I write a lot of articles for Inland Empire Weekly. Most of the time, it is about music.
There is so much music out there. I go to the usual places to find out about new bands and check on the old ones, but most of the time when IE Weekly tells me to talk to someone I have some research to do. Sure, it's just the Inland Empire, which is just a sizable section of Southern California, but a lot of groups come through this area from places all over the globe or just from Los Angeles, a city which probably has 10,000 bands trying to make it right now that most of us probably don't know about.
Fool's Gold draws their music from a lot of different sources, which is why it's called, well, "world music." Reading the list of their influences reminded me of large swaths of prose that I've read in books by writers like Bruce Sterling and William Gibson, where the interstitial nature of all cultures in the future and near-future is constantly reinforced by characters wearing dove-gray, Italian cut suits of faux-Japanese design, with buttons of Norwegian bone, or hearing about Bangladesh programmers working for some Russian kombinat, cracking the codes to datafortresses of some London-based zaibatsu.
The band seems to be from that universe, where international is inevitable, and listening to their music makes you feel so cultured and informed. Congolese drums. Saharan blues. Brazilian rhythms. Taiwanese heavy metal.
This is a good thing, because it reminds you that the musicians around the world aren't just these people creating great sounds in clean little boxes, never paying attention to the music in the world around them. Just as American rock and roll was influenced by traditional southern blues, there are African guitarists who are being influenced by Norwegian death metal, borrowing hooks and riffs to improvise the sound according to the audiences around them.
I'm both over-simplifying and basically slapping adjectives together to reinforce my point, but you get it. Music is a primal, ever-adapting force. It's a language we all speak, and Fool's Gold is a reminder that the dialogue knows no borders.
Fool’s Gold is a Los Angeles group that combines traditional African rock and roll, modern world music and the energy of American pop to make its own addictive sound for an audience that wants something new from halfway around the planet cool enough to dance to in the club down the street.
Luke Top and Lewis Pesacov formed the collective in 2007. “We had known each other since our college days,” Top says. “We enjoyed being in bands together, but we were also very competitive.”
The two young musicians went on a road trip together and started talking about Kraut rock and world music. “We realized we both had been listening to the same types of bands all of our lives,” Top says. That was when the idea that would become Fool’s Gold was formed. “We became great friends and decided that when we got back home to L.A. we’d create something that was more experimental.”
The two invited other musicians to jam with them and spent long hours just playing with the music, living with it, letting the fusion of friendly collaboration and tribal rhythms guide them. “We tried to take the same approach as musicians in Africa, who see music as being a social experience,” Top says.
He found the social atmosphere to be in sharp contrast to the beat-or-be-beaten attitude of the music industry. “The L.A. façade is so different. It’s so loud and disparate.” Eventually, the collective had a life of its own. “People just loved coming over and not worrying about anyone else but playing music. We ended up playing in houses, clubs, public parks . . . anywhere.”
World music is a single term for a broad range of music that includes everything from Sudanese guitar, Ethiopian synth, Saharan brass instruments to Congolese blues, and Top says that he and Pesacov enjoy it all. “Basically, we’re music nerds. We listen to music from South America, Ethiopia, Mali . . . there’s so much going on in Mali.”
To Top it’s all just a collection of ingredients for one giant recipe, and the flavor is finer for it. “There’s a deep connection between American rock and African music. There’s a lot of folk music and traditions influenced by Western rock. We take that equation and add our own mix. We are playing African music done as American music done as African music, again.”
It’s been more than a year since the release of Leave No Trace, their last album. Looking back, is he satisfied with their last work?
“You know, it’s hard to say,” Top says. “I think we did a good job. I like the record. I like what we were trying to do, but we had to make it in three months, so we didn’t have a lot of time. I am proud that we made it. We really learned to sculpt our sound into songs with our last album.”
Fool’s Gold intends to release its next album by the summer of 2013. “We are just starting to get into our third record.” Top says the collective plans to take their time with this one, testing the band’s material out on a live audience before recording it, saving the best for the album. “For us it makes sense to perform our songs before we record them. Our music evolves on the stage. We didn’t get to do that a lot on our last album.”