Calexico

Sold Out: Calexico

Julia Jacklin

Mon · June 11, 2018

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

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The State Room | 638 S. State St. | box@thestateroom.com

We are a 21 and over venue featuring the best in nationally touring artists.  

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Calexico
Calexico
The ninth studio album from Calexico, The Thread That Keeps Us is a timely snapshot of the Arizonabred
band: a family portrait capturing their stylistic variety and unpredictability while still finding
solace in limitless creativity. In bringing the album to life, vocalist/guitarist Joey Burns and drummer
John Convertino found a spiritual home in unusual surroundings—not in Arizona, but on the
Northern California coast in a home-turned-studio called the Panoramic House. Built from debris
and shipyard-salvaged timber—and dubbed “The Phantom Ship” by the band—the grandiose house
and its edge-of-the-world-like ambience soon made their way into the songs. The specter of
California also had a powerful effect: as both dream state and nightmare, its infinite duality is
mirrored in the music, giving Calexico a new direction and new edge. With less polish and more grit
than ever before, The Thread That Keeps Us both honors enduring traditions and reveals Calexico’s
confidence in songwriting, ultimately setting a whole new standard for the band.
As heard on the album’s lead single and opening track, the drama of the landscape directly impacted
the making of The Thread That Keeps Us. Driven by sing-song melody and galloping rhythms, “End of
the World with You” discovers an unlikely romanticism in volatile times. With its lyrics illuminating
“Love in the age of the extremes,” the track is the perfect intro to an album that endlessly explores
the contrast between bright and dark, hope and fear.
Working with their longtime engineer Craig Schumacher, Calexico co-produced The Thread That
Keeps Us, gathering musicians from across the globe to dream up an earthy yet expansive sound
spiked with jagged guitar tones and flashes of distortion. “There’s a little more chaos and noise in
the mix than what we’ve done in the past,” Burns points out. Although that chaos has much to do
with “where we’re at right now as a planet,” it also echoes Calexico’s dedication to constant
experimentation. “Whenever we’re writing and we come up with something that feels too familiar,
someone will end up saying, ‘That feels good, but let’s keep going and see what else we can
uncover,’” Burns says. “It’s been really important to the arc of this band’s evolution for us to always
keep on trying new things.”
Like “End of the World with You,” much of The Thread That Keeps Us captures the anxieties and
unease of living in tumultuous times. But while the album draws a kinetic energy from all that
uncertainty, its lyrics unfold with a literary nuance and sense of setting and character. “Instead of
writing straight-up protest songs, I want to tell stories,” Burns says. Largely inspired by his
wanderings around Northern California during the album’s production, the narratives embedded in
The Thread That Keeps Us reflect on displacement, transitory existence, and—in Burns’s words—
“returning to your home after being gone for some time and seeing how things have changed, and
maybe not in the best way.”
As the exact embodiment of that theme, “Thrown to the Wild” delivers one of the most
mesmerizing moments on The Thread That Keeps Us. With its gritty but poetic storytelling, the song
opens on a downtown bus station late at night, its sleepy rhythms and atmospheric haze intensifying
the bleakness of the scene (sample lyric: “Home’s waiting like a motherless child”). From there,
“Thrown to the Wild” slips into a glorious frenzy of hummed harmonies, sprawling guitar lines, and
Jacob Valenzuela’s sorrowful trumpet playing, the effect both hypnotic and jarring. “We wanted the
second part of the song to just open into this sea of chaos,” says Burns, adding: “Sometimes chaos
can be a good thing.”
Eclectic in sound and feeling, The Thread That Keeps Us also offers the measured fury of “Bridge to
Nowhere,” the triumphant grooves of the Spanish-sung “Flores y Tamales,” the meditative rhythms
and jangly guitar riffs of “Another Space.” On “The Town & Miss Lorraine,” shimmering tones and
delicate mandolin melodies play against the darkly cinematic mood of the lyrics (“Sliding into the
sea/With cynicism and rum/Watching Miss Lorraine/Smoking alone with the moon”). The most
brutal track on The Thread That Keeps Us, “Dead in the Water” builds a thrilling menace from its
snarling guitar riffs, frantic piano rhythms, and piercing lyrics penned for what Burns describes as
“the antagonist to the story of the album—a kind of monster” (“Don’t try to look away or stop me
in my path/I make the law and I decree a new kind of wrath”). And woven throughout The Thread
That Keeps Us are a series of instrumental interludes, including the lilting folk of “Unconditional
Waltz” and the dreamy psychedelia of “Spinball.” “Going into making the album, the only thing I
really knew for sure was that I wanted there to be moments that felt free and spontaneous—just
these moments of no time, no lyrics, no agenda,” says Burns.
One of the most stirring tracks on The Thread That Keeps Us, “Girl in the Forest” spins a gentle fable
from its near despair over the state of the planet (“Well the world was spinning so fast, nobody took
the time”). “That song wouldn’t have been written unless I was sitting next to my daughter Twyla,
who was humming along as I was making up this melody,” says Burns. “For months we tried
finishing the lyrics together; I was leading with this idea about environmentalism and protesters in
the forest, and I thought there could be some sort of spirit who appears. And then my daughter told
me, ‘Yeah, that’s cool—but maybe it’s just a girl who’s friends with all the animals.’”
With “Girl in the Forest,” The Thread That Keeps Us displays a sensibility that’s long informed
Calexico’s songwriting: a transcendentalist infatuation with the wild beauty of nature, a fascination
deepened during their time at Panoramic House. “Being up there on the mountain and taking walks
on the shore, and even swimming in the cold water, we couldn’t help but be inspired by nature,”
says Convertino. “Our love for our earth, our home, and the future of our children came into focus
even more, giving the inspiration and desire to give back something that’s positive and beautiful and
life-affirming.”
In that life-affirming spirit, Calexico decided to end The Thread That Keeps Us with a moment of
fragile optimism. Described by Burns as “a love song for my kids,” the piano-laced, sweetly swaying
“Music Box” speaks to preserving dreams in a troubled reality. “Right now we’re at the edge of
another potential crisis unfolding, and it’s haunting every night as you put your kids to sleep,” says
Burns. “But at the same time, you look into a child’s eyes and you see something hopeful, even if
they’ve maybe heard little pieces of what’s going on in the news. I think that’s pretty much the case
with this band: we still have hope, and we’re still so excited to be making this music together.”
CALEXICO ARE: Joey Burns, John Convertino, Martin Wenk, Jacob Valenzuela, Sergio Mendoza,
Jairo Zavala Ruiz, and Scott Colberg.
Julia Jacklin
Julia Jacklin
Australian singer-songwriter born 30 August 1990. Originally from the Blue Mountains and now based in Sydney.
Venue Information:
The State Room
638 South State Street
Salt Lake City, UT, 84111
http://www.thestateroomslc.com/