Calexico is a Tucson, Arizona-based Americana, Tex-Mex, indie rock band. The band's two main members, Joey Burns and John Convertino, first played together in Los Angeles as part of the group Giant Sand. They have recorded a number of albums on Quarterstick Records, while their 2005 EP In the Reins recorded with Iron & Wine has reached the Billboard 200 album charts. Their musical style is influenced by traditional Latin sounds of mariachi, conjunto, cumbia and tejano mixed with country, jazz and post-rock.
|Origin||Tucson, Arizona, USA|
Our Soil, Our Strength
|Associated acts||Giant Sand, Friends of Dean Martinez, Howe Gelb, OP8, The Band of Blacky Ranchette, Iron & Wine, Neko Case, Los Super Seven, Amor Belhom Duo, Marianne Dissard, Victoria Williams, Barbara Manning, Richard Buckner, Naked Prey, Gotan Project, Nancy Sinatra, Lizz Wright, Depedro, Jim James|
Calexico had its origins in 1990 when Joey Burns, who was studying music at the University of California, Irvine, met up with John Convertino, who was playing drums with Howe Gelb in Giant Sand. Burns joined them, after first playing upright bass on a European tour.
Giant Sand moved to Tucson, Arizona in 1994. Burns and Convertino formed the Friends of Dean Martin (later the Friends of Dean Martinez) which scored a record deal with Sub Pop. However, the pair split up with Bill Elm, the co-founder of The Friends of Dean Martinez in 1996. The band subsequently became a kind of indie rhythm section for hire, working with the likes of Victoria Williams, Barbara Manning and Richard Buckner before forming Calexico.
Calexico first recorded Spoke in 1995 for German independent label Hausmusik with a limited edition of 2,000 copies. At that point the band was still called Spoke and the album was technically self-titled. After the band signed with Quarterstick Records (a subsidiary of Touch and Go Records) and changed their name to Calexico, Spoke was reissued by that label in 1997. Burns and Convertino also collaborated with Gelb and Lisa Germano on the album Slush released under the name OP8 that same year.
Their second album The Black Light was released in 1998. This was a concept album about the desert of Arizona and northern Mexico and received excellent reviews, with the critic from the Wall Street Journal rating it as one of the best records of the year.
The band built their profile by touring as support acts for bands such as Pavement, the Dirty Three and Lambchop. Calexico has regularly played festivals such as the Bonnaroo Music Festival, the Hurricane Festival and All Tomorrow's Parties. The Road Map album was a limited recording released in 1999 for sale only at Calexico's live shows.
Calexico released its third album Hot Rail in May 2000 featuring the addition of horns and violin to their sound. The duo was busy in 2000 as they also appeared on a Giant Sand record called Chore of Enchantment as well as a tour only record Travelall.
At the end of 2000, Burns and Convertino joined with two French friends Naïm Amor and Thomas Belhôm to record "Tête A Tête" (Wabana Records, 2001) released under moniker ABBC (Amor/Belhom/Burns/Convertino). Calexico released two collections of rarities during 2001. Even My Sure Things Fall Through collected outtakes from previous albums, B-sides, remixes and material previously unreleased in the US. The album also featured Mariachi Luz de Luna who frequently played live with the duo. The Aerocalexico album was sold exclusively at their gigs in 2001. Their songs "Ballad Of Cable Hogue" and "Service And Repair" were featured in the 2001 German comedy movie Lammbock.
Released in 2006, Garden Ruin is Calexico's fifth studio album and was produced by JD Foster. The sound strays slightly from earlier works, focusing less on the horn section and placing more emphasis on guitar and vocal tracks, giving the whole album a more mainstream sound.
Their sixth studio LP is called Carried to Dust, featuring Sam Beam of Iron & Wine, Douglas McCombs of Tortoise and Pieta Brown. It was released in the US via Touch & Go Records on September 9, 2008. The album was positively reviewed. On October 16, 2008, a three-song live acoustic video performance premiered on LiveDaily Sessions, featuring Joey Burns performing the songs "Two Silver Trees", "Writer's Minor Holiday" and "Man Made Lake". In 2009, the song "Banderilla" was featured in an episode of AMC's Breaking Bad.
In 2010, Calexico released the soundtrack of the documentary Circo. The band also spent part of 2010 touring with Arcade Fire along the US west coast. In May 2011, their song "Slowness" was dedicated by Gabrielle Giffords to her husband astronaut Mark Kelly as the wake up song aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on its final flight. Algiers was released 11 September 2012 on Anti-Records and City Slang (Europe). Algiers is titled after the town where it was recorded, Algiers, New Orleans. This was Calexico’s seventh studio album.
In April 2015, Calexico released the album Edge of the Sun. The album features guest appearances by Neko Case, Sam Beam (Iron & Wine), Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses), Gaby Moreno, Carla Morrison and members of the Greek instrumental group Takim. This album was also released on Anti-Records. In 2016, the band performed on the main stage at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival.
