Calexico (band)

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Calexico (Jena 18.07.2007) 1.jpg
Calexico in a concert in 2007
Background information
Origin Tucson, Arizona, USA
Genres Americana, Indie rock, Alternative country, Indie folk, Tex-Mex, Post-rock, Latin Rock, Jazz Fusion
Years active 1996–present
Labels Quarterstick
Our Soil, Our Strength
Associated acts Giant Sand, Friends of Dean Martinez, Howe Gelb, OP8, The Band of Blacky Ranchette, Iron & Wine, Neko Case, Los Super Seven, Amor Belhom Duo, Marianne Dissard, Victoria Williams, Barbara Manning, Richard Buckner, Naked Prey, Gotan Project, Nancy Sinatra, Lizz Wright, Depedro, Jim James
Website Official website
Members Joey Burns
John Convertino
Paul Niehaus
Jacob Valenzuela
Martin Wenk
Volker Zander

Calexico is a Tucson, Arizona-based Americana, Tex-Mex, indie rock band. The band's two main members, Joey Burns and John Convertino, first played together in Los Angeles as part of the group Giant Sand. They have recorded a number of albums on Quarterstick Records, while their 2005 EP In the Reins recorded with Iron & Wine has reached the Billboard 200 album charts. Their musical style is influenced by traditional Latin sounds of mariachi, conjunto, cumbia, tejano, as well as country, jazz, and post-rock. The band has been described by some as "desert noir",[1] and is named for the border town of Calexico, California.



Joey Burns

Calexico had its origins in 1990 when Burns, who was studying music at the University of California, Irvine, met up with Convertino, who was playing drums with Howe Gelb in Giant Sand. Burns joined them, after first playing upright bass on a European tour.

Giant Sand moved to Tucson, Arizona in 1994. John and Joey formed the Friends of Dean Martin (later the Friends of Dean Martinez) which scored a record deal with Sub Pop. However, the pair split up with Bill Elm, the co-founder of The Friends of Dean Martinez in 1996. The band subsequently became a kind of indie rhythm section for hire, working with the likes of Victoria Williams, Barbara Manning and Richard Buckner before forming Calexico.

Recording history: 1995–1999[edit]

Calexico first recorded Spoke in 1995 for German independent label Hausmusik with a limited edition of 2,000 copies. At that point the band was still called Spoke and the album was technically self-titled. After the band signed with Quarterstick Records (a subsidiary of Touch and Go Records) and changed their name to Calexico, Spoke was reissued by that label in 1997. Burns and Convertino also collaborated with Gelb and Lisa Germano on the album Slush released under the name OP8 that same year.

Their second album The Black Light was released in 1998. This was a concept album about the desert of Arizona and northern Mexico and received excellent reviews, with the critic from the Wall Street Journal rating it as one of the best records of the year.

The band built their profile by touring as support acts for bands such as Pavement, the Dirty Three and Lambchop. Calexico has regularly played festivals such as the Bonnaroo Music Festival, the Hurricane Festival and All Tomorrow's Parties. The Road Map album was a limited recording released in 1999 for sale only at Calexico's live shows.

Recording history: 2000–2015[edit]

Calexico released its third album Hot Rail in May 2000 featuring the addition of horns and violin to their sound. The duo was busy in 2000 as they also appeared on a Giant Sand record called Chore of Enchantment as well as a tour only record Travelall.

At the end of 2000, Burns and Convertino joined with two French friends Naïm Amor and Thomas Belhôm to record "Tête A Tête" (Wabana Records, 2001) released under moniker ABBC (Amor/Belhom/Burns/Convertino). Calexico released two collections of rarities during 2001. Even My Sure Things Fall Through collected outtakes from previous albums, B-sides, remixes and material previously unreleased in the US. The album also featured Mariachi Luz de Luna who frequently played live with the duo. The Aerocalexico album was sold exclusively at their gigs in 2001.

The Scraping live album was released in 2002. Their next studio recording Feast of Wire was released in 2003 and made the charts for the first time appearing on Billboard's Heatseekers and Independent album chart. They made their first video for "Quattro (World Drifts In)" which was a single from Feast of Wire. They released a live DVD in 2004 called World Drifts In: Live at the Barbican. The song "Güero Canelo", from Feast of Wire, was featured in Michael Mann's Film, Collateral, starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx, in which the band appears.

Calexico contributed the song "Burnin' Down the Spark" to Nancy Sinatra's self-titled album in late 2004. The album featured artists who cited Sinatra as a musical influence. The song was released in the UK as the second single from the album in early 2005.

In 2005, Calexico joined up with Miami-based folk band Iron & Wine. Howard Greynolds of Overcoat Records was responsible for bringing the two bands together having previously been responsible for Tortoise and Will Oldham recording together. The In the Reins EP was released in September 2005 and received a positive reception with an MSNBC review giving it honorable mention.[2] It also made an appearance in the Billboard 200 album charts, becoming their first recording to make the album charts, and No. 12 on the independent charts. In October 2005, they commenced a US tour with Iron & Wine to promote the record.

