Fool’s Gold | July 23, 2010 | The Summit | Columbus, OH
photos by John Danner
It was yet another sweltering hot evening in Columbus, OH. The summer heat felt like it had taken residence inside The Summit. Everyone in attendance seemed to be radiating fire, not only from the warmth but from sheer excitement for the impending show.
John Danner and I found the members of Fool’s Gold, attempting to cool off next door at Cafe Bourbon Street. They were all energetically chatting amongst themselves, frequently wiping their glistening brows. I introduced myself to lead vocalist Luke Top and former Columbus resident and saxophone master Brad Caulkins. Luke was sporting a pastel tie-dyed tee-shirt and sharp straw fedora, Brad a simple white v-neck. I kept staring at him, I had an inkling we had met a few years back.
KP: Let’s see, where should we start out? I have so many questions for you guys.
Luke: Uh oh.
Brad: I hope they’re saxophone related.
KP: That’s something I’ve never seen back here, is a saxophone on a stand.
Luke: Oh really? Well this is the owner of that instrument.
Brad: It’s true, it’s true.
KP: That’s pretty funny.
Brad: Funny how?
KP: It’s just random to see because I was in an orchestra in high school so I haven’t really seen instruments on stands like that since high school.
Luke: She’s not calling you immature.
KP: [Brad], you were born and raised in Columbus, [Luke] moved here from Israel correct?
Luke: I moved to the general United States, not Columbus.
KP: Right. Did you move to LA?
Luke: More or less, yeah. California.
KP: How old were you when you moved?
KP: So how have both of your experiences effected you musically?
Brad: In general?
KP: Yeah in general. Like say, you were born and raised in the midwest and you moved to the United States, has that effected your music at all?
Luke: You go first.
Brad: You go first.
Luke: Um, well, definitely the most obvious thing at play in our music is the usage of Hebrew as the sung language, the main language that’s sung in the group. Yeah I guess growing up in a Hebrew speaking home and kinda subjugating that into my system and then allowing it to come out later in life, I guess, would be the way I’d…maybe reaching out backwards and forwards at the same time to something that was simmering my whole life. Definitely the Hebrew’s a big part of the band, and you know, just this kind of yearning for meaning and identity that happens when a kid like me moves to the States from somewhere so heavy and far and associated with so much history and so much politics. So many ideas come to mind when you think of Israel. Yeah I think these days I’ve found a personal channel to Hebrew in this band that isn’t influenced by religion, politics, history, and all these other things. I mean obviously there’s links but, I feel like I’ve found a personal channel to this history that I have, arbitrary history that I have.
Brad: Because you weren’t even really speaking much before…
Brad: I mean, you speak it, you knew how to, but it was more like a decision in singing in the band kind of a thing right?
Luke: Yeah. I mean I’m interacting more with Hebrew now than I probably ever have in my whole life.
KP: What about you? Do you think the Midwest has influenced you?
Brad: Sure! I mean, this town specifically has always had a really vibrant music scene, and from the time that I got out of high school I was immediately playing at Bernie’s and at Stash’s and the places where I would go see bands through high school and through college and there was always at least a couple dozen great bands. I don’t know what the scene is much like here now. I know some bands from here but then there are bands like Monster Truck Five and Pretty Mighty Mighty and Earwig and all these people that were 8-10 years older than me that were so open and just wanted to have more young people come into the scene and were really supportive. Having a community like that around me has just encouraged me to continue doing it and moving to LA and immediately finding out how to do that in LA.
Luke: Meeting a bunch of confused Jews.
KP: When did you move from Columbus?
Brad: About three and a half years ago.
KP: Okay, cause you look reaaaally familiar.
Brad: Yeah, likewise.
KP: I think I’ve probably met you somehow cause I’ve been here for seven years.
Brad: Oh really?
Brad: I used to work here. I worked at Bourbon Street for three or four years.
KP: Yeah that’s probably why. I used to come do karaoke on Sundays.
Brad: I did that as well. I worked karaoke night for a couple years.
KP: That’s what it is, now I remember.
Brad: I used to live basically next door at the ugly, tan, stucco, Spanish-looking apartment building right there. The Tropicana? Maybe you’ve heard of it. Yeah, and worked here for awhile while I was playing in The Sun.
KP: So how did you guys meet?
