Over the past seven years, Los Angeles-based quintet Fool’s Gold have traveled the world, played at prestigious festivals spanning the globe, including Glastonbury and Austin City Limits and have taken the time to develop their funky Afro-pop-influenced sound as they’ve progressed.
Lewis Pesacov, co-founder and lead guitarist of Fool’s Gold had an engaging phone conversation with us about the band’s latest album, “Flying Lessons,” why you can’t trust “the cloud” and Record Store Day in general, all in anticipation of the exclusive Record Store Day release of “Flying Lessons.”
Modern Vinyl: Why did you decide to release “Flying Lessons” on Record Store Day? That’s a cool concept!
Lewis Pesacov: I’m glad that you think so! When we were recording…I’ll back up a little bit. I obviously play in the band Fool’s Gold, but I also produce records as well and I was running a little record label for a while. We did all only-vinyl releases. So I’ve kind of always been pretty obsessed with vinyl, ever since I was a kid. Going into producing the Fool’s Gold album, we were always talking about it as a record on vinyl. So when we recorded the record, we recorded mostly all-live in our rooms, and we actually recorded all the tape on a cool tape machine.
(Writer’s note: It wasn’t just any tape machine. It was J.J. Cale’s cool tape machine!)
The idea though is that vinyl is analog; so it captures all the frequencies. Analog captures all the frequencies, but in the digital world, it cuts off the top frequencies. When we recorded the album, we recorded it to tape so it was capturing in the analog domain–all those high frequencies. And then when we put it into the computer, we actually recorded it in a high fidelity. Usually people don’t record that high fidelity.
So, I guess the long-to-short answer is that we always envisioned the album to be heard on vinyl. That was the preferred way for people to hear our record. When we were talking to the record label about it, we were talking about that stuff, and they said “Why don’t [we] put the record out first on Record Store Day?” We were like, “Oh man that makes so much sense, because we’ve always imagined that’s the way people listened to our album!” Not necessarily on their iPhone with earbuds, but on the record [player]. It seemed like such a good way to celebrate the release of the record as well as vinyl in general.
MV: That’s really cool! I know I was listening to it the other night, and I thought it would definitely be something awesome to listen on a record player.
LP: We just got the records recently. It sounds so good. Also like I said, I grew up with records; I’m still a big record collector and I produce lots of records. But I never feel like a record is finished until I have the record on vinyl, I put it on my turntable and I spin it. And it’s like that first spin is “Holy shit, it’s finally done!”
MV: Let’s talk Record Store Day. Since we’ve discussed how you’re a big collector and your love of vinyl, how do you plan on celebrating the day and your big release?
LP: The vinyl comes out on Record Store Day, but the actual wide release, like digital and everything else in the world in CD and record stores, is a month later. I think people are kind of considering that the actual release, and I think that Record Store Day is the pre-release. Coincidentally enough, I’m actually going to be on vacation on an island in the Caribbean so I think I’ll have a really good day. Unfortunately, I won’t be at a record store buying my own record. That’s what I would do if I were home.
MV: Even though you’re going to be on a lovely Caribbean island, if you were going to do Record Store Day, were there any exclusive releases that you were hoping to pick up? Are you going to have someone pick them up for you?
LP: I haven’t had a chance to really check out the whole list. I mean, the list is incredible. There’s like 300 Record Store Day exclusives this year. Or maybe it’s 500. It’s like every year there’s more. I did notice however, when I was looking at the list, right next to our name was that band Built To Spill. They’re releasing their record [“Untethered Moon”] also on Record Store Day, just like us, and that’s a record I would definitely pick up. Beyond that, I didn’t quite get a chance to look at the list that early. But that’s what’s so nice about record stores, records in general and buying records that way, is just going into a store and flipping through.
So many records that have ended up being my favorites were records that I [found while] flipping through in the bin. I’m like “Woah! This is a cool cover! What band is this? I’ve never heard this band.” And you buy the record, go home, and listen to it over and over again and you can pick out your favorite song. If I were in town for RSD, I would definitely be flipping through the bins.