Released in 2006, Garden Ruin is Calexico's fifth studio album and was produced by JD Foster. The sound strays slightly from earlier works, focusing less on the horn section, and placing more emphasis on guitar and vocal tracks, giving the whole album a more mainstream sound.

In 2007, Calexico was invited by Arcade Fire to record a cover of their "Ocean of Noise." This recording was used as the B-side for Arcade Fire's "Intervention" single, originally released on vinyl on May 21, 2007. Also in 2007, Calexico recorded a revamped version of the Bob Dylan song "Goin' to Acapulco" for the Dylan biopic "I'm Not There". The song featured Jim James of My Morning Jacket on vocals and was featured on the soundtrack of the film.

Several of Calexico's songs, usually their shorter instrumental pieces, have been used as interstitial and background music on Public Radio International's This American Life.[3] Their songs "Ballad Of Cable Hogue" and "Service And Repair" were featured in the 2001 German comedy movie Lammbock.

Their sixth studio LP is called 'Carried to Dust', featuring Sam Beam of Iron & Wine, Douglas McCombs of Tortoise and Pieta Brown. It was released in the USA via Touch & Go Records on September 9, 2008.[4] The album enjoyed solid reviews, with hometown paper the Arizona Daily Star praising the band's "ability to sweep you into its world, taking listeners to the American Southwest. This is one of the reasons Europeans love Calexico and others in this country are beginning to come around."[5]

On October 16, 2008, a three-song live acoustic video performance premiered on LiveDaily Sessions, featuring Joey Burns performing the songs "Two Silver Trees," "Writer's Minor Holiday" and "Man Made Lake".[6]

In 2009, the song Banderilla was featured in an episode of AMC's Breaking Bad.[7]

In 2010, a new album of Calexico was released: the soundtrack of the documentary "Circo". The band also spent part of 2010 touring with Arcade Fire along the west US coast.

In May 2011, their song "Slowness" was dedicated by Gabrielle Giffords to her husband astronaut Mark Kelly as the wake up song aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on its final flight.[8]

Algiers was released 11 September 2012 on ANTI Records and CITY SLANG (Europe).

In April 2014, the band began referring to a new album on Twitter in posts from Mexico City, Coyoacan, Mexico,[9] and Athens, Greece. Edge of the Sun was announced on 27 January 2015, and released on April 14, 2015. The album features guest appearances by various artists such as Sam Beam (Iron & Wine), Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses), Gaby Moreno, Carla Morrison and members of the Greek instrumental group Takim.[10]


The current members of Calexico are:

  • Joey Burns – vocals, guitars, bass, cello, piano, keyboards, accordion, percussion, vibraphone
  • John Convertino – drums, percussion, piano, keyboards, vibraphone, marimba, accordion
  • Paul Niehaus – steel guitar, guitars
  • Jacob Valenzuela – trumpet, keyboards, vibraphone, vocals
  • Martin Wenk – trumpet, guitar, keyboards, accordion, glockenspiel, vibraphone, theremin (occasionally harmonica & French horn)
  • Volker Zander – standup bass, electric bass

Live tour 2013:

  • Joey Burns - vocals, guitars
  • John Convertino - drums, percussion
  • Sergio Mendoza - Keyboards
  • Jairo Zavala - bazouki, baritone guitar, vocals
  • Jacob Valenzuela – trumpet, keyboards, vibraphone, vocals
  • Martin Wenk – trumpet, guitar, keyboards, accordion, glockenspiel, vibraphone (occasionally harmonica & French horn)
  • Ryan Alfred - bass, vocals


Studio albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions

The Black Light
Hot Rail 43 57
Feast of Wire 23 22 41 39 41 18 10 71
Garden Ruin 156 14 34 18 62 90 36 34 24
Carried to Dust 98 9 31 24 35 40 29 17 18 55
Algiers 72 19 22 6 11 46 18 24 13 60
Edge of the Sun 193 12 42 4 4 70 10 6 37
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Live Albums[edit]

Year Details
2002 Scraping (Mostly Recorded at the Great American Music Hall San Francisco Jan 11 2002)
  • Label: Lunada Bay (BMI) / Good Clean Dirt (BMI) / Quarterstick Records
  • Formats: Tour CD, Vinyl
2004 World Drifts In (Recorded at the Barbican, London. November 27, 2002)
  • Label: Lunada Bay (BMI) / Our Soil, Our Strength
  • Formats: CD, LP, DVD
2005 The Book and the Canal (Studio & Live, Recorded between 1999-2005)
  • Label: Lunada Bay (BMI) / Our Soil, Our Strength / Quarterstick Records
  • Formats: Tour CD, Double Vinyl
2006 Itunes Live Sessions - EP
  • Label: None / iTunes
  • Format: Itune Download
2008 Ancienne Belgique (Live in Brussels 2008)
  • Label: Our Soil, Our Strength / Quarterstick Records
  • Formats: Tour CD, Double Vinyl
2013 Ancienne Belgique vol.2 (Live in Brussels sept 19th 2012)
  • Label: Our Soil, Our Strength
  • Formats: CD, Double Vinyl
2013 Spiritoso
  • Label: Our Soil, Our Strength
  • Formats: Vinyl (Records Store Day)