Brad: I was brought to the band by a percussionist that is no longer playing with us all the time. He’s always in the community. Orpheo, I played with him in another band, and a friend of ours, John Webster John’s in LA and I got a call randomly to
come to a rehearsal that night to play a show the next day and I didn’t know any of them and I barely knew Orpheo. Like I’d play a couple rehearsals and a show with him. We just sort of hit it off and he was like, “Yeah you’re cool, it’s fine.”
Luke: I don’t even think we said a word to each other before playing music.
Luke: We played music, that came first.
Brad: Yeah, Lewis had some charts. But the charts are just like, you do this and you do this for nine minutes, listen for this thing or whatever. But he had a couple things written out and we just played through some songs and shook some shit or whatever. I remember that first show was like an echo or something.
Luke: A lot of guys kind of met that way. Through rehearsal, even on stage. Which is something relatively unique to the band I guess, cause we never had to like, put an ad out on Craigslist or anything like that. It was kind of open door policy that we had. And due to this open door this gentleman came in and he’s been with us ever since.
Brad: I won’t leave.
KP: And now it’s come full circle. You’re back in Columbus.
Brad: I know, it’s great.
Luke: Full circle implies finality.
Brad: Oh yes, now we’re gonna spin our wheels.
KP: How many people do you have with you tonight playing?
KP: I know it’s max of what, 11 or more?
Brad: It’s been 12, 14.
Luke: It fluctuates.
KP: I was wondering how you guys were gonna fit that many people on the stage.
Luke: Six is a pretty common touring number that we have.
Brad: We started with eight about a year ago when we started traveling, and it’s just been this sort of really organic thing of, well we can’t afford to take everybody and people just can’t afford to go, so we’re lucky that it’s been very little conflict. There’s some hangups, like we had to replace one of our most important members on this tour but it works. It’s kind of made the band different and better in a lot of ways.
Luke: I think we’re a little more of a solid actual band than we ever have been in the sense that the first year or so it was a free for all kind of thing. Now that we’ve been touring basically since September nonstop, I think we’re starting to actually be a band.
KP: You guys hit SXSW this year too, didn’t you?
Luke: Yeah, we’ve gone twice.
KP: How was that?
Brad: It was great. Last year was great and then this year was like, just more. We were playing some really amazing shows. It was really, really fun.
KP: There’s a lot of people here who went to SXSW who are coming just because they saw you at SXSW and they liked you guys.
Brad: Oh, wow. What’s the writer from here that I’ve never met? Deville? Chris Deville?
Brad: Writes for the Alive?
Brad: Someone had sent me something and we were one of his favorite bands from that. That was really nice, I didn’t even know the guy. Yeah that was really, really fun. And we got to meet Bill Murray.
KP: Yeah I heard he was just hanging around! Being kinda weird.
Brad: He did like a little half dance to our set.
Luke: We were all in shock on stage. One by one, all going and turning gray and noticing him in the audience.
KP: Did you talk to him at all?
Luke: I didn’t.
Brad: I didn’t really. I was there with two bands. I was there with my other LA band, Jail Weddings, and somehow my band mates just became his buddy. They were just rolling with him for like all four days that we were there. He had this private sprinter van with a bar on it. They’re the reason that he came to our show.
KP: Wow, that’s awesome. I heard he’s really elusive and he doesn’t like to do interviews. I just read one in GQ where he just up and left in the middle.
Brad: That’s funny.
KP: Let’s see, what’s been the most challenging aspect of touring, especially with so many people, I know you said that six is the standard, with members from other high-profile bands that have other touring schedules?
Luke: I think at this point everyone in Fool’s Gold basically is in Fool’s Gold.
Brad: Yeah. There’s only a little bit of conflict with Foreign Born, but that was last year. Our lead guitarist has another band that’s not very active, so we do a lot more touring. Other than that, there hasn’t been too much conflict.
KP: That’s good.
Luke: Like I said, it’s becoming more of a regular lineup with that number six spot being a little wonky.
Brad: We’ll get him to quit his job eventually.
Luke: More or less, he’s the only one holding out with a job. That’s why he’s not here. He’ll be touring with us through the end of the year.
Brad: It’s more like general life things that get in the way rather than specific other band conflicts. It’s just like, “Well, do I give up this apartment?” or “I hope work lets me go” or “Maybe I’ll just let that job go.” It’s kind of just general life things that musicians in LA or any other city deal with once you really want to start to travel.
KP: That’s understandable. Were you surprised at how quickly your band became recognized? It seemed to blow up pretty fast.
