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Younger Than Yesterday: Reckoning / Double Nickels On The Dime

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Calexico’s Joey Burns reveals the albums that inspired him on his musical path for Part Four of our Calexico “Younger Than Yesterday” series. Joey Burns is someone who I look up to the most in music. As the singer-songwriter in one of American music’s finest bands, Calexico, he has given us a wealth of awe-inspiring songs, encompassing a world of sound and ocean of emotion. The music flows directly to the heart, just like the river that flows into the sea. A connection that runs deep. It has done so ever since Calexico’s debut ‘Spoke’ was released back in ’97. The road map can be traced back earlier, to another space and time, namely Giant Sand. Howe Gelb as Dylan and Joey alongside John Convertino forming the finest rhythm sections to have graced these lands. It is the unspoken connection between these two beautiful souls that forms the inner flame in all of what Calexico do, now and forevermore.  

Words: Joey Burns, Illustration: Craig Carry

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For me it is hard to decide on one. There are several that have factored in my development over the years. Early on it was R.E.M.’s “Reckoning”. They captured a mood and energy that was compelling. Peter Buck’s drone guitar style resonated with my style as well as the foggy vocals of Michael Stipe. There was a mystique and depth with the layers of their instrumentation and vocals that I appreciated and wound up being a sort of blue print along with records by The Minutemen’s “Double Nickels on the Dime”.

Growing up in the south bay of Los Angeles I got to see The Minutemen perform a few times and their live shows were always best. They blew doors off of any band I have ever seen especially in those days of my teens and early twenties. “Double Nickels on the dime” goes deep. They do their angst punk songs, social-political writing, tripped out journal entries with free jazz accompaniment, and straight up deliver the best bizarre hybrid punk music I have ever heard. They weren’t afraid to be brutally honest about who they were, and who they wanted to be, and by doing so influenced me in my do-it-yourself approach to the music I would make later on down the road.

minutemen_craigcarry

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Artist: R.E.M.
Title: Reckoning
Label: IRS
Year: 1984

Tracks: Harborcoat; 7 Chinese Bros.; So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry); Pretty Persuasion; Time After Time (Annelise); Second Guessing; Letter Never Sent; Camera; (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville; Little America.

Personnel: Drums, percussion, backing vocals: Bill Berry; Guitar: Peter Buck; Bass guitar, backing vocals: Mike Mills; Vocals, harmonica: Michael Stipe; Producers: Don Dixon & Mitch Easter; All songs: Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe.

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Artist: Minutemen
Title: Double Nickels On The Dime
Label: SST
Year: 1984

Tracks: D.’s Car Jam/Anxious Mo-Fo; Theatre Is the Life of You; Viet Nam; Cohesion; It’s Expected I’m Gone; #1 Hit Song; Two Beads at the End; Do You Want New Wave or Dou Want the Truth?; Don’t Look Now; Shit from an Old Notebook; Nature Without Man; One Reporters Opinion; Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing; Maybe Partying Will Help; Toadies; Retreat; Big Foist; God Bows to Math; Corona; Glory of Man; Take 5, D.; My Heart and the Real World; History Lesson, Pt. 2; You Need the Glory; Roar of the Masses Could Be Farts; West Germany; Politics of Time; Themselves; Please Don’t Be Gentle With Me; Nothing Indeed; No Exchange; There Ain’t Shit on T.V. Tonight; This Ain’t No Picnic; Spillage; Untitled Song for Latin America; Jesus and Tequila; June 16th; Storm in My House; Martin’s Story; Doctor Wu; World According to Nouns; Love Dance; Three Car Jam.

Personnel: Guitar, vocals: D. Boon; Bass guitar, vocals: Mike Watt; Drums: George Hurley; Engineer & Producer: Ethan James.

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Calexico recorded a cover version of Minutemen’s “Corona” for their “Convict Pool” E.P., released in 2004 during their extensive EU and US tours promoting their 2003 studio album “Feast Of Wire”. Live, the band have often covered both “Corona” and “Jesus and Tequila” from Minuteman’s “Double Nickels On The Dime”. Most recently, “Corona” has been included on Calexico’s “Ancienne Belgique Vol 2”, the live tour album featuring the band’s performance recorded in Brussels on September 19th 2012.
On 11 March 2012 Calexico’s Joey Burns and John Convertino provided the rhythm section for the in-house band at a special R.E.M. tribute concert at Carnegie Hall. Guests on the night included The Feelies, Patti Smith, Throwing Muses and the late Vic Chesnutt.

