Fool’s Gold started as a ten-piece musical project between friends and family and has since narrowed its focus and size. Developing as musicians, as well as human beings, along with extensive touring, has helped the band hone their sound. The now five-piece band put out its second full length release this week, released a new video, and will tour in support of their latest music. Fishpork had a chance to talk with Luke Top, bass player, vocalist, and co-songwriter about the band’s new-found focus, the decision to sing in English, and the affects of social networking on their music.
Fishpork: When Fool’s Gold first started out, there was a rotating cast of members. You now have a more steady collective. Does that make the production of music easier? What about the songwriting process?
Luke Top: Yes, everything you say is absolutely true. We started out with kind of an open door, if you will. We put it out there that any friends, friend’s friends, or relatives of friends, friends of relatives can come on in and kind of join in this little group. Really it was more of an experimental project for a while. And as we started touring, the lineup got slimmer and slimmer. At one point, we were a 10-piece, and that was insane. I think once we put our first record out and really started touring a lot … we went from 10 to 7 to 6 … and after two years of traveling we were down to 5. And we decided at that point that this is the band … this is the core group that’s gonna stick through the next album. It really was a totally natural process of becoming the band. For the first time, I think it feels like a proper band. No one’s replaceable, and everyone plays an integral part.
As far as the songwriting process and recording goes, it really helped us hone in a little more. Whereas the first time around it was just kinda like a freakout. This time, everything was a little more articulated. When Lewis and I, my songwriting partner, wrote the songs, we wrote it with these players in mind. It was a lot different, but a lot of these guys have been in the band from the very beginning, so we were already familiar with each other.
FP: Is there a new direction the band is going in with this new record?
LT: I had this photograph that a friend of mine took. It was a picture of this beach in Rio De Janeiro at night. That image was definitely something we internalized as we were envisioning where we wanted to go with our music. This whole idea of articulating and sculpting out our sound a little bit or using a finer brush to paint with instead of these broad, simple gestures. It is a little more detailed. I think having a smaller lineup, having the experience of touring and playing live, and really just developing as human beings, led to this newer kind of sound, which Lewis and I have been yearning for this entire time.
FP: On the debut album, most of the record was in Hebrew. The new record is in English. What’s the reason behind the change?
LT: This whole idea of honing in our sound, from my perspective, led me to chase English a little bit more. The singing in Hebrew was a stepping stone for me to kind of let go and learn how to sing and write melodies in different ways. It was the first step in the evolution of the band. This time around, I was looking to use that knowledge and experience and apply it to my first language. And that seemed challenging to me. I thought that if it was a challenge, I definitely should do it. It really seemed like an organic step for us. This whole idea of articulation … I’m really able to hone in on ideas and emotion with much finer detail than I can with Hebrew. If that’s the goal, it makes sense to push yourself in that way. It’s pretty awesome to see people singing along in English when they don’t know the language. That’s a pretty powerful feeling. But we have those songs, too, and I might go back to it. I might try another language. I don’t know. But for these songs and for this record, it made total sense to use English.
FP: Did you guys record all or most of the new record in analog?
LT: Yeah, most of it. The studio we worked at allowed us to synch digitally to Pro Tools with new technology that I have, and we were able to maintain the integrity of the sound but edit digitally. We kind of mixed the two.
FP: What’s that recording process like?
LT: Lewis and I have lots of ideas stacking up after touring, lots of little sketches. We decided to go to a house near Joshua Tree, near a rural desert called Wonder Valley. We tried connecting and throwing out a bunch of ideas. Then, we came home. From writing to mastering, the entire process only took about four months total, which is something we’ve never before. It was really exciting. We’ve been building up ideas for so long, that the writing process came really easy. We’ve been talking about music and listening to music and thinking about music for so long that It just kind of happened in that week. Then, we spent about a month rehearsing a bunch with the five-piece. We went into the studio and recorded it all in five days … maybe less. I think we did three songs a day. It felt really rushed to be honest. That brought a certain type of intensity to the process. I did the vocals in about a week after that. Mixing one to two weeks after that. And that was it. We really learned how to play the songs, rearranged them, and we’ve done one tour so far since the album’s been recorded. We did a European festival tour about a month ago. So we’ve been able to play the songs out a little bit.
