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Escape Velocity

The New Sincerity: Fool's Gold Interviewed
The Quietus , February 4th, 2010 06:18

Ailbhe Malone talks to Luke Top of many handed afro-pop chimera Fool's Gold about their sun-dappled sound

A collective formed of up to 14 people, Fool’s Gold are an LA group. And you already know who they are. From the moment the opening bars of their current single ‘Surprise Hotel’ play, distilled sunshine drips into ears, and feet begin to tap. It’s a glorious summertime sound. But that’s not exactly how they see it. When asked to describe their sound, singer Luke Top ponders, before tentatively offering: “It’s hopeful music. There’s definitely some positive energy there, but I think the important thing is that it’s not just blind joy. It’s not upbeat happy-go-lucky for the sake of it. There’s the light and the dark, and our music is the celebration of both the light place and the dark place. It’s a more adult emotion.” Lead guitarist Lewis Pesacov chimes in: “It acknowledges struggle. If we were to play bouncy music just for the sake of it, we’d be unhappy. There’d be no substance.” What they’re trying to articulate, although they may not be aware of it, is the sense of release that’s in their music. Release is a clausal emotion, the resulting elation only possible because of the tension that preceded it.

Songs such as ‘The World is All There Is’ manage to be simultaneously world-weary and celebratory - with one eye on the troubles in the past, and another on good times yet to come. Fluid live, a song can stretch from five minutes to ten easily and without feeling forced or, worse, proggy. Luke explains that “there’s a core structure and then we play with that.” So, like a jazz group then? Lewis nods enthusiastically. “A bit like a jazz band, yeah. I was just talking to Orfeo [McCord, drummer] and the sax player who used to play jazz as well, and I said that what I like about this band is that it feels like a jazz band. ‘Cause last night when we were playing, I was doing something different and Orfeo picked up on it and we went with that. It doesn’t sound like jazz, but it’s the same mindset - there’s an improvisatory element to it.”

The jazz template extends further than improv though; Top and Pesacov are dual bandleaders. They arrange all the music for the group, as well as recording most of the demos. However, while the duo arranges the parts, they’re flexible as regards to how the pieces are played. Lewis explains: “For example, Brad has been running with the same guitar part for a while now, and recently he started to change it. I’m happy that he’s doing that. He’s taking this guitar part that I wrote and he’s living in it now. He’s been playing it for months, and now that he’s comfortable in it, he’s adding his own bits. I think he’s become comfortable with the language that we’re asking him to speak. He’s becoming fluent in it.”

Despite all the ‘hipster’ accusations, they’re disarmingly sincere. Their hearts aren’t so much on their sleeve as prominently displayed Carebear-style across their bodies. Lewis admits that “the amount of positive press we’ve gotten is surprising, but at the same time, we haven’t forced anything, and we’ve put nothing but honesty out into the world, and it kind of feels like we’re getting it back in return”. At this point, it’s difficult not to scoff at such hippy-dippy free love posturing, until one realizes that there’s no posturing involved. They really believe in, if not karma, then general goodwill. Pesacov continues: “It’s been all so serendipitous, the way that it worked out, in a way that it feels that it’s all returning to us. In a really clichéd way, every action that we’ve put out is what’s returning to us. It’s bouncing all these good vibes our way. It seems actually really natural.” The duo feel that now, more than ever, there’s a call for music with no set agenda, music that’s made with a pure heart. Top elaborates: “I think that the human spirit can latch onto that feeling more in such a media-saturated world. There’s so much information every second of every day, when your spirit can hear something that’s made with goodwill, people will latch onto it.”

Pesacov however, makes a more hands-on point, one which places their music in a specific timeframe, both social and political. “I also think that in my personal experience in the past 8 years, the community that I live in in America, we had a really shitty president, and people really banded together,” he says. “And with the coming in of Obama, it brought tons of people together in a way that even though he was selling us all this change and hope and stuff - the jury’s still out whether or not he’s doing that- people began to feel good about being honest.

"And in really hoping and believing again, versus the 90s, where everything was contrived and ironic and all veiled meanings, it feels really great to be sincere again, and it feels that way in America in general now. Honestly, the night that Obama was elected, I have never in my whole life seen people celebrate like that. Everybody was on the street corners in Los Angeles, there were spontaneous parties, I’d never seen that happen. I feel in a way that we even reflect this time period, because that was when we were performing every week. Those shows were massively magical.” Again, this could all Get A Bit Much, if they didn’t have a sense of humour. As a parting question, The Quietus posits that honesty has become ‘cool’ again. Guffawing, Pesacov quickly replies: “You’re asking the wrong guy, I make world music!”

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