Brad: It did?
Luke: That’s interesting… (laughs) I don’t know. I mean we’ve been a band for about four years and for me it seems very naturally paced. It didn’t seem like a shocking jump or anything.
KP: You started out playing for friends parties and stuff right?
Luke: Yeah. The whole first year we were doing that kind of thing. Obviously, it was very gradual. But at the beginning we didn’t realize this was gonna be a band that has albums and tours and does all that. So it’s been a long path, that we’re still on. It feels pretty gradual. But, that being said, the response has been incredible since our record came out. More than I imagined for music that’s slightly strange. That aspect of it’s amazing. The fact that people are accepting us in any way is pretty amazing.
Brad: And just looking back at the last year, how much we’ve gotten to travel.
Luke: We’ve had hundreds of shows this year, as opposed to when we started it was like, one or two shows a month.
KP: What’s your creative process like when you sit down and write?
Luke: I guess lately Lewis and I have been meeting three times a week and working on demos together. And then we flush something out, and then the band gets together, which we’re still kind of wanting to do.
Brad: We love all of the songs that we play, but we’re all desperately wanting some new material.
Luke: We have a lot of stuff, we have a lot of ideas. Playing in a band and touring just kind of excels your approach to music writing altogether.
Brad: Now it’s kind of being written for the lineup that we have now. It’s not like writing shaker parts for everybody. We know that we’re not gonna let everybody do whatever the hell they want on every song. It’s like, alright we know that we have this keyboard and this saxophone and different guitars or whatever. Maybe it’s more focused to what we know we’re gonna tour with.
Luke: I think being on the road so much and everything has really increased our grasp of what it is we’re doing. So I think the next record’s gonna be so much better. We’ve been working on stuff when we have time and it already sounds incredible. I think the idea is we’re gonna do some tours on new stuff and then go to the studio. Maybe at the beginning of next year.
KP: I can’t believe how fast this year’s gone.
Luke: Yeah, I know. At this end of this summer our record will be out a year, in September. Kinda nuts.
KP: That is crazy. What’s your favorite city to visit? Or what has been your favorite city?
Brad: On tour? Or as a tourist?
KP: As a tourist or on tour, whichever you prefer.
Brad: On tour, New York. Paris. I love Austin, Texas.
Luke: It’s funny, we see so many cities through the windows of a van so our impressions of a city are through the people that come to the shows. It’s a really interesting way to get a feeling for a place. Paris has been really good to us, and we have a week in between tours. Some of us are gonna go try to travel a little bit. I’m going to Paris and Brad’s going to Portugal.
Brad: After coming through exotic Columbus, Ohio again.
Luke: I think I wanna have a better feel for Paris.
Brad: It’s difficult seeing cities. We were in Europe for all of April this year and France for two weeks of it and probably in a dozen cities, and really saw maybe two of them. So frustrating. It’s really beautiful countryside and the people are amazing, but it’s the worst way to see a city.
Luke: But also, on the flip side, it’s awesome to see. You really get a sense of the character of a city by the people that come out. In certain cities you’re blown away by what people are bringing to the table, and some cities are just really sleepy. New York, Chicago.
Brad: It’s really only the places where like, places like New York and Paris and Austin where there was a festival or you might have more than one show. Those are the places that you really get to know, “Oh, I really like this place, I might come back here.”
Luke: There’s quite a few. There’s maybe a dozen cities that feel like Fool’s Gold home. London, Chicago, Vancouver.
Brad: Yeah Vancouver’s really good to us. And Quebec City, I had to go back there again.
KP: So you’ve been on tour since September? Any insane stories?
Luke:There’s a lot of stories. (laughs) Yeah, there’s a lot of stories. It goes with the territory I guess.
Brad: McDonald’s at three in the morning. Taking naps.
Luke: It’s cool cause everyone in the band, it does feel like a family. It definitely feels like a functional family.
Brad: No one’s gotten arrested. Nothing really crazy has happened. Other than like, I can’t believe how many people were at that show. And how amazing this city was we’ve never been to before. Those are kind of the most extraordinary things
that have happened on the road. We’ve been really lucky. No tragedies or crazy management situations have reared their heads. [knocks on wood] Cause it’s happened to all of us I’m sure in other bands.
Fool’s Gold self-titled album is available through IAMSOUND records.
Mad props to my Autumn intern JANE BRUCE for transcribing this interview for me!