Calexico - Interviewed

13 February 2003

Calexico Interview

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Calexico front man Joey Burns Interviewed 12/02/03

Contact Music caught up with Calexico front man Joey Burns in a West End Hotel the morning after the bands triumphant gig at the Shepherds Bush Empire the night before. Sitting on the floor his legs crossed under the table, he is focused, attentive, and almost childlike in his enthusiasm, telling us in a friendly South Western drawl of his plans for the band. Over the next twenty minutes, we learn of his desire to write more soundtracks, his aversion to working for major film companies, his satisfaction with the new album, 'Feast of Wire', and his discomfort with the alt-country/Americana label. It seems that for Calexico, the times they are a changing.

Contact Music: So how are you enjoying London then?

Joey Burns: Thanks for asking, I've loved it. It would be great if I had a couple of days off just to wander round, go see some galleries or something. We've been very busy as far as promoting the new album, going from city to city, we were in Dublin a couple of days ago which was a blast. I've been here about a month going round the whole of Europe; Scandinavia, Greece, Central Europe mainly by myself or with the drummer John Convertino doing interviews and small acoustic shows.

CM: How do you think that last night's gig went?

JB: I thought musically it happened, I was really happy with the way it all sounded and felt, but I wish we had played on a Saturday night, I thought the Tuesday nighters were a little more, well, sober. But it's a great venue, it's beautiful to look out and see these balconies and people enjoying the experience.

CM: You were much louder than I expected you to be.

JB: We could of been a lot louder.

Calexico front man Joey Burns Interviewed 12/02/03 @
Calexico front man Joey Burns Interviewed 12/02/03 @

CM: Do you think it's more of a straight ahead rock out now that you are performing without the mariachi band who has accompanied you on previous tours?

JB: Maybe, I enjoy all the incarnations of playing, whether it's with special guests from Tucson, doing the mariachi thing, or playing with other musicians, which is always kind of exciting, you know, when you try to open the door to allow for more creative influences.

CM: Your use of trumpets really reminds me of the band Love, are they big influences on you?

JB: They weren't but recently a friend gave me one of their first albums and I love it, he's saying we should cover one of their songs. More of an influence was just the use of trumpet in songs like 'Ring of Fire'. We are trying to achieve that mariachi thing with a kind of western vibe, that singer song writer edge. I mean I love orchestration, I grew up playing in jazz bands in high school then later on I studied classical music and I just adore that wide variety of texture and sound arrangements. So trumpet, especially with the mariachi style has a great sense of character whether it's kind of a Miles Davis approach or whether it's a mariachi approach it seems to really strike deep into the heart as far as the listeners experience, it can be both powerful and very understated.

CM: Who impresses you musically right now?

JB: Lots of electronic stuff, and my friend from Tortoise, Doug McCombs, he's got a group called Broke Back.
CM: It's interesting you mention Tortoise, because as some of the songs off of the new album have a post rock feel to them.

JB: Some of it has that tendency and that's why I think we were asked to play All Tomorrows Parties, which we were extremely excited about and honoured to do.

CM: Have you any plans to do another film score? [The band sound tracked the 2000 movie 'Committed' starring Heather Graham]

JB: There's nothing on the board right now, nothing set up, there was a Norwegian film which has just premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. It's a movie, set in the countryside amongst the mountains and it's kind of a romantic comedy, a dark comedy that uses our music as a soundtrack.

CM: Do you think Calexico will move more in that direction as time goes on?

JB: Perhaps, I'd rather be more experimental, writing something that has nothing to do with the desert.

CM: Do you feel constrained, by the alt-country Americana tag?

JB: I just feel there's a lot more to our music than is defined by those attachments or those definitions. We don't focus just on American country, you know, Bluegrass, Country and Western, it's going well outside the boundary of those styles of music.

CM: Are you happy with the way the new album has turned out?

JB: Very much, we took our time working on the album, deliberately so that we would be happy with it. If we can live with whatever tracks we wind up choosing after years listening to them then they should be OK to go. That's really rewarding and we hadn't really done it in the past, the last album 'Hot Rail' we wrote and recorded in three weeks and we were working on a soundtrack for 'Committed' at the same time so you know we would fly to New York to meet with the Director, Editor, and as soon as we come back home we get called up and they are like, "So can you send us some new music". Working with a major film company is over the top, I'd rather work with something more experimental.

CM: Where now for Calexico?

JB: We're going to go on tour, the States and Europe in support of the album and in the meantime get some people like Cinematic Orchestra to do some remixes, then if possible get together with some of these people when there is a break in the schedule to maybe experiment with doing more of a collabaratorive effort, not so much a straight up remix, but do something new. The remix we did with Two Lone Swordsmen is one of my own personal favourites of all the things we have ever done.

CM: Any message for the fans?

JB: Thanks for supporting us from the beginning and check out the website,, where you can get free tour cd's.


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