Winter is fast approaching, which means puffy parkas, runny red noses, and Frank Sinatra holiday songs. But if you need an escape from the grey, put all your trust in LA-based, Afro-poppers Fool’s Gold. One look at their Matthew Lessner-directed video (I don’t know if geriatrics in neon-colored swim trunks do it for you), and you’ll be questioning why the hell you don’t live in California. The video and its song, “Surprise Hotel,” is pure summer joy, punctuated by Lessner’s quirky visual style. This is the same dude who produced Dirty Projectors’ “Stillness is the Move,” the best ode to llamas ever. But back to the topic at hand: Fool’s Gold is good. The 11-member troupe combines Afro-Caribbean soul and good ol’ domestic indieness. The band, co-founded by Israeli-born Luke Top and Lewis Pesacov, blends Hebrew and English to form a cultural explosion of sound that makes you smile and dance and smile some more. They’re currently touring, bringing their big-band, on-stage celebration to cities all around the U.S. In between shows, we touched base with guitarist Pesacov to find out just how creatively effective all that California sun is.
Tell us about the tour Fool’s Gold is embarking on. Excited?
Lewis Pesacov: This is going to be the longest tour we’ve done. We played in LA extensively and we’ve done the West Coast a couple of times, but we’ve never done non-stop, all the way around the country, so we’re super stoked.
What’s your favorite city to play?
I love playing Montreal, it’s always fun. The area is so cool, the crowds in Canada are always really good. We played a show recently in Vancouver and we had a serious encore, which was crazy because we had never had that outside of Los Angeles before.
You used to play a lot of causal shows like barbeques and birthday parties. What’s the transition been like playing actual stages and venues?
We played anywhere. Those kinds of shows are so communal and we played really long sets and then it’s so blissful and everyone’s dancing and having an incredible time. So going on the road and trying to win over fans in the traditional venues…it’s a different challenge. It’s our goal to make these shows feel like backyard barbeques.
What’s your favorite venue to play in Los Angeles?
There are so many good venues. We live in Echo Park, so we always play The Echo.
Have you always been based in Los Angeles?
I lived in San Francisco for 5 years and Germany for a year and a half in a little village in the Black Forest and 5 months in Berlin. My degree is in classical music theory and composition, so I was at a music conservatory studying for the year. I went to San Francisco State University with [Luke Top] the singer for Fool’s Gold.
When did you graduate?
Oh, ages ago. 2002.
How did you and Luke come together musically?
We actually know each other from high school. We both grew up in Los Angeles and always played in each other’s bands. I played keyboards in his band in college and he played in my other projects, but it never happened that we started writing songs together till about 5 years ago. And that’s when we formed Fool’s Gold.
How did the band’s Afro sound come about?
I’m in another band, Foreign Born, with Fool’s Gold member [Matt Popieluch] and we’ve been playing in indie bands predominantly. We play all sorts of music, but Luke and I always shared a love for world music that we never really explored, so we decided to explore it.
Why did you decide to incorporate Hebrew?
We didn’t make a decision to sing in Hebrew straight up. It came about very naturally. Luke was born in Israel and most of the music we listen to is, in fact, sung in a foreign language. It’s been really joyful and Luke’s had a good time exploring writing lyrics in Hebrew and I think it’s liberated him to sing in a different manner.
Your music has a strong communal sound. Did you always envision Fool’s Gold as a big collective of musicians?
It’s intrinsic with that type of music, it’s always played in the communal sense. So when we first started the band Luke and I were writing the songs and we just invited all of our friends, anybody who wanted to come play with us. We started with maybe 15 people playing with us and it naturally whittled itself down to the people who wanted to become dedicated members.
What are the pros and cons of having such a big band?
The pros are that it’s always fun, you’re always with all these great friends. It just makes music so enjoyable to play with so many people. It’s an incredible thing. The cons are just transporting that many people. Unfortunately, we’re not wealthy enough to get a bus, but we all squeeze into the van and get to know each other really well.
A little too well, maybe.
That’s part of it.
Is Fool’s Gold spending Thanksgiving together on the road?
It’s actually my birthday. Our saxophone player Brad Caulkins lives in Ohio, so we’re going to drive to Columbus, Ohio, and have a family Thanksgiving at the Caulkins household. It’s going to be really fun.
Your Matthew Lessner-directed video is pretty trippy. Where did the idea come from?
We gave him free reign, he had this vision. The idea was a surreal feel, to capture the ecstatic bliss you can reach. Like the old men going crazy spraying each other with soda, wow! It’s a funny video.
What are you envisioning for the next album?
We’ve been discussing it a lot, and there are so many new directions we could go. We already have new songs. Luke and I have been talking about going off somewhere for some time together to figure out exactly what we’re going to do. There could be a shift in sound, it could be interesting.
Rolling Stone, Wall Street Journal, and Pitchfork all recently came out with articles on you guys. How does it feel to be getting all this mainstream press coverage?
It’s really strange, we’ve been playing music our whole lives. we’re just so happy to be doing it. It’s exciting to think that other people get to hear our music finally after all these years.
Do you work outside of Fool’s Gold?
I’m lucky that I work for a really cool company called Black Iris. They make music for TV commercials.
Well jingles are outdated these days. If you watch TV, commercials want indie rock or alternative music. So we basically have this boutique company where we get to make the music that we like hearing ourselves. Black Iris also has a little 7” label, so we’ve been recording local bands. We record it in our own studios and then we release them on our own little label and it’s only 7” singles. That’s the first way we recorded Fool’s Gold.
MM: You do a lot between Black Iris, Foreign Born, and Fool’s Gold.
LP: These days I’m holding on to my energy. I’ve got a lot on my plate. I have a lot of creative energy, I’m just happy that I have multiple projects. It’s a fine balancing act. I love recording music and I have so many ideas. I’ll walk the tight rope as long as I can.