By Jon Chattman
“We’re very adaptable,” Joey Burns said of his musically diverse band Calexico. That’s why you’ll often hear the band collaborating with an eclectic mix of musicians from Iron & Wine to Nancy Sinatra. “We love being in the hot seat and a lot of times.”
Elaborating on that, he said, “It never fails. You do a rehearsal with somebody and it feels really good…then you go and play live on stage and all of a sudden everything that was rehearsed completely changes. You’re just riding on the seat of your pants…the seat of your chair. You feel like you’ve lost the seat of your pants. It’s a beautiful kind of surge of adrenalin, excitement and pushing the envelope for the possibility of something new.”
Looking for something new is a trait that has followed the band since Burns founded the group with John Convertino in 1990. The band’s new album Carried to Dust is no different, carrying a strong Mexican influence.
“When you go in the studio, you want to bring in some new elements,” he said. We’re always looking for something new in a way that makes sense, and not over the top, and gels well with where we’re at.”
That sense of mixing things up carries the band on stage. You’ll find out when Calexico, whose music features elements of everything from ‘50s jazz to rock to surf music, perform at the Tarrytown Music Hall in – where else – Tarrytown, NY on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 8 p.m.(Note more info on the gig appears in today’s Danbury News Times)
The pop caught up with Burns the morning after Election Day and asked him about the band, the current album, and as fate would have it, if the band could find a job for me, myself, and I.
So how are you today?
I couldn’t be happier.
I know you guys formed in Arizona, but I take it you were PrObama?
Yeah, we were. We’re very happy that he won especially the International contingency. We have lots of friends from overseas…everywhere from New Zealand to England. They’re all ecstatic of the news and so were we.
You guys tend to not get that political at your shows, though… right?
No not really. I might say a comment every now and then with a taste of humor. I try to focus on the here and now: the crowd, the music, and the stories. It’s storytelling time.
You’re about to get on the round again. Ever get tired of touring all the time?
No. Actually we slowed down last year. We took some time off. Traditionally we’ll tour two years [following an album release], go back around, and do the loop twice. Now we kind of just go through once and if we’re lucky, we’ll do some other towns like Tarrytown and Omaha…Anywhere to play is somewhere new. There’s so many places in the states we’ve yet to play so we’re really excited.
Is your approach to each show different?
I kind of like tailor the set list to the crowd and to the night, where we are. Sometimes I like to mix up some of the older songs and definitely focus on the newer songs. It depends if it’s a seated venue or standing room only… it changes. We’re very adaptable.
The band has been around for almost two decades, but do you find social networks helping you gain more fans lately?
I think that can help kind of bring people together. I think word of mouth is always best and it seems to work well with our band. That’s been the mainstay. I think it’s always helped. It’s kind of taking a group that is very much influenced by this idea of community…
You’ve played with a lot of …wow, I almost said magicians…
[Laughs] That’s right. Look out, magicians.
Musicians. Wow. Anyway, anyone else you’d want to collaborate with?
Barack Obama…put music to some of his speeches would be fantastic.
Wow, they’d sell like hot cakes…
[Laughs[ Other people…well there’s obvious people like Tom Waits, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan but how about something more obscure? We recently did a project with Lizz Wright, a singer/songwriter who comes from more of a gospel background. She grew in Georgia…It was a lot of fun. It was challenging at times, but the outcome was really fantastic. [Even if you] play with people you’d not normally play with, there’s a lot of common ground. That’s what kind of started us playing musicians from Mexico, Europe, and all over. It’s really exciting to challenge those definitions of who you are, where your scene is or your genre of music lies…
Would you ever do something with hip hop?
There was a mash up somebody did with the Notorious B.I.G., which I loved. I guess Lizz Wright kind of alluded to that, tapped into that background in a jazz-inspired approach.
Within the band, do you all still get along?
Oh you didn’t hear on the last Oprah? Dr. Phil helped us a lot. Here’s to you, Dr. Phil. I’m just kidding. Were not constantly living near each other so there’s plenty of time for space and that’s so important when you’re living with a group of men for the most part of three-to-four weeks straight. It’s a lot closer than home life. At least, there’s separate rooms. There’s not too much space to have your necessary bubble of isolation.
So no drama?
Not a whole lot of drama. For the most part, we do pretty well – so much so venues and clubs, crews, and other artists even are always complimenting us that we’re so positive and open to finding out what’s up with them.
Wrapping up, quick question. What’s up with your blog, man? No update in over a year?
Well, guess what homes? I’m going tomorrow and blogging. Yeah man I’m going to be hauling some serious blogs around. Blog left and right…blog a full load… I kind of relaxed that because I’ve been asked to do more interviews on tour. I also gave up emailing on Blackberry devices because it’s too insane. But they’ll be a whole new blog. If you want to help out, you can become part of the band.
Definitely. All u have to do is learn how to play tambourine on two songs, and you got the job. You could be the multimedia expert that takes pictures, videos, writes it down, gets people to sign things when they’re sleeping in the van. You could help me project strange images on our backdrop and then you can pay us to do all that and it’d be a dream.
Ah man…so close…I thought I had a new paying gig.
Who knows where this could wind up. The whole world is watching you.
Tickets range from $30-40. For more info, visit www.tarrytownmusichall.org or call (914) 631-3390.