Interview – Calexico


Hello 2018! With a natural fresh start filled with optimistic vibes, there can only one way to make it a reality, with some solid music. Luckily, the men of Calexico, Joey Burns and John Convertino will be sure to succeed in that regard with their ninth album ‘The Thread That Keeps Us’ set to be released tomorrow, January 26th. Their eclectic style and continuous exploration brings out the best for these two musicians. Within are treats such as their latest single Under The Wheels and their lyric video for Voices In The Field that make it all an anticipated beauty to listen to. All of the music they create stems from constant investigation into Calexico’s ever-evolving sound. Mr. Burns shared a bit on their new endeavor and their musical journey leading into the new year.

Joey took things off by delving right into Voices In The Field’s video, which had fascinating origins. “The song is inspired by a series of poems written on postcards by Syrian refugees. Musically, we were channeling some of the North African desert influences of people like Bombino and Tinariwen. When it came to making the album art I suggested to Ryan Trayte, the art designer, to use old postcard images and halftone style of printing for filling up the album booklet. These in turn led to us actually printing a series of postcards for sale. The video follows that theme and did a great job of bringing the still images to life.”

With a spring tour already planned, the men are focussed on their fresh work and altering their ongoing live performances. “Besides playing mostly new songs and creating a new energy and atmosphere with the live shows there will also be some treatments to the lighting and ambience this March in Europe. We will be playing some old songs …  that haven’t been touched on in a while plus a few interesting cover songs added to the set as well. In March Camilo Lara of Mexican Institute of Sound will be joining us as special guest so I’m sure the shows will be that much more energetic and spontaneous.” Additional musical talent will be worth keeping and ear open for.

As the year begins, Joey gave his take on the genre or genres that Calexico works in and how they appeal to the sustainable listener base. “… We get asked to play a lot of different festivals of various musical genres, everything from indie rock to jazz and from world music to folk. I’d say we have a lot of diverse audiences and opportunities.”

Mr. Burns has a lot to look forward to with their music. “I’m most excited about playing the new songs and creating some great dynamics with chaos and noise being the flavor of the month. I’m also interested in playing some songs totally stripped down acoustic during the set which I think will provide some beautiful contrast.”

Beyond their classic tracks such as Splitter and Fortune Teller, Joey has his own personal favorites from their discography. “There’s nothing like the feeling of finishing your first album and holding the final copy in your hands and being really excited and impressed. I’m also really happy about the Bob Dylan song we recorded with Willie Nelson and Mickey Raphael for the ‘I’m Not There’ soundtrack. He is an incredible musician and getting to see his process of recording was very influential.” An impressive body of work and growing!

Performance goals for Mr. Burns continue along the same vein into the new year. “I like playing in old theaters with lots of character and great natural reverb. Those are my favorites. There are more stories and ghosts lingering around the rafters and in the nooks and crevices.” Creepy yet cool at the same time.

Shows on the road can hit their rough patches sometimes. “We played a show once and a drunken person wouldn’t stop talking loudly in the very front row. Instead of politely asking him to leave, be quiet or signal to a security person, I told him to get out and allowed his energy to influence the show. It’s not always an easy job but I wish I handled it differently.”

Joey held onto the power of music and its dire need always even in these times. “Music is important. It’s medicine and we need it for ourselves and to share with those around us. It adds tone to story and transports us when words fail. I think it will continue to be part of our lives regardless of how well the music business or technology does or doesn’t do. Hearing your children sing a song first thing in the morning is the best kind of music one can possibly hear.”

Music is not the only medium that satisfies this musician’s appetite. “I like to draw and sketch. When I’m on tour I like to spend time in modern art galleries soaking up inspiration.”

Even on their days off, there is time for exploration for the whole group. “[We all went] exploring the beaches in Italy after having an incredible lunch featuring several dishes with truffles. It was a long day and had many twists and turns but in the end the whole band and crew were as happy as clams.”

The day never ends, but is worth it in the end. “I have a few more interviews to do for the new album. I’d like to play with kids and help them with their homework. Soup is on the stove and I hope to spend some quality time with my wife tonight. Maybe serenade her with some new songs.”

Keep an eye out for these guys as they make their way through it all with more magic to come. “Touring this new album will be the main focus and the biggest project for us. We will be touring throughout Europe, The UK, North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand and hopefully Japan over the next two years. Other than that, I would like to try a series of recording ideas with our band and collaborate with several artists as well. My family is most important and they come first. So we have some plans with the kids’ school to accomplish and then start planning for winter break and where to go. I have a feeling that 2018 will be a good year.”

Jam on.

Give Under The Wheels and Voices In The Field a watch and a listen below: