Fool's Gold’s Luke Top Talks ‘Leave No Trace’

Posted by Billy Gil, September 13, 2011 05:07pm | Post a Comment
Fool’s Gold over the past couple of years have recorded and released two albums and toured pretty much constantly, taking their Hebrew-sung afro-pop around the globe. The band started in 2007 as a side project of as a side project of musicians Luke Top and Lewis Pesacov, the latter of fellow L.A. band Foreign Born. On their newest album, Leave No Trace, the band solidifies its lineup, whittling it down to five members (with Garrett Ray, Brad Caulkins and Salvador Placencia), and adds some spark to their sound, with more electronics, hookier songs, and lyrics sung in English, while retaining the North African-style guitar work that made them popular to begin with. I spoke with frontman Luke Top about the new album and the development of the band’s sound over the past couple of years.
Luke Top (second from left) and Fool's Gold
PST: It seems like you guys were trying to make a more fun record the second time around. Was that an intentional change?

Top: It's funny, I don't know if that's necessarily ... to me that’s not necessarily the aesthetic of the record. It's kind of interesting to hear people’s take on it. … I wouldn’t say our goal was to be a party band, per se, although we do party at our shows. We do bring that energy sometimes. Some of our shows can be ecstatic almost orgies at times. I wouldn't say we're really trying to direct that energy on the album. I think if anything we wanted to capture more moods on this record. Just like lots of different shades of what we're able to do. I guess if you have something you can connect to at a party or by yourself with headphones in a dark room, definitely it's able to capture different types of listening experiences. I'm not saying don't put it on at a barbecue, by all means please do.

PST: The album is definitely cohesive, but there are some songs that seem to fit some new mold while other songs are more in line with the first album, like “Bark and Bite,” with more African-inspired guitar lines or lyrics sung in Hebrew. Was there an effort to include the sounds of the first album but build upon that? Or is it just a song-by-song thing?

Top: It's like saying it's hard to avoid who you are. You are the same person you were two years ago. You aren't exactly the same person, but at your core you are. There are elements of your personality you can't shake for whatever reason. We were definitely building upon what we did for. Touring for about two years off that first record really helps you focus on what it is you’re doing, and we were really excited to use all that energy and bring that into the second record. But also we used to be this kind of free-for-all as far as who’s in the band, who's going on tour. We never had the same lineup two times in a row. At the end of that we ended up with this core five-piece band. So that informed the writing process. The first album as more of a snapshot of jams we were writing.

PST: How important was it to sing in English versus keeping some lyrics in Hebrew?

Top: It helped me articulate my thoughts a little more. I was really drawn to my first language, which is English and what I use day to day. I was really excited to be a little more personal and intimate with the words. It was pretty important to me. The Hebrew thing is funny because it really kind of changed me in a lot of ways on a personal level and in an artistic level let me sing what I want and gave me a lot of confidence and comfort on stage. With that I really felt the need to now capture some of that with English and see where I can take it.
PST: This band started after Foreign Born had already achieved some success, leading some to label it a side project. At this point is it most people in the band's full-time gig?

Top: It's pretty much a 24-hour-a-day lifestyle. Foreign Born hasn't really been active in some time. So there's no conflict with any of that. They were sort of slowly dissipating as we were kind of starting. Now this is taking front seat.
PST: Do you see the band continuing for a while then?

Top: Yes, at this point I do. Maybe when we started out it was an experiment. At this point, this record we made, we've just evolved together as a unit and plan on continuing to make records and continuing to play. As long as there's an audience for us, I suppose we can logistically continue.
PST: I feel a real Smiths vibe on this album on songs like “Leave No Trace” and “The Dive.” Were they a more active influence this time around, in that they're sort of a band that was able to incorporate more international influences into a Western pop sound?

Top: Yeah. ...With all the travelling we did and listening to music and talking about music, when it came down to it, we were able to draw from even more things. Some I suppose more Western stuff like music from the U.K. definitely creeped in there. We definitely added more stuff to our repertoire, I suppose, which is a kind of exciting aspect to the band. We were able to draw from more things, but you can still tell it's Fool's Gold.

PST: There's more of a confident sound on the new album. Is part of that settling on a lineup and having kind of a set band?

Top: Yeah, I mean the experience of being in front of so many people and engaging on that level, playing live and traveling, all that really gave us a lot of energy. I'm not sure that confidence was ever really an issue – the things we were doing to begin with were a little out there and strange. I don't think confidence was lacking, but I do think we were able to go a little deeper and articulate more this time. I guess maybe on some level there's some confidence there, maybe we feel we're allowed to dig a little deeper.

PST: It's also definitely more immediate. Is it safe to assume that's because this album was written and recorded much more quickly than the last?

Top: With fewer people, you can hear more things maybe. The first album sessions were just like a clusterfuck, just like three guitars, four percussionists, just sort of a free-for-all. I think now you're maybe able to hear the parts more and more intention behind it. There's a little more ownership of what we're doing maybe. We know who we are a little bit more.

Free download of "Street Clothes" by Fool's Gold.

U.S. Tour Dates:

September 13, 2011 – Tulsa, OK
Cain’s Ballroom

September 14, 2011 – San Marcos, TX
Texas Music Theatre

September 15, 2011 – Dallas, TX
South Side Music Hall

September 18, 2011 – Chicago, IL
Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements Festival

September 19, 2011 – Columbus, OH

September 20, 2011 – Philadelphia, PA
Kung Fu Necktie

September 21, 2011 – Washington, DC
Black Cat

September 22, 2011 – New York, NY
Mercury Lounge

September 24, 2011 – Brooklyn, NY
Brooklyn Bowl

October 1, 2011 – San Francisco, CA
Brick & Mortar Music Hall

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The Smiths (41), Foreign Born (1), Fool's Gold (6), Afro-pop (2), Interview (341), Free Download (11)