"This music helps us express something we can't quite articulate," says Luke Top of Fool's Gold, the Los Angeles collective he founded with Lewis Pesacov. It sounds a bit vague, but he's describing the benefit of his bandmates' far-flung backgrounds. Besides three members of SoCal indie rockers Foreign Born, the lineup includes an Argentine actress-singer and a former drummer for postpunk legends the Fall. Top was born in Israel but grew up in L.A., as did Pesacov. They met at San Francisco State before forming the well-liked S.F. band the Cave-Ins and later returning to Southern California.
Singer and bassist Top and guitarist Pesacov have wrangled all manner of global sounds into their current project, which tours as a seven- or eight-piece but can include a dozen members. If the band's self-titled debut album seems like the latest addition to indie rock's Afropop bandwagon, the influences don't stop at Africa. Just in Top's vocals, you can hear Sam Cooke–style soul as well as his Israeli roots, since Top alternates between English and Hebrew.
"It was an extension of this anything-goes mindset we had," explains Top, whose hypnotic singing transcends language as much as Fool's Gold's music jumps among continents. "All our ideas were allowed to come out. Through the simple fact that so much music we listen to is sung in foreign languages, it started pouring out. It clicked with us." While not intended as a political statement, Top admits singing in Hebrew has "definitely taken on a lot more meaning for me."
Born from open jam sessions with a revolving cast of players, Fool's Gold exists to channel musical instincts. Top and Pesacov were stuck for so long in an indie-rock rut that they had no interest in limiting themselves or their collaborations with others. "The whole thing, from the beginning and hopefully now, was this idea of freedom and all-inclusiveness," Top recalls. "Even though we're a more traditional working band and playing more traditional venues, it still has that spirit of looseness and possibility."
That premise translates into constant freshness on the album, which blurs lines between traditional and experimental. Hazy synths and funky guitar licks flirt with layered polyrhythms and hiccuping horns over the eight infectious songs, at once complex and light of step. Fool's Gold recorded most of the instrumentation at Silver Lake's Sunset Lodge Studio as a full live band, but Top and Pesacov supplemented the recordings from there. That included Top doing some singing parts in the closet of Pesacov's bedroom.
While it's tempting to try to isolate the many facets of the band's sound, it's wiser to step back and acknowledge the influence of Los Angeles itself. "There's so many ways that pans out," Top says. "Just logistically, having all these public spaces and cultural centers, its geography allowed us to grow. It's such a giant city that we can play in so many different areas. It allowed us to have this many members and stretch out and take our time."
He cites the city's associations in popular imagination, specifically the desert sun and the Beach Boys. "There's no doubt the symbolism seeps through our pores," he says. "I don't think Fool's Gold could have been born in another city."