In 2018, Calexico released The Thread That Keeps Us. The album was recorded in Northern California in a home-turned-studio called the Panoramic House. The band called this space “The Phantom Ship”. The album was co-produced by their longtime engineer Craig Schumacher. Calexico and Schumacher recruited musicians from all across the globe to find an earthy yet expansive sound. “There’s a little more chaos and noise in the mix than what we’ve done in the past,” Burns points out. The rugged coastline of northern California impacted the making of The Thread That Keeps Us. This sound is heard throughout the album. The album was released by Anti-Records and City Slang on January 26, 2018.
The Thread That Keeps Us was #2 on the Alternative Albums retail chart and #5 on the Americana / Folk Chart in the USA in its first week of sales (Billboard Magazine ). The Thread That Keeps Us also entered the charts in Europe at #7 in Germany, #13 in Belgium, #21 in Netherlands, #47 in France, #58 in the United Kingdom, and #60 in Italy.
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The current members of Calexico are:
- Joey Burns – vocals, guitars, bass, cello, piano, keyboards, accordion, percussion, vibraphone
- John Convertino – drums
- Jacob Valenzuela – trumpet, vocals
- Martin Wenk – trumpet, guitar, keyboards, accordion, glockenspiel, vibraphone, theremin, vocals (occasionally harmonica & French horn)
- Scott Colberg – standup bass, electric bass
- Sergio Mendoza – keyboards, accordion, percussion
Live tour 2013:
- Joey Burns - vocals, guitars
- John Convertino - drums, percussion
- Sergio Mendoza - Keyboards, accordion, percussion
- Jairo Zavala - bouzouki, baritone guitar, vocals
- Jacob Valenzuela – trumpet, keyboards, vibraphone, vocals
- Martin Wenk – trumpet, guitar, keyboards, accordion, glockenspiel, vibraphone (occasionally harmonica & French horn)
- Ryan Alfred - bass, vocals
- Spoke (1996)
- The Black Light (1998)
- Hot Rail (2000)
- Aerocalexico (2001)
- Feast of Wire (2003)
- The Book and the Canal (2005)
- Garden Ruin (2006)
- Carried to Dust (2008)
- Algiers (2012)
- Edge of the Sun (2015)
- The Thread That Keeps Us (2018)
- Years to Burn (with Iron & Wine) (2019)
- Even My Sure Things Fall Through (2001)
- Convict Pool (2004)
- In the Reins with Iron & Wine (2005)
- iTunes Live Sessions (2006)
- Scraping (2002)
- World Drifts In (2004)
- The Book And The Canal (2005)
- Ancienne Belgique (2008)
- Spiritoso (2013)
- Ancienne Belgique Vol. 2 (2013)
Calexico has gained a reputation for consistently releasing high quality records. Their debut album Spoke received three stars from AllMusic, which called the album “a Santa Fe rummage sale of sounds.” Their second album The Black Light, released in 1998, gained the band notoriety and attention. AllMusic praised this sophomore effort and gave the album 4.5 stars. The album was praised for being “deeper and richer than their debut.” This effort showed Calexico’s quick maturity into a band that poised for a long career.
Hot Rail was released in 2000 and continued off the success of previous albums. Pitchfork gave the album a 7.9. The band then took a brief hiatus and released their next studio album in 2003, Feast of Wire. This album can be viewed as their breakthrough, receiving incredible reviews across the board. The album received an 8.9 from Pitchfork, which described it as “the album we always knew they had in them but feared they would never make.”
Again after another hiatus, Calexico returned in 2006 with Garden Ruin. Their streak of success continued with this album. Amazon gave their album a 90/100 and described it as “what Sigur Ros might sound like if they came from Arizona, and it's truly excellent.” In 2008, came Carried to Dust. By now Calexico was already established as a band who meticulously created beautiful albums. This success continued with Carried to Dust receiving 4.5 stars from AllMusic. Describing the album as “their most balanced, channeling their experience and potential into a subtly dramatic, chiaroscuro tour de force.”
2012 was a busy year for Calexico, giving birth to a new album titled Algiers. Once again, the band received high praise. The A.V. Club gave the album an A-. Another studio album came in 2015; titled Edge of the Sun. This album also received high ranks from reviewers. Rough Trade called it the twenty-first best album of 2015. Their most recent studio album came in 2018, The Thread That Keeps Us. Exclaim! rated the album a 4 out of 10. Pitchfork scored it a 7.1 out of 10.
The Thread That Keeps Us is consistent with themes of Calexico’s earlier records, but Pitchfork noted that Calexico has never made an album “with quite this much fight in it.” MOJO also recognized the uniqueness of The Thread That Keeps Us, writing: “If the band have upped the musical chaos, there’s still an unashamedly romantic feel, as if they believe humanity’s innate goodness will get us out of this mess.” The distinctiveness of The Thread That Keeps Us also drew praise from Salon, which regarded the album as a welcome new step in Calexico’s “remarkably consistent and prolific” artistic career. The Independent concluded that The Thread That Keeps Us “may be the album that finally hoists this most undervalued of American bands to their rightful place alongside the likes of R.E.M. and Wilco.”
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