THE INTERVIEW: Calexico
Joey Burns, half of the masterful duo behind Calexico, graciously agreed to answer some questions for Short and Sweet NYC. Burns is the vocalist and guitarist for Calexico, a band whose Southwestern sounds have been featured on NPR and the soundtrack for I’m Not There. Calexico’s latest album, Carried to Dust is released today, September 9th on Touch and Go records.
What do you feel is the most exciting part of creating music in today’s musical atmosphere- with the revolutions in musical distribution, etc?
JB: To not take the business so serious. I think there is more creativity because artists are starting to get involved with making decisions and releasing collaborative projects. It feels like people are having fun again with music…as it should be.
What single songwriter has influenced you the most?
JB: Vic Chesnutt, Bill Callahan (Smog), Thelonius Monk, D. Boon (The Minutemen), Erik Satie, Taraf de Haidouks, Amalia Rodriguez, Serge Gainsbourg, and Duke Ellington. They all carved out a serious expanse of character without definitions and limitations.
How much would you say your songs have been affected by the turbulence of our contemporary cultural milieu- economic and political exigencies?
JB: It varies from day to day depending on how much media (news?) is digested. Everything creeps its way into the music, and at the same time there is an instinct to push further away from watered down information. Stories and characters pack a more powerful punch and stick with you at day’s end. There is a sea of information swimming in an ocean of misinformation.
What’s been your shadiest/most hair-raising tour experience?
JB: Losing someone at a foreign truck stop or talking to music business people who lack heart and are trying to sell you on something they don’t buy.
Do you feel that the CD is dead as a musical art form?
JB: CD = Diet Coke. mp3 = Coke light. Live music will never die.
Where do you draw inspiration for your lyrics?
JB: Ingredients on cereal boxes, Audubon prints, new names for old drugs, Chinese medicine, wrestlers with world wide appeal, architecture by Rick Joy, prepared guitar by Rick Cox, nicknames, anything with bake-o-lite, Bisazza tile from Italy, Marimekko prints from Finland, old stuff at swap meets that tell a story, documentaries, Spanish wine and dark chocolate.
What was the experience like working with Jim James and appearing in I’m Not There?
JB: A wonderful surprise and true inspiration. I told him now that we have recorded and performed the cover of Goin’ To Acapulco we have to come up with a new song to do together. Can your readers email us at our website which song(s) they would like us to cover together? We are taking suggestions.
A lot of your music has a very cinematic feel to it. Have you ever thought about
scoring a film?
JB: (sound off camera…footsteps leading to an alley that echo in the night. The pace quickens, stumbles and stops) “You following me?” says the out of breath bicycle messenger dressed in vintage denim and freshly off work. “Know where I can get a soundtrack around here?” the voice asks the old rabbit eared and obsolete television set parked and poised at the end of the alley way.(silence…uncomfortable time elapses as if a current were connected and the screen ready for connection but nothing happens). “Static noise and chatter, that’s where it’s at.”
A red robin flies down to the rabbit ears and perches itself as if to sing, “soundtrack away, when ready sir.”
You guys have been involved in some rather exciting collaborations in the past. Is there any one in particular you are looking to work with next?
JB: Katerine or Dominique A from France. Both just played here in Tucson and were wicked and wonderful.