Los Angeles based outfit Fool's Gold are something of a unique entity among the current climate of tired clichÃ©s regurgitating their parents record collections. Not least because rather than follow the traditional notion of merely being a band, their ethos is one where the term "collective" is perhaps more of an appropriate description of their make-up.
Although initially started four years ago by songwriters Luke Top and Lewis Pesacov, both of whom were (and in some cases still are) heavily involved in other projects at the time as an experimental sideline of sorts, the critical acclaim bestowed on their self-titled 2009 debut not to mention the sporadic, often mantra-like nature of their live shows.
Now, with sophomore album 'Leave No Trace' ready to go next month and the band currently finishing off their run of UK festivals with a show at Latitude, Contactmusic thought there was no better time than the present to catch up with the band.
Was it always your intention for Fool's Gold to become a collective rather than a traditional band?
Luke Top: It was all accidental!
Lewis Pesacov: The idea of the project was that there was no set structure really I guess. We just intended it to be nothing more than hanging round with our friends. We're all deep-seated within the Los Angeles music community. There are so many bands around town you know? In fact, because we've been away touring for so long there's probably a hell of a lot more coming through that we don't even know about.
LA has quite a big scene then I take it?
Lewis Pesacov: It does, although at the same time I wouldn't say there's any one aesthetic running through the city either. It's more about the camaraderie that exists between bands.
Luke Top: We have a lot of musician friends there that just wanted to come along and bang something or shake something.It was like an outlet for whoever to do whatever they wanted.
Lewis, I have to mention your other band, Foreign Born, which seems to have a more traditional rock aesthetic than the loose eclecticism of Fool's Gold. Is it difficult combining the two roles and which band would you say takes priority for you?
Lewis Pesacov: Foreign Born is on a hiatus.well actually, it's pretty much over. Matt (Popieluch) the singer is making a solo album. He's already made one record and now he's putting together the follow-up. I guess Matt always intended being a solo artist. In fact, Matt and Luke (Top) had a band together when they were in college. I played keyboards in that band!
Luke Top: Yeah, the scene is pretty incestuous! I was so pissed when those guys started Foreign Born without me!
Lewis Pesacov: Matt has put a band together - Big Search - but it is primarily his project. I think we're all really happy now. It's taken us twelve years to get to this point where we can all honestly say we're making the music we want to make with the people we enjoy making it with.
It's interesting you say that because the organic sound of Fool's Gold could almost be the next step on from the more structured elements of Foreign Born.
Lewis Pesacov: Yeah, definitely. We don't want to fit into any conventional format.
You've had numerous collaborators work with the band at various times - Michael Tapper, formerly of We Are Scientists being one. Are any of them here with you at present and will different people be joining you as the tour progresses?
Lewis Pesacov: No. The whole thing about making 'Leave No Trace' is that we finally became a band. We were always a loose collective from the outset which as I've said earlier is great but then the downside of that is you often never know who's going to turn up and play. This can create problems when we're touring as well. I mean, until now, we've never had the same line-up for any tour! That in turn makes it difficult to rehearse or even try and put some finer details into the music or how we're going to convey it live, if that makes sense? We decided on our last tour that whoever was here at the end would be the band that recorded the album, so there were six people for the first half of the tour and five on the second, hence the reason there's five of us here today. It feels like we have five people that want to dedicate their lives to our band and even when we write, everyone contributes now rather than just Luke and me. We had a couple of guests on the record - one song has a flute solo and there's a vocal part on another song - but essentially 'Leave No Trace' was made by the same five people.
Going back to your first album, which you recorded almost entirely live. How long did it take you to put everything together? Surely it must have been a few takes in there.?
Lewis Pesacov: Yeah we managed to get it done in a few takes. The songs themselves were written over a three-year period, so it was really just a case of playing and recording them for the record.
That sounds like a difficult process to organise in many ways.
Lewis Pesacov: I think it was more a process of disorganisation! We didn't really have a release in mind at the time. I kind of run a record label too, and we were just planning to put out a couple of seven inches on my label. 'Surprise Hotel' was the first one, and we funded it by going into the studio for two days to record it, and ended up recording everything else we knew at the time.
In two days?