Calexico continue their European summer tour and have also announced live dates in Australia & New Zealand for September/October 2013. (See all tour dates here).

“Algiers” is available now on City Slang (EU) and Anti (US). “Maybe On Monday” EP is out now.

http://www.casadecalexico.com

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Younger Than Yesterday: With Strings

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Calexico’s Martin Wenk reveals the album that has inspired his life as a musician.

We are delighted to present a very special series in our regular “Younger Than Yesterday” section. Named after The Byrds’ classic 1967 LP of the same name, the feature aims to highlight the albums which have singularly had the biggest influence for music audiences and continue to inspire new generations of musicians. To coincide with Calexico’s extensive European tour this summer we have invited each band member to identify the album which has had the most significant impact and has provided the biggest inspiration for their lives as musicians. First up is Calexico’s multi-instrumentalist Martin Wenk (trumpet, accordion, vibraphones, guitar, vocals). Born in Berlin, Germany, Martin now resides in Tucson, Arizona.

Words: Martin Wenk, Illustration: Craig Carry

withstrings_craigcarry

For me right now my favourite record to listen to is Clifford Brown “With Strings”.
One reason is the beautiful arrangements written by Neil Hefti. But most of all it’s because of his amazing trumpet tone.
Each note he plays has a special character and phrasing. Even when he really played on high-speed.
And as a trumpet player that is a real inspiration.

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Artist: Clifford Brown
Title: With Strings
Label: EmArcy
Year: 1955

Tracks: Yesterdays; Laura; What’s New?; Blue Moon; Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man; Embraceable You; Willow Weep for Me; Memories of You; Smoke Gets in Your Eyes; Portrait Of Jenny; Where Or When; Stardust.

Personnel: Clifford Brown: trumpet; Richie Powell: piano; Barry Galbraith: guitar; George Morrow: bass; Max Roach: drums; uncredited string nonet arranged by Neal Hefti.

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Tucson’s legendary Calexico are touring extensively in Europe this summer. To coincide with these shows the band have released the new E.P. “Maybe On Monday” featuring alternate versions of “Maybe On Monday” and covers of The Replacements, The Call and Elvis Costello. The E.P. is available at Calexico’s merch table on tour and officially released on 29 June with digital release available 21 June.

City Slang are currently streaming the “Maybe On Monday” E.P. here.

To check Calexico’s European tour dates please click here.

“Algiers” is out now on City Slang (EU) and Anti (USA).

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Something’s Going On: Calexico

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“You’re a pretty thought I suppose
I’m just trying to hold up as I go
And one day I swear I’ll spread my wings
I’m on my way to finer things.”

—‘Fortune Teller’ (taken from ‘Algiers’, 2012)

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

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The arrival of a new Calexico record is always a cause of celebration and pure joy. For me, Calexico’s music is the most pivotal and endearing of artistic creations that seamlessly seeps into your veins and hits directly to the heart’s core. ‘Algiers’ is the new album and stands tall as their strongest work to date. Like so many music fans, I look up to Joey Burns (singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist) and John Convertino (drums, songwriter, percussion, vibes) in such a profound way that I’m eternally grateful for the songs and music the core duo have composed and performed over the years. It’s their windswept, breathtakingly beautiful instrumentals (is there anything more pure and beautiful as ‘Minas De Cobre’, ‘El Picador’ or ‘Above The Branch’?), heart wrenching ballads (‘Bloodflow’, ‘The News About William’, ‘Fortune Teller’), brooding cinematic opuses (‘Red Blooms’, ‘Black Heart’, ‘The Vanishing Mind’), life affirming symphonies (‘Quattro’, ‘Epic’, ‘Victor Jara’s Hands’), songs of hope etched in the heart of darkness (‘Para’, ‘Crooked Road And The Briar’, ‘..Not Even Stevie Nicks’, ‘Trigger’) and momentous rejoice (‘Crystal Frontier’, ‘Guero Canelo’, ‘No Te Vayas’, ‘Inspiracion’). As always, the deeply rooted music telepathy between Burns and Convertino, combined with the peerless musicianship of the greater Calexico ensemble (spanning continents and encompassing worlds of sound) and producer supreme Craig Schumacher, means that true art is endlessly created.

