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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Calexico is ready to come home and groove at the Rialto

    ingo pertramer

    Photo Courtesy of Calexico

    Calexico, a Tex-Mex/indie-rock band, returns to its hometown of Tucson to perform at The Rialto Theater tonight. Though its a more underground band, Calexico’s travel-inspired and laid-back tunes have won over the hearts of its listeners. Joey Burns, guitarist and vocalist, spoke to the Daily Wildcat about Calexico’s sounds, latest release and ongoing tour.

    Daily Wildcat: What is Calexico’s background?

    Joey Burns: The band grew out of the friendship between John Convertino and me. We’ve been and are still a rhythm section with a large collection of various instruments, making collaborations with a lot of different artists over the years like Neko Case, Iron & Wine, Amos Lee and Willie Nelson. The first recordings made back in 1995 were for our outgoing phone messages, and from there we graduated to multi-track recording. There’s always been a balance between the instrumental songs and the narrative stories, or singer/songwriter material in the band. For the first few tours, we performed as a two-piece [band], and in 1998 we met some European musicians through our record company to help fill out the arrangements on our album The Black Light. From that point forward, we have slowly added more musicians to the full band line up on tour. I enjoy having an international lineup in the band; it says something about the direction at the heart of what we do and who we are.

    What is Calexico’s relationship with Tucson?

    We started our band here in 1995 and found a lot of inspiration from the diversity of backgrounds in the community. We enjoy being part of the music scene and are proud to call Tucson our home.

    What is Calexico’s sound?

    I usually say that it is a mix of singer/songwriter and instrumental music inspired by the Southwest, but with an open window to the world [featuring] a wide array of instruments; two trumpets, vibraphone, pedal steel, nylon acoustic guitar, electric guitars, baritone guitar, mandolin, drums, upright bass, accordion, cello and percussion. There are songs in English and in Spanish, as well as influences that come from around the globe [which] weave their way into the subtleties of the music. There are a lot of great soloists in the band as well, so improvisation is a vital ingredient into why the live shows are so exciting. Some of the instrumental songs of ours have been featured in movies and TV series such as “The Sopranos,” “Collateral” and “Breaking Bad.”

    What is the idea behind your new album Edge of The Sun?

    Our new album, Edge of The Sun, is inspired by a recent trip to Mexico City to do song writing and record demos. There are a lot of different styles of songs which highlight the band’s eclectic side, and there are a lot of interesting guest musicians on this album as well. The list of guests includes Sam Beam from Iron & Wine, Neko Case, Ben Bridwell from Band of Horses, Nick Urata and Tom Hagerman from DeVotchKa, Carla Morrison, Pieta Brown, Gaby Moreno, [and] Takim, a traditional Greek band.

    What kind of show are you hoping to have at the Rialto on Saturday?

    The hometown shows are always very special, mostly because of the audience and their energy, which is unlike any other city since we have so many family and friends here. Touring with us is Guatemalan and Latin Grammy singer/songwriter, Gaby Moreno. She will be opening the show and judging from the reaction she’s had on tour so far, she will soon be a Tucson favorite. We will be backing her up on some songs, and she will also join us during the last portion of our set. It’s going to be a really fun show.

    What is being on tour like for you guys?

    All of the musicians in the band love to travel and love to collaborate musically. Often the tours, which take us around the globe, inspire new ideas and new musical projects. There are two members in our group from Europe: Martin Wenk from Berlin has been playing with us since 1998, and Jairo Zavala from Madrid brings a special quality and character to the live shows. My favorite thing to do on tour is explore the cities and check out local food and sights. On this recent North American tour we’ve been doing a lot of record store shopping for vintage vinyl.

    One tour story?

    Three of the band members in Philadelphia last time [we toured there] all ran up the steps made famous by the film “Rocky.”

    Any last thoughts?

    Space is an important part to where we live and how we reflect. As I travel around the world, I am always reminded at how special our home in the Sonoran Desert is, and how it weaves its influence in the music and spirit of the band. Even the band members who are from Europe pick up on this quality and love returning to Tucson to reconnect with the people and places that make this place so special. As Martin often says, “first stop we make is to the little Cafe Poca Cosa.”

    Be sure to check out Calexico’s live performance tonight at the Rialto.

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