The Bowery Presents
Calexico

Calexico

The Dodos

Sat, October 13, 2012

Doors: 6:30 pm / Show: 7:30 pm

Webster Hall

New York, NY

$22 advance / $25 day of show

This event is 18 and over

Calexico
Calexico
Calexico is no stranger to negotiating borders. For the better part of two decades, eight albums, and countless trips around the globe, Joey Burns and John Convertino have crossed musical barriers with their band, embracing a multitude of diverse styles, variety in instrumentation, and well-cultivated signature sounds. Under fences it digs and over mountains it climbs, sometimes into untrodden terrain, sometimes towards a more familiar landscape, and sometimes simply walking that fine line to soak up sustenance from all sides. These are men from the desert, yes, but there has always been so much more to Calexico than just heritage and heat. Now, with Edge of the Sun, Burns and Convertino find themselves straddling that celestial division of light and dark, taking inspiration from a trip to a place surprisingly unexplored by the band before, and with the benefit of many friends and comrades to help guide the way.

"When I step back from this record I see the spirit of collaboration," says Burns. "As we began working on it, we started inviting people and it was a natural thing. We've always welcomed guests; it's in our DNA. John and I are really good at hopping in to play with people and improvise but we're also sensitive to what artists need."

"We've collaborated a lot in the past on other records but this one is the most vastly collaborative," says Convertino. "Almost every song has a different guest."

The first outside invitation came when Burns was writing "Bullets and Rocks" and recognized space for a former Calexico collaborator to join. "When putting vocals on that song, it immediately reminded me of the Iron & Wine feel," says Burns. "So I texted Sam (Beam), who wrote back quickly and got it going." Encouraged by that experience, the guest list grew to include musicians from a myriad of backgrounds, origins, and genres, including Ben Bridwell from Band of Horses, Nick Urata from Devotchka, Carla Morrison, Gaby Moreno, Amparo Sanchez, multi-instrumentalists from the Greek band Takim, as well as Neko Case. Burns' older brother John Burns lent a hand to some lyrics and songwriting, and the band's keyboardist, Sergio Mendoza, stepped up to co-write and arrange certain songs, ultimately co-producing the album along with Burns, Convertino, and longtime associate Craig Schumacher. It was, in fact, at Mendoza's suggestion that Calexico would physically cross an actual border for a retreat to the historic Mexico City borough of Coyoacán to begin the writing process for Edge of the Sun.

In view of the fresh creative perspective provided by the band's journey to New Orleans to make its previous album, Algiers, Burns sought Mendoza's involvement in finding a new writing destination. "I wanted to see the band revisit elements in the songwriting that led to songs from [the band's 1998 breakthrough album] The Black Light, so I suggested going to Mexico City," says Mendoza. "To me, it wasnt going back to something they had already done, but rather adding another chapter with Mexican collaborators. The surroundings of Coyoacán really helped bring life to those ideas that were waiting for a special time and place to come out."

"Going to another city to jumpstart the creative writing process helped us to know what this record is about and where we are as a band, like an open canvas with few ties to normal routines when recording and writing," says Burns. "Of course, we have been influenced by Mexican music and culture since the beginning, and you would imagine that a trip to Mexico City would have happened on past projects, but it hadn't. So going to the center of Mexico and seeing an artistic community with such an impressive history as well as notable current musicians really inspired us."

The ten days in Coyoacán were not without their surprises. Initially expecting for the world of Calexico to mesh with the sounds and vibe of Mexico City and take on varied overt Latin influences, Burns and Convertino were amazed when they left the country with some of their poppiest songs to date. Album opener "Falling from the Sky" is earnestly straightforward in its rafter-reaching approach, and "When the Angels Play," with additional vocals and lyrics by Pieta Brown, connects thematically to the Aztecs but, in Burns' words, could have been written anywhere.

Perspective achieved, the band internalized the influence of Mexico and continued to write and record in their home Wavelab studio in Tucson throughout the middle half of 2014. Songs such as the electronica "Cumbia de Donde" and the cinematic swell of "Coyoacán" were direct results of the foreign experience and the type of lessons that can only be realized upon reflection. While Convertino's move to El Paso, Texas, presented another slight border to cross, all this distance only served to inspire and preserve the unique Calexico identity: unconventional timing and instrumental elements, an electrifying live show, and the pushing forward of social connection and ideas to create a profound space.