I was very fortunate to see Calexico on two occasions during their ‘Algiers’ European tour in September. The concerts in Ancienne Belgique, Brussels and at the Vega, Copenhagen were both testaments to the power and glory of these new songs. The anticipation for their long-awaited return was palpable. The pure joy of the sold-out audiences gravitated to unforgotten realms of possibility. The musicians alike were performing out of sheer joy. Inspiration flooded the live auditorium spaces. Calexico’s lineup of Joey Burns (vocals, guitars), John Convertino (drums, percussion), Jacob Valenzuela (trumpets, vibes), Martin Wenk (trumpets, vibes, accordion, guitar), Jairo Zavala (guitars), Sergio Mendoza (keys, piano) and Ryan Alfred (bass) weaved magic through their deep musical connection. John Convertino on stage right, centre orchestrated the cast of stellar musicians. To witness John Convertino’s drums “set ablaze the rafters and the roofs” on ‘Para’ and ‘Black Heart’. The set closer ‘The Vanishing Mind’ that left you awe-struck.

In Brussels, where Joey dedicated ‘The Vanishing Mind’ to my brother and I was a moment we’ll forever cherish. The old and new songs folded seamlessly together unleashing a spectrum of human emotions. The new song ‘Dead Moon’, awashed with dark, brooding grandeur that just missed out on the new album cut. The musicianship on display. The gorgeous duet with Laura Gibson on their reinterpretation of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Waiting For The Miracle’ at the Vega, Copenhagen. The miracle in itself of witnessing Calexico perform live, now and forevermore.

The road atlas of Calexico is a constant, forever striving for newness, while remaining true to their aesthetics. This road atlas began in ’97 with their debut ‘Spoke’ and a wealth of monumental releases later, Calexico remain as this special cosmic force, unparalleled in the atmosphere’s clouds of sound. ‘Algiers’ sees Calexico (as always) immersed in a creative vibe, where music and song rises up and fills the human space. Like the lyric to ‘The Vanishing Mind’, the band’s journey is one of great significance, wherein my heart’s impulse will always bring me back:

“It’s what brought you here

It’s what keeps you here.”

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‘Algiers’ is out now on City Slang (EU) and on Anti (US).

Calexico (with support from The Dodos) play Dublin’s Olympia Theatre on February 14.

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http://www.casadecalexico.com/

http://www.olympia.ie

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February 13, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Road Atlas: Joey Burns (Part 2)

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We resume our conversation with Calexico’s Joey Burns on the band’s European tour as they play the sold-out Teatro Kapital in Madrid, Spain tonight.

Words: Joey Burns, Illustration: Craig Carry

Tell me about your day in Madrid today please?

JOEY: I was up till 2am this morning with a combined jet lag and home cooked meal buzz over at Jairo Zavala’s place in the village of Becceril de la Sierra Madrid. This is the mountainous area north of the city. I must have woken up several times throughout the night in that wonderful jet lag daze and fumbling for the faucet for some water to bring myself back to life. Jairo picked me up and we stopped off at a cafe in his village for coffee and croissants. He is my brother and so we spent some time catching up with one another’s lives. I am so happy to be here at his home and visit with his sweet family, especially to meet the newest addition, Diego who is 8 months old.

We spent the rest of the day picking up band and crew; John Convertino, Valerie Deerin, Ryan Alfred and Jacob Valenzuela. We ate lunch at a great tapas restaurant nearby in Barajas. I had a great glass of red wine, 12 Lunas from Somantano D.O. region. I love the food and wine from Spain and this one of the most exciting aspects of touring here.

