Border Bands: Calexico

calexico sydney

A border band is a band that lives on or near an international border or state border of significance, where the duality of their location influences the music they create. Happy will be bringing you some of that headspace in the coming weeks.

Calexico is a town of a little over 130 000 people, 122 miles east of San Diego and sitting on the border between the USA and Mexico. The name itself is a portmanteau of the words Mexico and California (Calexico sounds way cooler than Mexifornia. Actually, now that I see it written down I’m not so sure…) and this moniker was also adopted by Joey Burns and John Convertino in about 1990 when they formed their band.

Border bands naturally take influence from either side of the cultural divides they live on, and come from a time where the music you made was influenced inherently by the kind of environment you lived in, rather than what you mindlessly consumed from some douchey music blogger. Ahem. This means that Calexico are in every sense of the word a ‘border band’, taking influence from the area around only cultural/political border that still exists post-Berlin wall.

If you think of desert music, you might think of QOTSA’s desert rock, the palm desert scene and proto-sludge stoner grunge. Calexico are borne from a similar area yet their interpretation of the desert is less about the highways and motor inns of the golden era of United States motor culture and more about the ancient, eternal and spiritual nature of the empty terrain.

Calexico’s style is as eclectic as it is genre defining – mixing elements of Tortoise and Slint’s trembling late 90’s post-rock and spoken word vocals with haunting desert thematics. Songs like Sprawl and Trigger from their album The Black Light embody this perfectly, tremolo picked nylon string guitars and an irresistable shuffle give the music a Mexican timbre, without necessarily taking direct influence from the Spanish traditional music from south of the border. Desert Noir.

The group were last in Australia in September of 2013 and played a large venue tour in all the capital cities to support the release of Algiers, released in September of 2012.