The Strange Alchemy Of Fool's Gold On their first album, the L.A. band won over fans and critics with their unique blend of African melodies and Hebrew lyrics. They've changed their approach for their latest album, Leave No Trace. Founding members Luke Top and Lewis Pesacov explain why.
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The Strange Alchemy Of Fool's Gold

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The Strange Alchemy Of Fool's Gold

The Strange Alchemy Of Fool's Gold

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Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm David Greene. For our music feature this week, a band that brought together this perfect mix of African melodies and Hebrew lyrics. Take a listen to Fool's Gold.


FOOL: (Singing in foreign language)

GREENE: That's a track from their debut album a couple years ago. The critics said beguiling, they said joyous, and that unique marriage of influences won over legions of fans. But for the latest Fool's Good record, "Leave No Trace," they practically left no trace of Hebrew. The lyrics are mostly in English.


GOLD: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

GREENE: The two founding members of the band Fool's Gold are guitarist Lewis Pesacov and vocalist Luke Top, and they join me in the studio out here at NPR West. Welcome to you both.


LUKE TOP: Hey. Thanks for having us.

GREENE: So, Luke, what happened to the Hebrew? You made it work really well on that first album.

TOP: Why, thanks so much.


TOP: You know, I think this record was a process of evolution and articulation, really. And I think singing English was - just seemed like the natural next step in our evolution. I kind of learned how to sing by singing in Hebrew and kind of wanted to take what I learned and apply it to my native tongue.

GREENE: You were born in Israel but you actually had to relearn Hebrew, take some language and get it back.

TOP: Yeah. I had a really barebones conversational level of Hebrew that we spoke in my household. So to write lyrics as it were, I needed some assistance for sure.

GREENE: Well, before we get to all the new English on this new album, there is one song on the new album that does revive that marriage of Hebrew and English lyrics. It's called "Tel Aviv," and let's hear a bit of that.


GOLD: (Singing in foreign language)

GREENE: So the lyrics here suggest a longing for Israel. You sing: I take a bow and lock my knees and think of you, my Tel Aviv.

TOP: Yes. You know, the song, you know, even though it specifies Tel Aviv, it's really just a longing for a sense of home, you know? I moved to Los Angeles, California as a small child, but I never quite felt tethered to one place or another. I kind of felt like in this strange purgatory of what is home? What does it mean to be growing up in this country? What does it mean to have a home that's, you know, so rich with history and obviously a conflict? So this song "Tel Aviv" is somewhat autobiographical but also just kind of deals with this idea of what is home exactly.

GREENE: Tell me about how the band came together. I mean, as you were putting together the first album, it sounded like jam sessions. You would welcome anybody. I mean, I could have come in and said I can pick up an instrument. I mean, you had like 12 people, 15 people.

PESACOV: Definitely. It was open door. When we first started, Luke and I bonded over the idea of kind of opening up what it was. We've been playing music together for a long time but playing, like, you know, short pop songs, three-, four-minute songs. And we really were interested in allowing songs to breathe and maybe just to jam on one note and kind of find a trance for like 20 minutes and also to allow anybody we know to come play with us.

And because I think that there are a lot of other musicians in the Los Angeles community who were kind of looking for this musical outlook that was a little freer, a lot of people would show up and play with us. I mean, you never knew who was going to come. There's always percussion. There was times we had four guitar players, two keyboard players, you know, and it felt really great.

GREENE: Luke, this - it sound like this album has made you guys a little more orderly. You've have to cut down the number of people, keep things a little more organized, shut the door, so to speak.

TOP: Well, yeah. As you can imagine, you know, we toured on that first album for about two years. And with that comes many logistical situations where it's from one tour to the next we didn't necessarily know who was in the band.

GREENE: That can be challenging.

TOP: So, I think - yeah. After a couple of years of that, we were just kind of left with this five piece and we decided that this was the core unit.


GOLD: (Singing) (Unintelligible)

GREENE: Is it hard to say no to people who want to come in and join the band? I mean, if you're leaving things to, like, five people now, do you have old friends who kind of call and say, hey, I'm still around. I'm still...

PESACOV: Oh, yeah.

GREENE: I'm interested in playing. You guys want me back?

TOP: It constantly happens.

PESACOV: Especially the good gigs. People always want to jump in on the good gigs.

GREENE: Of course. You guys are touring with Red Hot Chili Peppers in the fall. I bet a lot of people are like, hey, still right here. We're happy to go on tour with you.


GREENE: My guests are Lewis Pesacov and Luke Top from the band Fool's Gold, and their new album is called "Leave No Trace." And another track from the new album is called "Balmy."


GOLD: (Singing) (Unintelligible)

GREENE: You guys are both swinging your heads around. This feels very, this feels very trancelike to me. And I've been reading about some of the music coming out of Mali. They call it Desert Blues, which I guess is pretty trancelike. Are you drawing a bit from that tradition here?

PESACOV: Definitely. I think we're definitely drawing from music from Mali. But this track maybe is a little bit more of the Mondi tradition, which is kind of the classical music of the Mali kingdom.

GREENE: Luke, you were born in Israel, and both of you guys are Jewish. A lot of the musical styles that you explore have Muslim roots in it. I guess I'm wondering, do you think about that? Does that cross your mind?

TOP: Yeah. Absolutely. You know, especially when we're able to collaborate with artists that are also from different religious backgrounds. For example, we did this kind of incredible collaboration with the band Tinariwen. And, you know, there was never any real discussion of where we were from, what we're all about, what we believe in. It kind of - we just came together in this really organic musical way.

GREENE: One of the nagging criticisms of bands like yours is that it's white musicians who are sort of using music from impoverished, mostly black parts of the world, and, you know, making money going on tour.


GREENE: Is that something you've dealt with? And what do you...

PESACOV: Sure. I mean, I...

GREENE: ...what do you think of that?

PESACOV: You know, people say this quite a bit, but I think that if you stop looking at it like we're colonialists, we're sharing music. And when we actually have these experiences and play with African musicians, they are so happy that we're playing African music. They're blown away that we're interested in their culture. They're blown away that we can play the music, and they're so excited that we're sharing it with other parts of the world when maybe they wouldn't have access to it.


GOLD: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

GREENE: Lewis Pesacov, the guitarist and one of the founding members of the band Fool's Gold along with vocalist Luke Top. Their new album is called "Leave No Trace." You can hear a few tracks at our website, Gentlemen, thank you both for coming in. It's been fun.

PESACOV: Thank you.

TOP: Our pleasure. Thanks for having us.


GOLD: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

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