All of us happily fed and noursihed crammed into Jairo’s family van and settled into the village. Some took naps while others checked emails. Outside the fog was laying low over the mountains. Somewhere out there in the invisible landscape is Europe’s biggest rock says Jairo. I take his word and take a walk through the streets watered fresh from the rain. It feels good to breathe the fresh air.

Later that night when Jairo’s family came home from school and soccer (futbol) we all ate dinner together and hung out with he and his wife’s handsome boys. These are the kinds of nurturing moments before or during a tour that I look forward to the most.

Jairo spoke with a friend, David “El Indio” Garcia the drummer of the group Vetusta Morla who will sit in with us tomorrow on percussion. Sergio Mendoza has been hanging out with him in the city checking out the lay of the land. This is Sergio’s first time in Spain. He is really happy to be here. Sometimes bringing new faces to the tours can inspire the rest of the touring party. Seeing the same places through fresh eyes revitalizes the soul.

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Describe how the band dynamic evolves as a result of three weeks on tour?

JOEY: We usually start off super excited and maintain a high energy throughout the whole tour. We all love what we do and working/ hanging out together. This is the last tour for a while and the last tour with Jairo, so we are going to enjoy every possible moment. I am hoping that we can film and record some of the shows with this line up as it’s been a really good one.

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Share your thoughts on the unspoken connection between the musicians of the current Calexico line-up?

JOEY: I think you have to see this happen live onstage. We all enjoy playing with one another. You can see it on our faces and hear it in the playing. It’s funny, sometimes there are a million thoughts racing through my head when I am performing. This is why I close my eyes sometimes. I want to focus on the heart of the band playing and breathing together. If I look around I can get easily distracted. One thing is for sure is that after playing continually for three weeks or so, the band’s musical communication gets better and better with each show. I love this and wish we could tour in the USA more on two week runs instead of one offs for the weekend festivals.

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What are the older songs from the Calexico songbook you think will be revisited upon this tour?

JOEY: We started playing ‘All Systems Red’ the last week of the USA tour leading up to the elections. It felt good to play this song and have three electric guitars making a wall of noise. The set needs that from time to time. Other songs that we might play are ‘The Ride Pt. 2’ and ‘Service and Repair’ and ‘Sonic Wind’. Ryan Alfred the bass player is always a fan of playing ‘Woven Birds’ and if the audience is in the mood for more of the contemplative songs we will bring it out and see where it goes. I love that song. There are also some unfinished songs from the ‘Algiers’ album session that I would like to complete and perform. One of them is a co write with Jairo. It’s working title is ‘Cemetary Gates (Nada te Queda). I may work on it after this blog entry. It’s in 6/8 time and has some sweeping accordion parts ala The Pogues answered with some regal sounding trumpet parts. The song is all about building. Hopefully it will work out live. I may rewrite some of the chords in the chorus. The last time we worked on it in the studio we were changing the chorus sections already. But listening back, I kind of like the original version. Let’s see what happens. There are a couple of other songs too that I am listening to now while I write that might be fun to work on and play live on this tour.

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With traveling and experiencing different people and places, inspiration must come from everywhere for you. Much in the spirit of street photographers, (like Alex Webb, Joel Meyerowitz or Klavdij Sluban) where characters can combine with their environment so powerfully (for a fraction of a second). Of course, Calexico songs are often character-based (‘Gilbert’, ‘Across The Wire’, ‘Sinner In The Sea’), so do you see the spark of inspiration for such characters in the very streets you wander when on tour? Any examples?

JOEY: ‘Gilbert’ is a fun song to play thanks for the reminder. Sometimes it helps to see or feel the character of a person or place to get into the mood behind a song. Other times it is important to do the opposite of that. Contrast is key. The best way to explain the making for a good show or inventing a new song on the spot is by being lost in the moment and there is no better way to do this than by leaving the club or venue and wandering around. There is inspiration all around us. We could walk across the street and find a whole world of ideas and impulses to want to write and play music. It starts from the minute we walk into the airport and say goodbye to loved ones back home. I met some really interesting people on the flight from Chicago to New York. On my left was a CEO for a marketing company for fantasy sports. She had the blues and I tried to cheer her up. On my right was a college student from Prague returning home after studying and interning for international business in Manhattan, Kansas for the past 10 months. She was happy to be going back home and missed her mother’s cooking. She was optimistic but not sure what kind of direction or work she wanted to focus on. Both ladies had something really unique to say about where they were at in their lives even though they were at different cross roads and 20 years apart. That kind of setting can be the catalyst to a song or mood in the music. It happens all of the time.

