So, this aKO … installment shines the spotlight on a former-and-forever favorite band du jour: Fool’s Gold. I had the pleasure of interviewing lead singer, Luke Top, for TITLE Magazine back in the day – so figured, why not get reintroduced for the first time.
and Kari On … with Fool’s Gold
sxb: Exactly, [you all are] very McLuhan “the medium is the message” where the music itself describes itself. Listening to your music, it’s very atmospheric and a vibe situation. Listening to your music gets you into a mood and mindset, and so it’s hard to get concrete questions because it’s so feeling-based, like “I like where you’re going with this, how do I build a question around that?” Like “Where do you want the album to go?” “It’s going where it’s going.”
LT: (laughs) That’s very true, there’s a word for that – like pop, like hypnosis or trance music. At least, especially when we first started out, we would just get entranced by one part for 20 minutes and just roll with it that way. Over the years of the band clinging to our sound, we’ve whittled our sound and structures to make them more concise. Especially live though, depending on how much time they give us, we’ll definitely try to exploit that trance/hypnosis/hypnotic quality with the music.
sxb: Exactly, that’s the thing with shows. I mean I would imagine your shows would be like – I remember going to a Trey Anastacio show and it was very, especially with that kind of music, it literally could go for five hours, or six, or seven.
LT: Exactly, I mean we did one of those shows where they only let us play for 90 minutes. To be honest, I thought it was the perfect amount of time for us, you know?
sxb: Right, you just play through until they give you the curtain like “Yeah, okay you kind of have to go now.”
LT: The thing about trance on stage though is like it’s not like the trance part of it numbs you over where you just kind of succumb to this, this dizziness. It’s more like there’s something very visceral to it, something very rock ‘n roll about it. At least for me when I’m playing it, it really registers as a trance, but you can still really feel some strong emotions and you really can feel yourself present in that music; as opposed to being transported to some numbing land like, maybe what traditional trance music is meant to do kind of like ease people out when they’re on shrooms. I feel like you can use your body to interact, to interact with the band, you interact with the audience, you connect and I feel like everybody’s alive when we’re playing music. And you know, maybe that’s like, maybe “trance” isn’t the best word. (laughs) You know what I’m saying.
sxb: No, I know exactly what you’re saying. That’s exactly why I was like “it’s not the words, it’s not concrete.” But I know exactly what you’re saying, so clearly, and it comes through in the music. When I first heard the song, and first saw the video, “Surprise Hotel” it literally, just “puts you in that place.” It’s very calming, not overbearing, it is a bit trancy because it puts you in a mellow mood, but in the way where you let the music dictate what you’re going to do. You just flow to the music without thinking about it, and it is very visceral, because it just taps into your core, and you just move with it.
LT: Exactly, and it’s crazy what it does to time like recently we’ve been starting to time ourselves more, but y’know I just completely lose track of time. That’s the beauty of playing that music live. We can let the music go wherever we want it to. There’s no pressure to bring the hook in at any particular point. I can just pick and choose where I pick up and start to sing. We really keep our time when we can, and I think that’s really special. It doesn’t sound drawn out, it sounds really natural. I think, maybe, hopefully some people in the audience will agree with us like we just played a song for ten minutes but you’d never know it.
sxb: Exactly, like you look at your watch and go “Oh my God, it’s been an hour? That felt like five minutes.” I love how you did that with “Surprise Hotel” specifically, where it fades and decrescendos towards the middle then crescendos back up into the whole song again. You don’t even realize that it draws on but it’s amazing. So, your live shows are … going to be the core – I was going to ask the classic “studio vs. live” question; but it’s obvious you guys are going to enjoy the live feel because you’ll be able to just go with it – it’s not as structured, not as rigid and you’ll be able to tap into the whole vibe more.
LT: Yeah, Lewis and I we’re trying to have our music be as broad as we can. You know, we want it to reach as many people as it can. We’re not trying to be precious about what we’re doing here so, if there’s anything I can do to help expose that y’know be upfront about it – I’ll take the opportunity (laughs).
sxb: How did you all get started?
LT: Lewis and I have known each other since our high school days and we were playing bands, so we knew each other from that world. He was playing in a surf band, and I was playing in a more Noise Rock band, so we kind of knew who each other were and everything.
sxb: “I know of you.”
sxb: Question – I don’t know how many interviews you’ve done, but – what is the one question you want to answer but haven’t been asked?
LT: Well, I’m kind of a smartass so I can come up for an answer to anything (laughs).
sxb: Ah, so am I! If someone asked me that, I’d come up with some smartass answer that is a question I probably didn’t care about, but made me sound smart or witty.