Tour only and miscellaneous albums[edit]

EP's & Singles[edit]


  • World Drifts In: Live at the Barbican (2004) & Vinyl
  • Live From Austin TX (Austin City Limits) (2009)


  • Selections From Road Atlas: 1988-2011 (2011)

Compilation contributions[edit]

  • Committed Soundtrack (2000)
  • It's a Cool, Cool Christmas – "Gift Xchange" (2000), a charity compilation by Xfm
  • All Tomorrow's Parties 1.0 - "Piker Sam" (2001)
  • Nothing Left to Lose: A Tribute to Kris Kristofferson – "Casey's Last Ride" (2003)
  • Dead Man's Shoes :"Untitled II" "Untitled III" "Ritual Road Map""Crooked Road and the Briar" - Soundtrack (2004)
  • Por Vida: A Tribute To The Songs Of Alejandro Escovedo - "Wave" (2004)
  • Music From The Film "Happy Endings" - "Glimpse" and "Old Man Waltz" (2005)
  • Sweetheart 2005: Love Songs – "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (2005), Hear Music
  • Acoustic 07 – "Cruel" (2007), V2 Records
  • I'm Not There: Original Soundtrack – "Goin' to Acapulco" (2007) The band also provide backing for other artists on several tracks. Goin' to Acapulco (Jim James & Calexico) (4:59)Dark eyes (Iron & Wine & Calexico) (4:30)One more cup of coffee (Roger McGuinn & Calexico) (4:31)Señor (tales of Yankee power) (Willie Nelson & Calexico) (5:18) Just like a woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg & Calexico) (4:20)
  • Lammbock: Original Soundtrack
  • Chris Gaffney Tribute: The Man of Somebody's Dreams - "Frank's Tavern" (2009)
  • El Alpinista De Los Sueños - Tributo A Antonio Vega - "Mi Hogar En Cualquier Sitio" (2010)
  • Luz de Vida – "Absent Afternoon" (2011)


  • Two Lone Swordsmen - "Tiny Reminder No3 (Calexico Remix)" on Two Lone Swordsmen's EP "Further Reminders" (2001)
  • Goldfrapp – "Human" (Calexico Vocal Version) on Goldfrapp's EP "Human"(2001)
  • ISO68 – "Stoppages Est Plus (Calexico Remix)" on ISO68's EP "Here / There Played By" (2003)


Chart positions[edit]

  • Hot Rail – 2000 – UK No. 57[21]
  • Feast of Wire – 2003 – No. 23 Independent Albums, No. 45 Heatseekers, UK No. 71[21]
  • In the Reins – 2005 – No. 135 Billboard 200, No. 12 Independent Albums, UK No. 161[21]
  • Garden Ruin – 2006 – No. 156 Billboard 200, No. 14 Independent Albums, No. 3 Heatseekers, UK No. 76[21]
  • Carried To Dust – 2008 – No. 98 Billboard 200, No. 9 Independent Albums, No. 28 European Albums, UK No. 55[22]


  1. ^ "'Calexico Explores The Ambient World From Desert Noir To The Streets of Historic LA'". 2008-10-15. Retrieved 2015-11-15. 
  2. ^ "‘Apologies to the Queen Mary’ rocks 2005 - Entertainment -". 2005-12-19. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  3. ^ "FAQ | This American Life". Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  4. ^ [1] Archived March 12, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Kevin W. Smith (September 18, 2008). "Calexico, with excellent new CD, to play Rialto benefit Saturday". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved 2009-02-26. 
  6. ^ [2] Archived October 12, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Breaking Bad: Season 2, Episode 8 : Better Call Saul (26 April 2009)". Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  8. ^ "Endeavour Leaves Space Station for Last Time". Cape Canaveral, Florida: Fox News. May 30, 2011. Retrieved May 30, 2011. 
  9. ^ "casadecalexico on Twitter: "Welcome to Mexico City! #newrecord"". 2014-04-22. Retrieved 2015-04-15.  External link in |title= (help)
  10. ^ "Edge Of The Sun". Casa de Calexico. 2015-01-27. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  11. ^ "Calexico – Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved January 29, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Xalexico – Chart History: Independent Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved January 29, 2013. 
  13. ^ Steffen Hung (2006-03-22). "Discography Calexico". Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  14. ^ Steffen Hung (2006-03-22). "Discographie Calexico". Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  15. ^ Steffen Hung (2006-03-22). "Calexico". Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  16. ^ Steffen Hung (2006-03-22). "Discographie Calexico". Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  17. ^ Steffen Hung (2006-03-22). "Discografie Calexico". Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  18. ^ Steffen Hung (2006-03-22). "Discografie Calexico". Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  19. ^ Steffen Hung (2006-03-22). "Discographie Calexico". Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  20. ^ "Calexico | Artist". Official Charts. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  21. ^ a b c d Zobbel (2007-06-16). "Chart Log UK". Zobbel. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  22. ^ "Official Album Chart for the week ending 20 September 2008". ChartsPlus (Milton Keynes: IQ Ware Ltd) (369): 5–8. 


External links[edit]