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Calexico’s ‘Algiers’ is out now on City Slang (Europe) and Anti (USA). For a full list of tour dates, please see: www.casadecalexico.com/tours

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November 9, 2012 at 10:59 am

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Road Atlas: Joey Burns (Part 1)

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We are proud to begin our journey with Tucson Arizona’s Calexico as they embark on their European tour this November. 2012 sees the release of Calexico’s strongest work to date with ‘Algiers’, an album immersed in a creative vibe where music and song rises up and fills the human space. Calexico’s Joey Burns shares his thoughts and feelings on traveling, experiencing different cultures, and music’s deep connection. 

Words: Joey Burns, Illustration: Craig Carry

Being a handful days away from the start of a new tour, what do your routines/schedules consist of?
JOEY: In between tours I normally hang out with family, relax, spend time at home and help out in any way I can. This past week, I voted early, took care of the kids and spent as much time at home as possible. Tucson is a great city for that. It’s relatively laid back and I love taking walks around the neighborhood with the family and dog.

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On the back of one U.S. tour and one European tour, what do you take from these recent experiences and (if and how) does this tap into the music for the next tour?
JOEY: It has been a while since we have toured in three successive months on a new album release. I think the last time was in 2008 for the album ‘Carried To Dust’. So it feels really good and I have been enjoying the current band lineup a lot. There is a lot of good musicians who have brought multiple talents to the live shows, so for me it is very exciting to see how the dynamics have been lifted. I feel more confident now with songs from ‘Algiers’ under our belt, and look forward to diving into more rare material from past albums and hopefully writing a few new songs to play on tour. The three week tours always help the band lock in together more and I wish we could tour three weeks at a time more often rather than the one off shows on weekends which has become the norm in the states.

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Your feelings as a musician when you see all these great venues sold-out around the world for Calexico’s concerts.
JOEY: John Convertino, the whole band and crew are extremely happy and feel grateful for this opportunity and it makes the shows even more exciting. We have all been playing and touring for a long time. We love what we do. We love meeting all of the local promoters, venues and staff. I feel really lucky especially with such record high numbers of unemployment. I take what we do very seriously but love how the night changes according to how the audience is feeling. More times than not, the crowds enjoy the mood of celebration and want to have a good time. I look forward to meeting the audiences on this coming tour in November in Europe and doing just that.

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Spain is the first part of your next tour. What is in the Spanish culture that strikes such a personal chord with you?
JOEY: There is a lot going on here in the Iberian Peninsula. Spain, Portugal and all of the neighboring regions around the Mediterranean Sea. It is a fascinating and vibrant place. The people and cultures here are stunning. The last time we toured here was in January of 2009. We played Barcelona the same day that President Barrack Obama was inaugurated. The energy that night at the Apollo Theater electric. People were so happy and after the show some were in tears. I walked out into the audience and hugged as many people as I could. Spain has always had that feeling of welcoming arms.

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How travel inspires you.
JOEY: The road is the canvas and the tires help push the paint. Movement itself is inspiring. When we pull up to a venue on tour. I usually take a walk around the neighborhood to get a feel for the place. Staying backstage and hanging out with the local staff and crew, working on building the vibes for the whole day is important. I like seeing how the whole stage is set and sound check changes from day to day, venue to venue. I may try learning a new cover song and practicing it at sound check. I am looking for ways to make each and every show as unique and special as can be. I want to find out what makes the people tick and where the music can go in order to connect as deep as possible. This is the true path that I am on.

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Calexico start their European tour on Friday November 9th at the sold-out Teatro Kapital, Madrid, Spain.

Calexico’s new album ‘Algiers’ is out now on City Slang (Europe) and Anti (USA).

For more tour dates, please see: www.casadecalexico.com/tours

 

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November 9, 2012 at 10:41 am

Posted in ROAD ATLAS

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