FP: I know you guys are doing a tour with Red Hot Chili Peppers in the UK. What other plans for touring are there?
LT: Yeah. We’re doing a US tour next month. And then in October we’re going out and doing our own tour for about 3-4 weeks in Europe, but an additional 10 days or so are supporting the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the UK, which should be pretty cool.
FP: Who are you are touring with during the US leg of the tour?
LT: I think it’s mostly our own headlining tour, and I’m not really sure who’s supporting. I know we’re doing a couple festivals … Austin City Limits Festival. Another festival in Chicago. Mostly, headlining dates … a rather short one … about three weeks or so. We are doing a few shows with Cold War Kids … maybe 4-5 shows with Cold War Kids.
FP: I saw you open for Tinariwen at the Highline Ballroom in New York. How’d you guys get involved with a band like them?
LT: It’s a situation where we get to play Europe, and we got an incredible opportunity somewhat because we are tapped into music that’s kind of rare and not really being played out in the world. It’s by way of us referencing that kind of music a lot in interviews and musically. It was real natural for us to go out and play with that band. When we started the band, it was the impossible. We never imagined that would happen when we started out. It was wonderful. The next night we did Bell House in Brooklyn. That was something else. That Highline Show was kind of like that first time we met them, and we felt kind of intimidated. It was a little cold at first, and we didn’t connect quite yet. The new show at the Bell House was really, really amazing because we finally clicked. The singer joined us on stage for soundcheck. All the barriers broke down, and we were sharing a room backstage, and it ended up being this incredible collaboration. We’ve stayed in touch with them since. One of my favorite shows I ever played was that next night at the Bell House. Within one night I ended up getting to play bass with Tinariwen, which is shell-shocking. One of those moments … so that was really special. That night really affected everyone in the band. We try to do that kind of stuff as much as we can since then.
FP: We’re going to feature the new video on the site, and I’m curious about how the video came about.
LT: This time, it emanated from me, and we had a set of resources. We just went for it using what we had. It’s kind of a struggle finding someone to make a video for us. I don’t know why that is. We really wanted to make a video. And we wanted it to be thoughtful. And we wanted it to be full of images and match the song. We had this art space in L.A. We had some projectors, we had the willingness to make a video. Me, Lewis, and Lewis’ girlfriend came together and came up with a bunch of images and ideas. I got my friend to shoot it, edit it. Again, it was a really quick process. We just kind of found a bunch of stuff, figured out how to do it, and shot it. And there you have the result. Very much DIY. I wouldn’t say it’s the perfect video, but I think it touches upon what we were looking for when we got the idea for it. It’s a DIY affair for sure.
FP: How do you feel about all the social networking services that are surfacing at the moment with applications iike Spotify, Turntable, and so on?
LT: Absolutely nothing affects our writing of music, which is something special we have with this project. When we write music, it only involves music and music only, which is an amazing benefit of being in this particular band. It’s very much cathartic, it comes from a really, really truthful place. I kind of feel overwhelmed … I don’t know how it affects sales. I really don’t know what sales are all about. I’m not involved in that … thankfully. It’s kind of alarming. I’m kind of in charge of all of our digital presences, Facebook, Myspace, Topspin, etc. It’s very much not related to the making of music. I will says it’s pretty cool to have a relationship with our fans. I really love getting to write back and forth with people. A lot of people do write us. They write letters, they send emails. I really like that aspect of it. Some shy away from having direct contact. It’s a part of our band’s live show, and we really try to break the wall between band and audience. And I don’t mind being able to connect with fans 1-on-1. It’s pretty cool.