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Making a long awaited return to La Linea following their debut show at the festival in 2004, 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.
For their latest recording, Edge of the Sun, the band’s keyboardist, Sergio Mendoza (also known to La Linea audiences as the maker of the musical arrangements of Morrissey’s oeuvre which led to Mexrrissey), stepped up to co-write and arrange certain songs, ultimately co-producing the album along with Burns, Convertino, and longtime associate Craig Schumacher. Mendoza suggested 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.
“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 wasn’t 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.”
Joey Burns, says, “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.
Support comes from Guatemalan singer-songwriter, Gaby Moreno.