For the better part of two decades, the acclaimed band Calexico has crossed musical barriers, embracing a multitude of styles, variety in instrumentation, and well-cultivated signature sounds. With their forthcoming record Edge of the Sun, out April 14th, they take inspiration from a trip to a place surprisingly unexplored by the band before in Mexico City, and with the benefit of many friends and comrades to help guide the way.
The first outside invitation came when the band’s Joey Burns was writing the track “Bullets and Rocks” and recognized space for a former Calexico collaborator. “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 the experience, the guest list grew to include Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses), Nick Urata (Devotchka), Carla Morrison, Gaby Moreno, Amparo Sanchez, multi-instrumentalists from the Greek band Takim, and Neko Case. Burns’ 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, John Convertino, and longtime associate Craig Schumacher.
“Going to another city to jumpstart the creative 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.
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 cohort John 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, while songs such as the electronica “Cumbia de Donde” and the cinematic swell of “Coyoacán” were more direct results of the foreign experience and the type of lessons that can only be realized upon reflection.
Negotiating borders and the spaces within, then inviting others inside those edges: 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, the band 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. 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.”