MV: I did that last year, and discovered a bunch of really cool things. I was like “if only I had the cash for all of this!”
MV: So many records, so little money. You know how that goes.
LP: The good thing about records is that you can also go to the bargain bin!
MV: Oh, definitely!
LP: I love the amazing sets of records you can find there. It’s incredible sometimes what you can find there.
MV: It’s amazing what people don’t want these days.
LP: I think the people just want to sell the records because they take up space.
MV: True. So now that we’ve gone off on that little tangent, let’s go back to “Flying Lessons.” You touched upon why you wanted to release it on vinyl first, as opposed to digital. Do you have any other reasons as to why?
LP: That’s the most important reason. I think (and I’m not speaking on behalf of the band) it’s just the preferred way of listening to it, on vinyl. These days so little of music is in the physical world where you can actually hold it, touch it, feel it. Everything’s in the cloud, like iCloud. Can you imagine if for some reason, iCloud just went down, and you lose all your music? It’s crazy that you don’t actually have it. I’m still kind of old-fashioned where I like to have my music; to look at the record, to look at the sleeve. I don’t know if you saw the album cover, but it’s pretty crazy looking. It looks really cool on the 12”; the printed cover.
MV: That’s awesome! I’m the same way. I still buy CDs and I still buy records, and everyone laughs at me and says, “but the cloud!” I don’t wanna risk that.
LP: You can’t trust the cloud! If you really care about your music, you can’t trust the cloud. I have records that I’ve had since I was 15-years-old that I still have. They’ve journeyed through my life with me, and I connected to it.
MV: With your record, how did you decide to release it on orange vinyl, and how did you decide on the artwork?
LP: So the artwork. Those are all drawings that we actually made while we were recording the record in the studio. We were in the studio messing around and recording, and then we’d all play a track and sometimes you dub and do one person at a time, like an overdub. And the other dudes, well, three of us really, would just sit there and make drawings. All the drawings are our instruments, or funny enough, our personal histories; things we’ve done or places we’ve been, cartoons of that.
Or even some of the things are part of lyrics of the songs, or names of the songs. Really, just the whole time and process of making the record, we were making these little funny drawings and hanging them on the studio wall. They ended up being like a collage, and we were like “Holy shit! That’s the album cover. How amazing is that? We made an album cover!” at the same time we made the music. It was kind of like this crazy collage; fun, naive, like that environment when you set up the atmosphere when you’re recording. Actually, it was the record label; Andrew at ORG Music. When we gave them the cover, he said it’d look so cool with colored vinyl. And he said, “How about orange? I think it matches.” We were like “Yeah, that’s such an awesome idea and it makes it even more special for Record Store Day.”
MV: I always love hearing about how people choose the artwork for their records, and especially since it ties in so closely with your recording process and your creative process; that’s so awesome.
LP: Yeah! You know it’s funny. We didn’t have an album title, and we were staring at the album cover. There’s a song on the album called “Flying Lessons.” On the album cover there happens to be…I think I drew my shoe with wings and it was flying, and someone drew an airplane; Fool’s Gold Airlines (FG Airlines). Someone else drew a hang glider, and a hot air balloon. There seems to be a lot of flying on the album cover. And that’s what the song “Flying Lessons” is about, so we said “Why don’t we call it Flying Lessons?” We tied it all up together. I’ve never done that before, where you create the idea for the album title by looking at the album art. It was all very organic.
MV: Kind of going off of that, you guys have been around for so long, or like the last seven years or so. What experiences from your journeys across the world helped shape the final sound on your record?
LP: It’s crazy because the band started out with a lot of people. It was open-ended, whoever wanted to come and play with us could play with us when we were just starting out. There was a rotating cast of about fourteen musicians. We made an album, and probably about fourteen or fifteen people played on that album. We always had the core musicians: Luke Top is the bassist and the singer, and he’s the co-songwriter with me. He and I write all the songs. We’ve basically always had the same drummer. And when we ended up going on tour, we started losing members of the band because people were like “Oh well this was fun to show up and jam, but I have a job, I can’t go on tour,” or “I’m actually in another band, and that band’s going on tour, so I’m gonna go out with that band instead.”
