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What Are You Up To? Because Calexico is Playing Tonight

By: Brandon Schlia

Calexico‘s music has the feeling of LA folk transplanted to Rio De Janiero. They embody a romantic Americana that isn’t shy about its Latin influence. Their most recent work, 2008’s Carried to Dust, provides tasteful textures that encourage a visual quality in their sound, reminding me of the painting Christina’s World by Andrew Wyath. If you haven’t heard Calexico, consider it along the lines of a less formulaic Iron and Wine, or a pop-ier Apostle of Hustle. They’re mariachi music in a spaghetti western.

Tonight the Calexico boys will be coming through for a show at the Tralf with opener Elliott Brood. Calexico’s vocalist and guitarist, Joey Burns, was nice enough to take time out and give me a little preview of how their live show operates.

Buffalo Rising: Are you looking forward to making the rounds on tour, or do you get into the routine of your off-road time? What helps to keep you balanced between life at home and life on the road?
Joey Burns: I enjoy all these aspects that music brings to life; the touring and meeting new people, hearing about new music while on the road, and collaborations that arise from those travels. Being at home is most important, the family is the nucleus from which everything else flows.

BR: Are there any cities you prefer to play in for some particular novelty or crowd vibe? Have you been through Buffalo and how does it compare?
JB: First time in Buffalo performing, we are all very excited to play your town. The show’s gonna be a lot of fun.

BR: Have their been any elements of your set list that were recorded one way and proved difficult to reproduce live? What sort of live lineup do you use instrumentally to solve those kind of problems?
JB: The songs seem to be constantly evolving and growing, we don’t question or over analyze the process. The live shows seem to work out fine, and the songs are built to last any and all incarnations. Improvisation is the grease that keeps all of these wheels spinning.

BR: Are there any songs that you’ve written but abstain from playing live? Are some songs, during the writing process, expected to be left to the album?

JB: I suppose there are some songs that don’t get played very much on tour. I don’t know why, and every now and then we try to play some of these rare gems–especially for friends that come out and see us play several times on tour.

BR: Do you find yourself writing songs while touring? Is that something you reserve for the studio or are you testing out new songs on the road as they come about?
JB: Touring life is busy with communication, if there was time off which there is not, I would probably spend more of that time reading and writing. As it is, we keep a tight schedule while on the road.

BR: What will be playing on your stereo (or in your headphones) as you’re making your way to Buffalo this Wednesday?
JB: Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba from Mali Africa whom we just met at the Vancouver Folk Festival. They are amazing. Handmade instruments, plugged in and some with wah wah pedals, syncopations, layers and incredible grooves. This music bridges many genres and is the original blues.

BR: So “Carried to Dust” was released in 2008, and after 2 years of germination, can we expect some new Calexico in 2010? Do you have a direction in mind for your new material?
JB: This fall we will be heading back to the studio to write and record some new material. I imagine that there will be some influences from our travels, who knows maybe we can ask some of the members of Bassekou Kouyate’s band to join in, and combine sounds from our signature sounds. I would love to have three songs on the album to be orchestrated for 70 piece symphony. We recently performed with the Louisville Symphony Orchestra and it was unbelievably fun. So, I figured if we had three tunes on the new album with parts already written out that we could sit in with some of the orchestra around the globe. We love the art of collaboration and I am sure there will be plenty of that.

July 21st, 7pm
The Tralf
622 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14202
(716) 852-2860

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