Before their November 24th show at the Gothic Theatre, Calexico ducked into Moe's Barbeque for a quick session with Gigbot. There was little time for banter nor brisket; these well traveled gentleman of fine sound and song are busy and moving along these days, building their sound from - and with - the places and people they meet along their way. Here is where they are now, and where they are going.
Interview by Cause=Time.
C=T - How was your European tour?
Calexico - It was amazing! There was a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm on behalf of both the band and the audience. We did all the major cities in Europe and on just about every other day we had guests sitting in. In Berlin we had Bull Band and Marco Marcovitch. The kind of brass gypsy band from the Balkans and we ended up doing a song with them. In Amsterdam we played with this band called, They Kissed. Which we did a split 7 single with and in Brussels Spanish Amparo Sanchez who's on the last couple of records with us whom with we've collaborated with. So just really one of those remarkable tours that showed us this whole overview of where we've come and where we're at right now.
C=T - Sounds very eventful! How different are your fans overseas compared to their American counterparts?
Calexico - They dress a little more stylishly.
Two Silver Trees
Live at the Gothic Theatre - 11/24/08
Live Recording courtesy of Uncle Jeff at www.route78west.com
C=T - That sound fairly accurate. Probably better than the jeans and Converse.
Calexico - A lot more black. Black and black. A lot more refined glasses in Germany. Everyone's pretty much basically talking a similar kind of mindset . It's coming to the same kind of heart, philosophy, and mind. But I have to say the clubs in Europe are pretty remarkable. Whether you're playing La Cigale in Paris, probably one of the most amazing sounding rooms. Older theaters really do have, I've come to notice, a certain kind of tone . It could be the same thing in the States here, but those theaters that are designed turn of the century were built with a little more forethought in regard to not just the architecture and the acoustics but the tone of the stage and the sound that is generated when performing on the stage like that in the hall. We're playing at the Gothic Theatre when we play Denver.
C=T - What food did you miss most while you were overseas?
Calexico - Mexican food of course.
C=T -It was kind of a leading question. I wanted you to name me the best taco joint in Tucson.
Calexico - I think that's hands down I think the one that I've turned them on to this place, it's called Taqueria de Pico de Gallo. Really fantastic fresh corn tortillas are made on per order. If you go there their carne asada is amazing, but what really stands out is their fish and shrimp tacos.
C=T - You wouldn't guess that in Tucson.
Calexico - I know it, it's kind of one of those strange qualities about Tucson. There's great Sushi restaurants their too. It's flown in fresh.
C=T - Speaking of food you guys come frequently to Denver, is there a favorite Mexican restaurant that you guys have here in town?
Calexico - I haven't really found one. We don't always go to the same restaurants. There's one that we went to long ago that was close to the Bluebird in that area. I can't remember the name. Friends are always telling us about places to go and haven't wrote down a name. Guadalupe or something. Not sure when we're usually there. We just go wherever's closest. Is there one you recommend?
C=T - There's one down the street from the Gothic. It's called El Tepehuan. How did you guys end up hooking up w/Nortec Collective and do you see any future collaborations on the horizon?
Calexico - We first hooked up with them when we did a show at the Barbican Theatre in London. It's a sizable theater and it's where the London Philharmonic plays. So, they were doing a concert series called "Beyond Nashville." They wanted us to bring over guests. So we asked mariachi Jose Luna for the traditional and for the more contemporary side of what we do we asked members of Nortec Collective, and so we did. In doing that, we got to meet them and they didn't know who we exactly were or where we were coming from the name. I think the name was semi-misleading, but once they saw us performing together with the mariachi Jose Luna, I think they got it and appreciated being part of that festival.
We started corresponding with Roberto Mendoza and he asked if we wanted them to remix one of our songs. So I think they did "Guero Canelo". In return we started offering them some work on some of their projects too. We've already done some collaborations and remixes. I would love to do some more work with them. I think they're doing great and I see that they were in Oslo and this week their playing at a world music festival.