All this stuff started happening and we whittled down to about five guys. We’ve been everywhere. We’ve found most success in France. We’ve been out on nine tours in France, so we’ve been to about 55 different towns and cities there. There’s a French island that nobody really knows about that’s off the coast of Madagascar, down by Africa. We went and played a festival there. We’ve been lots of different places, and we’ve done so much shit together. We’ve played so much music together. Part of what we try to do live is let the songs breathe and change over time. Our older songs from seven years ago have definitely changed so much, and have grown apart because we keep it open and improvisatory.
Going into making this new record, what we really wanted to do was capture who we are now; seven years into it, well I guess we made the record a year ago, so six years into it. This is who Fool’s Gold is now. At the beginning, people kept saying “They play Afro-pop,” and that’s cool. We’re definitely influenced by African music and everything like that, but more than that, we feel like we have our own identity as the five remaining members who have gone through all these tours and all the travel and all these weird experiences together. That’s the culmination: a lot of blood, sweat and tears. It’s hard work being a working musician. It’s like…it’s not the rockstar life that I think everybody thinks it is. There’s moments like that of course, when you’re traveling, but there’s tons of hard work. It’s difficult. I think that this record is very much a culmination of all those years of effort and of playing music together as a band.
MV: Over that time, you guys have gone through a lot of emotions. Was it hard channeling all of that into Flying Lessons?
LP: Yeah, totally. I mean, it’s a funny thing because I think a lot of people think of our band as a party band, which is cool. We definitely love the experience of playing and having people dance at the shows with a celebratory vibe. We’re definitely all about that. But it’s like our music has some deeper emotion in it, that maybe people didn’t catch in the lyrics. And it’s a funny experience, being in a band that’s like a “party band,” like a “celebratory” band. That’s all cool, when there’s 300-400 people in the crowd having a great time at a show and they’re dancing, it’s wild and it feels like you exude all this energy. But ten minutes later, everybody leaves and goes home and you’re just there, in a room with cups littered on the floor everywhere. You’re alone. It’s a really crazy experience; the ups and downs of performing for people.
I think most of us were more affected by that when we were younger, and nobody cares [now]; we’ve learned how to deal with that. The ups and downs and emotions of being a musician and being on the road so much. In a weird way, that’s kind of like what “Flying Lessons” the song, and even the album is about. You’re learning to fly, you’re learning to live life, and learning how to be in a band that tours. None of us went to school to learn how to be in a touring band or a touring musician. So sometimes you crash, but sometimes crashing a couple times is worth it because you get the chance to fly. That’s kind of what the whole album’s about in a way. And where we’re kind of at as a band.
MV: That’s really cool. I wish more people could kind of understand that these days, especially with the younger bands.
LP: Yeah, you know? It’s a crazy thing. The world’s full of younger bands. I get it because I was a young guy in a band at some point. But there’s a reality to keep needing to do it. Some bands you know, that’s what you do when you’re with friends, or you’re in college, whatever. But for us, we’re musicians and we’re pretty serious about this. Luke Top and I, and the other guys in the band, we’re probably never going to do anything else besides playing music.
We’re like career musicians. We’re learning how to mature with that, and how to grow with the idea of being a musician. Nothing helps you prepare for it. Sometimes rock and roll guys become drug addicts, that’s part of it; they struggle with their addiction. Luckily, we don’t have any addicts. We don’t have anyone that’s a heavy drug user. But I understand why it happens, because it’s like self-medication, learning how to deal with this weird life. It’s kind of like an outsider life, when you end up being a musician, or an artist in general.
MV: Let’s talk about you for a little bit. How has life on the road shaped you? What have you gained from all of those really cool experiences?