"It really demonstrates the dynamics of our live show, and I'm hoping this album helps translates some of that energy," says Burns, identifying Edge of the Sun most closely to the wide-ranging styles of their 2003 album Feast of Wire. "We weren't trying to replicate anything or make it hugely different from song to song, but there is some of that carryover, I think. As much as we try to break new ground on records, inevitably there's continuity, which works well on a record like this."

Convertino, too, singles out Feast of Wire as a touchstone for the new album and a special era for Calexico, one that informed the band's unique relationship with space and distance today. "Feast of Wire opened the door for us and attached our sound to the region, helping us discover that we could have that sound and still be our own thing," he says. "Joey and I have talked a lot about space in music; we make sure to give the notes we don't play as much emphasis as the notes we do play, because they're just as important. It's a big part of what Calexico does: we create a space."

Negotiating borders and the spaces within, then inviting others inside those edges: that may be the recipe for Calexico's success. As its empire expands and the familiar pieces join with fresh ideas and a new cohort to pass under wires and across fields and time, Calexico now finds itself here in 2015 on the solar precipice, navigating the edge and trying to find hope in that balance of darkness and light.

"The 'edge of the sun' could be coming from the direction of darkness seeking light, or riding the line between both," says Burns. "Which side of this edge are you on? Traversing along the edge of the sun, that to me feels closest to what this album is and what the band has been, and where we are with this international makeup of musicians. Madrid, Nashville, Tucson, El Paso, Berlin; it's an eclectic mix. All in all, this album is about pushing through the blue to brighter days. Calexico has always had that element of hope, going back and forth between a positive outlook and embracing desperate or dark themes that I think we all share."
The Dodos
The Dodos
When it came time for the Dodos to begin writing their fifth LP, Carrier, singer/guitarist Meric Long wanted to start over.

The uncertainty of the band's trajectory as well as the passing of guitarist Chris Reimer brought about a reassessment of things within the band, and in particular Long's songwriting.

In need of a different vantage point, Long began writing words before music for the first time, enveloping himself in silence rather than sound.

When it came time to set these lyrics to music, Long started writing with only his electric guitar in hand — another first. The focus on this instrument was due in large part to the time Long spent with Reimer, the guitarist for Women who had joined Long and percussionist Logan Kroeber to become the third member of the Dodos throughout 2011 before unexpectedly passing away early the following year.
"Chris was a huge influence on the way I think about guitar, songwriting, and music in general," reveals Long. "Seeing how he could transform and shape sound with an electric guitar inspired me to explore more tones and use those tones to begin writing a song."

And so, when he began to formulate the tracks that would ultimately comprise Carrier, Long employed two principles he inherited from Reimer: patience to let a song develop and a judgment-free enthusiasm for sound.

To this end, Long and Kroeber decided to record in their hometown of San Francisco for the first time, allowing for less time constraints and a more pressure-free experience than past out-of-state sessions had afforded.

Although John Vanderslice's Tiny Telephone studio was initially selected for its analog-friendly set-up, the duo were happy to find themselves working within a supportive community of like-minded musicians that included engineers Jay and Ian Pellicci, both of whom assisted in the production of Carrier, as well as the Magik Magik Orchestra, which appears on several tracks.

As a result, the album the Dodos crafted is refreshingly sincere: no computers, no gimmicks — just eleven songs that are beautiful and solid and true and honest.

"Substance" effortlessly embodies all of these traits, from the crisp drumming that announces its arrival to the bright guitar lines that weave in and out before eventually joining forces with a triumphant burst of trumpets.

"Confidence" begins like a calm before the storm, its strong vocals over gentle guitar and drums soon erupting into a positively epic display of guitar riffs and hypnotizing percussion.

The record's second side is anchored by "The Current," on which an angular guitar tone loops over a chugging guitar rhythm to satisfying effect as Long declares in a moment of catharsis, "If this love comes unto me / I'm with it / I'm with it."

Much too soon, Carrier ends with "The Ocean" — though Long and Kroeber view the track less as a conclusion and more of a "to be continued" into this album's follow-up, which they have already begun working on.

For a band briefly in flux, it's clear now that the Dodos' outlook on the future has never looked more certain.
Venue Information:
Webster Hall
125 East 11th Street
New York, NY, 10003
http://www.websterhall.com/