there’s suburban sprawl, a
downtown scene complete with artists, hobos, 9-5 workers
and growing appreciation for the historic aspects,
making this place so unique. As for travels, meeting
musicians from all over has definitely helped make some
past collaboration possible. Without it, I doubt they
would have occurred. Playing in an old castle in
former East Germany, or in one of the old amphitheaters
high above Athens has given us some confidence to keep
on doing what we do. It helps make up for the long
drives and lame clubs here at home.
has working with other artists shaped your musical
Every time you back up another artist you learn
something new. I love collaborating and playing accompaniment,
especially playing upright bass.
Holding on to that instrument and
laying down the root is like meditating for me.
much influence does the audience have on what you do
both live and on recordings? You have had a steady
touring schedule in the past, how has performing live
changed your lives and your music?
suppose performing and interacting with the audience,
watching them react to certain songs or dynamics, other
artists and instruments, helps build your knowledge of
what you do, more like a coexisting world that has a
life all its own. There are times when our tour
schedule is out of balance and the only thing that
makes it worth doing, is meeting people whose lives
have been seriously changed by music. It’s a gift
to see their surprise or their hearts light up, like a
photo you will never forget. Musically we’ve been
influenced by seeing how the dynamics shape the music
more and more. This also comes from just watching
others play live, say like Yo La Tengo who always has
put on an incredible live show and taken the audience
to places far from the norm.
What do you do to get into the music and begin writing
and recording, touring and performing live?
Um ... do something distracting or the opposite
of what you would
normally do. Being in a
group, just hanging out is sometimes better than any
kind of rehearsal, finding the dynamics between each
other more than the right notes.
What are some challenges Calexico has faced as you
record more and more albums? Is it difficult to think
up original material?
I wouldn’t say that it is difficult to find
more original material or new songs because new tunes
are always popping up or collaboration in the works,
there is more effort dealing with the behind the
scenes aspect of running the group.
Since we don’t have a manager, a lot of the decisions
and office work piles up on the band itself. Thankfully, we
work with extremely efficient and helpful labels;
Quarterstick (USA) and City Slang (Europe), and booking
agents; Billions (USA) and Berthold Seliger (Europe).
Without their aid the band would bog down under a heap of
mud. I suppose if we stepped up to the plate and got some
home recording gear, we'd help ourselves immensely.
has influenced you recently?
Francoise Hardy the Vogue years, Luis Alberto
Urrea’s book The Hummingbird’s Daughter,
Jean-Luc Goddard’s film Contempt, Bridget Bardot,
Sufjan Stevens, Golden Boots from Tucson, Micah P.
HInson, Miles Davis On the Corner, Dirty Three,
Sparklehorse, Lhasa and Brazilian field recordings.
How was your approach to recording In The Reins
different from Calexico’s approach to making
Since these were all yours, we took your lead on the
direction of instrumentation and production. You were
pretty open minded during the whole process, so we all
got together the night before, went through the tunes
and made some slight alterations. Once we were in the
studio, if there was a part that one of us heard we would
run it by you and everyone else. I could see that you
have an incredible sense of layering harmonies, rhythms
and textures. You would bring the chunk and we would
match it with the space. There were a lot of things
that were left in from the initial ideas for overdubs.
So, during the mixing stage, John and I wanted to
take things out of the mix and make it leaner. However,
you wanted to make it as much of a departure from the
sound of your recordings as it was from ours.
Did you enjoy this more or less than you do
recording with just Calexico?
all had a great time making this EP, Craig Schumacher
and Nick Luca, from Wavelab Studio got involved, engineering
and performing some key overdubs and parts on the
recording. Since we only had a few days, time was
tight, and we didn’t spend long on overdubs, so
when I listen back I remember that window of time and
the feeling in the room. Recently, Calexico has
generally spent a bit more time in the studio sketching
out parts and recording ideas spontaneously, so this
was one of the main differences between the two. I
really enjoyed watching Salvador Duran coming into the
studio and laying down his vocals, boot percussion and
sound effects. After one night in the studio we all walked
over to the Hotel Congress
lobby to get a drink and Salvador was
there performing. He is from Mexico and is a
painter/musician who lives in the warehouse studios
district. I liked filling out the horns on the tune “History
of Lovers” by adding local baritone/tenor sax player
Ryan Roscoe, it shifted our horns section more towards
Memphis than Mexico City.
I gotta say that I
also really like that this is an EP, short and sweet,
yet the collaboration sticks with you when it's over.
I’m curious about the fall/winter 2005
tour, what it brings about; new tunes, interesting
covers, different guests. It will be a memorable
concert not unlike Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Tour.
you have any other plans for collaboration in the near
and I did some recent work with Neko Case on her new
album. It sounds amazing. We’ve also been working
with French transplant Naim Amor in Tucson. Other than
that we'll be working on a new Calexico album after
some July dates at home and abroad. It would be nice to
get some guests to come in and record, Lhasa, Neko and
maybe you Sam, if your schedule permits.
you could collaborate with anyone (alive or dead)
whom would you choose?
Duke Ellington Orchestra, Lhasa, Taraf de Houdouks,
Amalia Rodrigues, Tom Waits, Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus,
Schoenberg, and Eric Dolphy, and how about Sufjan
Calexico’s upcoming new
release is titled Garden Ruin.
It was produced by JD Foster and
will be out in the US on Quarterstick Records on April
It will be released in Europe on
City Slang Records.
Calexico w/ iron & Wine
In The Reins(Subpop, 2005)
The Black Light 1998;
Hot Rail 2000; Feast of Wire 2003
(Hausmusik / Quarterstick)
The Book and the Canal 2005
(Our Soil, Our Strength)
The Creek Drank the Cradle 2002;
The Sea And The Rhythm 2003;
Our Endless Numbered Days 2004;
Passing Afternoon 2004;
Woman King 2005 (Sub Pop Records)