LP: It’s crazy. Like I said, we’ve been to France so many times. I’ve been to Paris so many times. I take it for granted. I’m so lucky I get to go to France. I’ve been to the Louvre so many times, we have friends in Paris. It’s so awesome just to get to go once in your life, but how amazing is it to go nine times and have friends and places you like to go and people you like to see? That’s an incredible thing and it really changes your worldview being able to travel so much. You see so many people. We’ve played in all sorts of faraway places, like Israel, supporting the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was the first time they had played there, and it was a concert with 5,000 people. What a crazy experience it was to go to Israel and Jerusalem. These are experiences we’re so lucky to have.
The other funny thing about it is we always travel together as four or five guys. We know each other so well, that it’s an interesting experience of being able to travel around the world together. I get inspired. You go on tour, and one hour of the day of being on tour is playing music, which is amazing. But the rest of the time is downtime or travel time. You’re always driving somewhere, or flying somewhere. I find lots of inspiration just sitting in the van, listening to music, hanging out the window. There’s something so great about this time and movement; music and movement. Like, you’re driving and listening to music. I get lots of ideas for songs while just sitting in the van on tour, watching the countryside go by. We haven’t been on tour in six or seven months, and we’re leaving for tour in a couple of weeks. I’m excited to get that downtime, just sitting in one place, reading and listening to music. It almost recharges my battery.
MV: What’s next for you guys?
LP: We’re going on another tour in Europe in a couple weeks, and that’s awesome. We’ll be coming back to L.A. for the album release, and playing some shows in California. Generally, the next step is just playing the music live. The album comes out, and hopefully we take it to the stage and right back out to the road.
MV: You mentioned earlier that you’re a huge record collector. Is there any particular record in your collection that’s really special to you?
LP: That’s interesting. I inherited a lot of records from my dad, because my dad was a big record collector, so I think I inherited collecting records [from him]. My dad had a pretty cool collection. My dad is the reason I got into African music; he loved African music, and had all these African records. We’d play them really loud when I was a kid. That’s how I got into it, and I inherited all these African and reggae records. Probably the most special one I have is from when he lived in England. He has an original pressing of Jimi Hendrix’s third album, “Axis: Bold as Love.” It’s the English version, which was on a smaller record label called Tracks Records. It was a different album cover that isn’t one that you could find in America. It was this weird far out, sci-fi album cover Hendrix made himself. That’s probably the coolest record I have. I think it’s worth money, since some people collect really valuable records. I don’t think it’s the most valuable record in that regard, but for me growing up, I loved looking at album covers, and loved looking at it. I loved listening to it as a guitar player. It’s iconic to me. That record is really cool.
It’s crazy that my dad carried his record collection all the way from London back to the U.S., but back then that’s how you had your music collection! It wasn’t in the cloud. How cool is it that that record was bought in England, and lived in England? You get a sense of personal history from the record; the physical object. I think that’s gone now. I think in like 20 years, people aren’t gonna be like “Oh I have my dad’s mp3 player! My dad took an mp3 player on tour in France!” That’s not going to exist. For all we know, in 20 years mp3 is going to be a dead format. So, this is another reason to talk about why vinyl is cool.
MV: And finally, is there anything else you’d like to add for our readers at Modern Vinyl?
LP: I guess I would just say keep buying vinyl! It’s special. You can have it your whole life, give it to your kids, and change a kid’s life. And there’s some things that are amazing about technology, don’t get me wrong. The fact that the world can communicate so fluidly right now is so amazing. But I think that there’s something special about being able to hold something. It’s more dear to you. You can really get into it deeper. Sometimes when you listen to a song online you listen to it once, and you never listen to it again.
“Flying Lessons” will be released on vinyl first for Record Store Day through ORG Music, and will be limited to 1,000 orange copies worldwide. If you miss out on that, you can pick up a CD, digital copy or black vinyl version of their album in stores on May 19th, or pre-order it from the band’s webstore. In the meantime, check out the band’s new single, “I’m In Love,” off of “Flying Lessons” below!