Radiating sunshine

The Calexico rock band swings open the borders between Mexican and American music.

Radiating sunshine (photo credit: Courtesy)
Radiating sunshine
(photo credit: 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 Convertino.
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 success.
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 Marrakesh Express? 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