They've changed their show from the picture. It looks like they've got a couple DJ's and a couple of instruments as well. I think that would be an interesting version of Nortec to see. One step further would be for us to do something together. That would be phenomenal. I would love to do that.
C=T - "Carried to Dust" has a couple of tunes with vocals from Jacob Valenzuela. Do you seem him being a source of the songwriting process or was it isolated to this release?
Calexico - I think he's a great musician and he's starting to come up with songs and for him to follow through and finish a song is a big deal. We've been playing a song on tour "Inspiracion" and we were in Barcelona we played a show where Amparo Sanchez helped him with fine tuning some of the verses. That's something that I couldn't do necessarily. I don't speak fluent Spanish, except German. It was great to see what kind of collaboration happened for Jacob in and around Calexico and I think that he 's got so many talents like a lot of guys in the band that are multi-talented. It was great recording that song and that live version he was very open to us looking for different takes. One was more traditional sounding. Kind of a Cuban bolero. We had the piano in there Sergio Mendoza, who was at that in-store in Denver. I wanted to take it more to that experimental side that Nortec Collective or just make it a little more gritty and have it stand out rather than being straight up representation.
The other song that I think you're talking about is "Victor Jara's Hands". That's Jairo Zavala, he's from Madrid. His father is from Peru and his mom's from Spain. He's got a project called Depedro. We met through Amparo Noya the guitarist of that group and both he and Amparo came to Tuscon about a year ago, winter of 2007 to record each of their own solo records. We had such a good time that we invited them both of them on the record. Jairo co-wrote that song "Victor Jara's Hands".
C=T - You're artwork from every disc is one of the items that I look forward to most, what kind of input do you have on the concept?
Calexico - It ranges from being really involved, to yeah, whatever you've got. This is Victor Gastelum that I'm speaking about. Who we've been working for several years. At least ten years. On this record I was asking more about the process and how he comes up with the images. Of course he's very open to input. He would rather us give him a photograph and he would do a stencil of that image but we're not as together as we could be or should be. I like working with him. I like talking about what we're into, what the songs are about, where we're at personally , or as a band . What we're thinking about in regards to the world on a global level, national level. We start talking about old movies from the 60's like "Blowup", the Antonioni movie. Some of those striking images of people together. A lot of times Victor's images are singular portraits. There's not a lot of interaction with other people or scenes. So we're thinking about doing stencils of cars.
Another reason I bought a 1960 Impala is because of Victor. He just kind of turned me onto it. We had somebody driving in my old car and took some pictures in an empty lot and I sent them to him and he said, "That's cool, but can you go through downtown and drive so I can get some of those building in there." Because he literally wants to just kind of map it out from that photograph. When I was asking how he would do things from the past he said assemble all the artwork online on a computer program. Is there anyway we can kind of go back, much like where we go back to analog recording and analog instruments. Can he stencil that? And he did, and it was beautiful.
That record cover "Carried to Dust" is paying homage to a very famous record cover by a band that Victor and I use to work for, the Minutemen. The Double Nickles on the Dime was on SST Records and Victor and I met by working at SST Records in the late 80's. That's how it all came about. Victor works when he's prodded. Here's a project, we need something. Otherwise he's busy with his family. Around the same time our record was released he had a big show that's just coming down at Overtones Gallery (overtonesgallery.com) in Los Angeles. He's been doing very well.
My next goal would be to go on the road with members of Nortec Collective and have images of Victor Gastelum or bring him and doing some kind of series. On the last record we kind of wanted to do something different both in regards to the look, feel, and sound of the record. We wanted to bring back Victor because we had such a strong connection and he really is like that silent band member or fifth Beatle. He's very involved with giving us a lot of inspiration a lot of comments and critique. He's really great.
Photographs and text appearing in Gigbot Downlow'ds is copyrighted material owned by it's creators and provided for exclusive use by gigbot.net. No duplication is permitted without prior consent.