools Gold show their true class. It can't be easy standing out when in a 12 piece band but guitarist Lewis Pesacov manages just that with his insane playing on the track. His playing is at times so fast that its gives the impression that you're listening to a Hindu God with eight arms. Perhaps it really was after all?


One thing that's certain after listening to Fools Gold's debut, is that they don't deserve to be labelled as bandwagon jumpers, attaching themselves to a genre of music that's currently 'fashionable'. As it's clear from their ability and genuine style that Fools Gold are a band that feel passionately about this style of music and go about proving it in the form of their exciting debut album.




Full disclosure: there are a dozen members of Fool’s Gold credited on this record, and all of them seemingly play with several other L.A. bands. Point being: if you have your tiptoes in the L.A. music world, you probably won’t have to play Six Degrees to connect yourself to the band. In my case, I’m a friend and colleague of keyboardist/backing vocalist Amir Kenan. I’m aware that disclosures are very 20th century and old-school print journalism, but I feel better now nonetheless. Moving on…


The two principals behind Fool’s Gold are guitarist/songwriter Lewis Pesacov (Foreign Born) and singer/songwriter Luke Top. It’s been mentioned elsewhere, so the secret is out, but Pesacov especially is a major talent, and the rare guitarist (indie or otherwise) who has a signature sound and a defining vision. He’s not the only one looking to Afropop for inspiration, of course, but he’s among the ones who have the best ideas about what to do with the inspiration beyond homage. He’s also one of the pre-eminent feel-good forces around; it takes about three seconds for Fool’s Gold’s “Surprise Hotel” or Foreign Born’s “Early Warnings” to sail off on a sea of good vibes.


It’s probably true that Pesacov is more serious about African music than some of his contemporaries who huddle under the same umbrella – and, no, I’m actually not talking about Vampire Weekend here. But Fool’s Gold isn’t a serious or ponderous record in the least; it’s an album for the body, not the brain. For non-Hebrew listeners, this will be even more the case, as Israeli-born Luke Top largely sings in Hebrew. But even if you’re privy to the translation, the lyrics largely seem like abstractions, intended more to provoke moods or interpretations.


Jubilation rules the day for Fool’s Gold. “Surprise Hotel” is as winsome an opener as imaginable, immediately making perfect sense of the band’s seemingly curious fusion of African pop music and expressive Hebrew vocals. The track is anchored by effervescent riffs from Pesacov, and it even comes accompanied by the rare video that captures the mood of the song perfectly (a pool party featuring bikini babes, weird lizards, and old dudes spraying themselves with fizzy soda… oh, and the band). Instead of just regurgitating that formula, though, Fool’s Gold mix things up as the album plays out, highlighted by the tranquil tribal chanting of “Ha Dvash” and the cacophonous, aptly titled “Night Dancing.”


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Es-SyYrpg2c]YouTube - Fool's Gold - "Suprise Hotel" - SXSW 2010 Showcasing Artist[/ame]

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mbkl-GzVYbI]YouTube - Fool's Gold - "Nadine" (Official Video)[/ame]

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAK-AI3KJbo]YouTube - Fool's Gold - Surprise Hotel (Live on KEXP)[/ame]

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpBiZOahNJI]YouTube - Fool's Gold - Nadine (Live on KEXP)[/ame]

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