The Calexico rock band swings open the borders between Mexican and American music.
calexico Photo: Courtesy
Calexico’s origins lie in two places. Conceptually, the band was formed
in the border town of Calexico, California. In reality, the band is the creative
realization of musical kindred spirits Joey Burns and John
Since 1996 the band has grown in number and discography,
releasing nine albums, seven of which are studio albums. Having carved
out a reputation for originality, the band is regarded as having created the
musical open border between the US and Mexico.
But they are far more than
a rock ’n’ roll band with an accent. Their sultry cinematic sound, akin to the
soundtrack of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western, emanates sunshine from the
speakers. Where each song sways with a steady rolling rhythm and swaggers with
reverberating electromatic guitars, the band places dusky voiced lyrics,
switching between Spanish and English to bring even more frontier town
atmosphere to their music. As the Calexico tour bus rolls across the continents,
the band is set to perform two consecutive dates in Tel Aviv.
The Jerusalem Post spoke to Convertino to gain insight into the band’s
With the band’s sound being dubbed from everything from Tex- Mex
to Mariachi rock and roll, what would you call it?
Simply Calexico. I think our
name really reflects the kind of music we do.
How has the band’s sound evolved?
In all the years I’ve done recording, I’ve
always had a hand in dealing with the drum sound and being really particular
about it. With our new album Algiers, I just said, ‘You guys do whatever you
want.’ We just wanted to not think about what we were doing or have as many
people involved. We had a great time doing the last record, and it was an
important one to make. But with this one, we just wanted to gradually go in and
start rehearsing, building ideas up over time. We actually made a deadline.
Without it, we wouldn’t have finished. It’s like taxes.
Does the new album title imply a change in direction from Mexican border town to
No, Algiers is the town in New Orleans where we recorded and
rehearsed the new songs. We recorded 55 songs there and picked up those that
felt right. We brought some tapes with us and picked up some new ones when we
were down there. We went there thinking, ‘Let’s see what we can come up with.’
With a 20-person studio band, the tour bus must be big or are there
modifications made for your world tour schedule?
Ever since we recorded our
first album and then went on the road, we realized we could only do minimal
versions of those songs. In our hearts, we’re thinking just to overdub some
parts here. Let’s get some accordions going. How ’bout a little violin, some
cello, marimba, vibraphone, mandolin, you name it. Let’s see what we can pile on
here to kind of make this more an orchestral or ensemble kind of recording. With
that, you have more color to choose from. Your palette becomes wider, and you
can try different styles of songs, too. Our lineup on tour is a seven-piece
band, and each of us plays several instruments.
What can the Israeli audience look forward to in this show?
We really enjoyed
performing and hanging out in Tel Aviv last time. Going to a new city always
brings a certain amount of excitement and curiosity. Now that we’ve made a
connection with the audience there, I can imagine that the shows will be only
that much better. We’ll be playing songs from Algiers, as well as older
material. Friends and fans that have seen the concert in Europe and the States
say that this is the best version of the band they’ve seen. Hard to believe, it
but feels good to get that kind of feedback when we put a lot of heart and soul
into the music and tours.
February 28 & March 1 at the Barby club in
Tel Aviv. www.casadecalexico.com www.barby.co.il