LT: (laughs) Yeah, some interviews leave a lot to be desired – whether I know what that is, is a whole other story. (laughs) I usually like more off-the-cuff questions, but they don’t often come up. But that’s okay, because the music is what really matters, right?
sxb: Exactly, because it makes the people come together, it makes the bourgeoisie and the rebel. Okay, some off-the-cuff questions: cats or dogs of course
LT: Cats or dogs? Oh, absolutely dogs, dogs all the way. I’m not really into cats. I can go on the record and say that “Fool’s Gold” is a dog-friendly band. Plus, if you look at our video there’s dogs. No cats, no cats allowed.
sxb: Dog-friendly band, just in time for Michael Vick’s return to Nike.
LT: (laughs) Exactly.
sxb: Next question, what is the band’s favorite color. However, this is not to be confused with the collective band’s favorite color or your favorite color, but the color that would be the combination of everyone’s favorite color.
LT: Well, everyone is a fan of the hot pink – the fluorescent pink – on the album art so I’m going to have to go with that because we have to stand behind the art, you know (laughs).
sxb: Love that color. It was the color of my first bike, hot pink with white tires and sparkles: got me everywhere I needed to be.
LT: That sounds nice actually, hot pink and white? Good color combination.
sxb: It was. I was the flyest six-year-old on the block, everyone wanted my bike. Who were the last five artists/songs you listened to on your iPod, Zune, Discman, Walkman, 8-track, phonograph, …?
LT: (laughs) Oh wow, that’s hard to say without looking at my iPod. But I’ll do that, I’ll do that for you. A lot of the stuff on the iPod is going to be hard to say, hard to pronounce but I’ll do my best.
sxb: It would be, it would be. Smartass, “you can’t spell it.”
LT: (laughs) First is “Heart of an Ethiopian Lion,” got an Ethiopian soul band, some Bill Evans, Louis Armstrong, … Let’s see who else I got here, Quicksilver Messenger Service, this group Inerane, they’re a group from Niger, they play really awesome songs some really good rock music, and umm Chuck Berry (laughs).
sxb: (laughs) Chuck Berry, taking it back.
LT: (laughs) Yeah, so that’s the last of it for me.
sxb: That’s the other thing, at least for me, when I think of African music there’s that hardcore K’naan and M.I.A. which is atmospheric too, and the sound is very environmental – especially M.I.A. – that has the gunshots and the raw sound which is like “Africa the Battleground.” But yours is the opposite and takes the sound back to that core African, Garden of Eden-esque, natural sound that is really lacking now.
LT: Yeah definitely, that sound is really hard to find – especially in the U.S. – so you really have to go online and mine for it. There are a few sites that allow you to do that, but it’s tough for a lot of artists to get exposure in the U.S. So, if anything we’d be happy to do anything we can to push that along, and help get those artists exposure over here. But, yeah it’s definitely hard to find. We go to Ethiopian markets, Little Ethiopia, and buy CDs and stuff like that. But it’s hard, it’s definitely hard because (laughs) you just can’t find that stuff.
sxb: It really is. You’d think that with technology it’d be so easy to get because everything is so hyperconnected, but it almost makes it harder to find because that kind of music gets left behind. Especially African music that gets left in the indigenous areas, so it’s not going to be something you find on iTunes or Rhapsody over here.
LT: Right, but what I’ve found is some sites out there that have started archiving music, and have actually started collecting music in Africa, and start posting it on their blogs. We’ve actually found a lot of music that way, music I’ve discovered that I love over the past few years I’ve found mining through the internet. I think that being the case is obviously reflective of our time, but our band is kind of subject to what we’ve been exposed to. I think thanks to the internet we’ve gotten a lot of stuff we wouldn’t have heard otherwise, so I feel really lucky to be alive at a time like this where I can have access to this music.
sxb: Exactly, and then to be that medium, that channel, that allows other people to access it as well. Alright, elevator speech, you’re on an elevator: who is “Fool’s Gold” in 30 seconds.
LT: We’re a band from Los Angeles that plays Afro-Pop slash umm – gosh, that’s a hard one —
sxb: Time’s up, time’s up! Fire alarm, elevator stopped.
LT: (laughs) Actually, no, no scratch that, scratch all that. You know what I would do? I would take out my iPod, put “Surprise Hotel” on, and make them listen to it.
sxb: (laughs) That’s the answer, that’s the answer I’ve been looking for! Best answer I’ve heard.
LT: (laughs) Yeah, take off the headphones after 30 seconds? I’d dare them to do that. I’ll bet you $100 you can’t take off your headphones after 30 seconds.
sxb: “I bet you’ll steal my iPod by the end of the day. I bet I’m not getting this back.”
LT: (laughs) Well, unfortunately I do have to get to rehearsal – kind of unfortunately (laughs). But do you have any more questions?
sxb: Well, there’s twelve of you and I feel that with a name like Top I might be talking to a messiah, the next prophet of music.
LT: (laughs) Well, hopefully we’ll play some good music – but I don’t know about world peace.
sxb: Exactly, so it’s been brilliant talking to you. Very refreshing, not gonna lie, amazing music.
LT: (laughs) Thank you so much.