Lewis Pesacov: Yeah, well we kind of thought let's make the best use of the studio time we have by getting as much laid down as possible, and then I added a few bits to the recordings later. You have to remember at that point we genuinely believed no one else would want to put our music out. And then this label (I AM SOUND) came along and asked if we wanted to put out an EP, and when we told them we'd already recorded eight songs they asked us if we'd like that to be our album instead.
The first song I ever heard by Fool's Gold was 'Nadine', and what struck me the most was that it sounds like three separate pieces of music woven into one. Is that the way you tend to work most of the time, sort of cross-pollinating intermittent jams and such?
Luke Top: That song in particular kind of calls back to a traditional Ethiopian style of song where you'll have the same chord and a specific melody runs the whole way through, but then at various points there'll be a minimal change which kind of introduces a second or third track, and then ultimately the melody will change on top of all that. We were just experimenting with how far we could go using that format, and that's how 'Nadine' developed.
Lewis Pesacov: It's true. Some of our songs start off at twenty-five minutes long, and then sometimes if we break them down you can hear four songs in there, other times we'll just shorten various parts and keep the same structure. My favourite part of 'Nadine' has to be the ending, simply because that is almost like a completely different song.
'Momentary Shelter' as well has a similar feel from a listener's point of view, albeit in a much shorter kind of way.
Lewis Pesacov: 'Momentary Shelter' started off in the same way. We had this lullaby-sounding riff, and sort of built other ideas around it then stripped it down at the end to make it into the four-and-a-half minute song you hear on the record. It was actually the first song we recorded and yet also became the last one we finished.
Luke Top: It took me a while to put together a melody for it.
Lewis Pesacov: Originally it was going to be an instrumental, then Luke came up with some lyrics and everything seemed to fall into place.
Luke, I have to ask you about the mixture of Hebrew and English lyrics throughout the first record. What inspired you to approach songs like 'Ha Dvash' in this way and is there a similar theme on 'Leave No Trace'?
Luke Top: I guess when we started, the idea was to use as much crazy shit as we could possibly get away with. Because there was no pressure from any label or anything, it was more about us having a good time than anything else, see what ideas we could bring to the table and ultimately push ourselves a little bit. The Hebrew thing was just me focusing on my background really. I was born in Israel and speak Hebrew fluently ad I'd listened to a lot of traditional music so I just wanted to try singing in a different way.
Lewis Pesacov: For the second album, we've recorded it almost entirely in English. I think the main theme for 'Leave No Trace' was about articulation. Like, how do we go deeper.?
Luke Top: I think we've kind of refined what we're doing on the new record.
Are there any plans to play any new songs in the set today?
Lewis Pesacov: The sad thing about today's set is that we've only got half an hour, so we'll probably struggle to play any more than two songs in total! At our earliest shows we'd usually play about three songs in just under an hour, so with us having such a limited stage time we're still unsure what to do today.
Luke Top: We'll definitely keep it at just two songs.and two old songs at that!
Will there be a tour to promote 'Leave No Trace', and will you be returning to the UK?
Lewis Pesacov: Nothing's officially confirmed as yet, but I can tell you that the plan is to do a massive UK tour in October.
Finally, I've read the story of how you acquired the name Fool's Gold from when one of your friends visited California and found some fool's gold in the ocean, but do people ever assume you must either be from Manchester, England or a Stone Roses tribute act?
Lewis Pesacov: (laughs) Yeah, we get that shit all the time! The moment we flew in, some guy saw our visas and said "Right, you're called Fool's Gold. Stone Roses fans right?" And I was like, "No!" I mean, I do like 'I Wanna Be Adored', but I was never a massive Stone Roses fan. We never even considered that whilst naming the band.
Luke Top: .but then we never even considered playing in England at the start either! We have a MySpace page and it's adorned with pictures of gold.
Lewis Pesacov: It is kind of funny that we get asked about the name in every interview, especially over here in England.
I guess the apostrophe between the "L" and the "S" should tell people it has nothing to do with The Stone Roses anyway.
Lewis Pesacov: You know what, one of the biggest bugbears for us is that people never use the apostrophe (points at artist pass which has the band down as "Fools Gold"). What does that mean when there is no apostrophe?
Luke Top: It's incorrect.
Lewis Pesacov: Or maybe it's just British people that don't speak English very well!
The album 'Leave No Trace' is out on 16th August through I AM SOUND Records.
Official Site -