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File:Calexico 8763.jpg

Calexico is a band from Tuscon, Arizona. They're named for a real-life city on the California-Mexico border, and the cross-cultural mish-mash implied by that name is exactly what their music sounds like: a mix of Latin and North American musical idioms, drawing from mariachi, conjunto, cumbia, Tejano, country, rock, Post Rock, Surf Rock, and Jazz. (Usually, people lump them in with either alt-country or Alternative Rock.)

The band's origins go back to 1990, when founding members Joey Burns and John Convertino met. Convertino was playing drums for Giant Sand, and Burns was studying music (and would subsequently join Giant Sand's rhythm section himself). In 1994, they decided to start a band on the side--Friends of Dean Martinez, a westerny-lounge collaboration with Bill Elm (of Naked Prey). Then in 1996, Burns and Convertino parted ways with Elm and began recording by themselves, first under the name Spoke, then renaming themselves Calexico.

On the first few albums, Burns and Convertino were the only band members, but they began accumulating other musicians as permanent members after 2000 or so. About 2004, Howe Gelb kicked Burns and Convertino out of Giant Sand.

In addition to their original soundtrack work, Calexico's instrumental tracks are sometimes used as background music or interstitials on This American Life. Cartoon Network fans may recognize their song "Minas de Cobre" from the short "El Kabong Rides Again".



  • Joey Burns: vocals, guitars, bass, cello, keys, accordion, vibes, percussion
  • John Convertino: drums, percussion, vibes, marimba, organ, accordion
  • Paul Niehaus: steel guitar, guitar
  • Jacob Valenzuela: trumpet, keys, vibes, vocals
  • Sergio Mendoza: accordion, guitar, synthesizers, trumpet, vibes
  • Chris Giambelluca: bass


  • Martin Wenk: trumpet, guitar, keys, accordion, glockenspiel, vibes
  • Volker Zander: bass



  • Spoke (first released on an independent German label in 1996; rereleased internationally in 1997)
  • The Black Light (1998)
    • Road Map tour CD (1999)
    • Descamino 12" (2000)
  • Hot Rail (2000)
    • Travelall tour CD (2000)
    • Aerocalexico tour CD (2001)
    • Even My Sure Things Fall Through EP (2001)
    • Scraping tour CD (2002)
  • Feast of Wire (2003)
    • Convict Pool EP (2004)
  • In the Reins (2005) A collaboration with Iron & Wine.
    • The Book and the Canal tour CD (2005)
  • Garden Ruin (2006)
    • iTunes Live Session EP (2006)
    • Toolbox tour CD (2007)
    • Ancienne Belgique: Live in Brussels (2008)
  • Carried to Dust (2008)
  • Circo soundtrack (2010)
  • The Guard soundtrack (2011)
  • Road Atlas: 1998-2011 (2011) A limited-edition box set of their prior tour CDs on vinyl.
  • Selections from Road Atlas: 1998-2011 (2011) A CD with selected tracks from the Road Atlas box set.

Other stuff

  • Friends of Dean Martinez: The Shadow of Your Smile (1995) The one FODM album that Burns and Convertino contributed to.
  • OP8: Slush (1997) A collaboration between Howe Gelb, Lisa Germano, Burns, and Convertino.
  • ABBC: Tête à Tête (2001) A collaboration with the Amor Belhom Duo.
  • Los Super Seven: Heard It on the X (2005) A Latin music supergroup.

Calexico provides examples of the following tropes:
  • Breakup Breakout: A weird inversion--Calexico became more famous than Giant Sand, and only then did Howe Gelb kick Burns and Convertino out of Giant Sand.
  • Cover Album: The Convict Pool EP is all cover songs.
  • Driven to Suicide: In "Not Even Stevie Nicks..." the protagonist deliberately drives his car off a cliff.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Spoke lacks the Latin strings and trumpets that have featured on the rest of Calexico's albums.
  • Excited Show Title!: "Attack, el Robot! Attack!"
  • Epic Rocking: "Fade". Also, "Stray" and "Crystal Frontier" sometimes get stretched to about 7 minutes at live shows.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: In "The Ballad of Cable Hogue", most of Madame's lyrics are French.
  • Femme Fatale: Madame from "The Ballad of Cable Hogue".
  • Hidden Track: The CD version of Feast of Wire has a two-minute instrumental song hidden before the start of the album.
  • The Illegal: "Across the Wire" seems to be about two Mexican brothers illegally crossing the border into the US. (Or maybe it's about them being turned away when they attempt to enter the country legally. It's pretty vague.)
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: "Güero Canelo".
  • Love Nostalgia Song: The Iron & Wine collaboration song "Sixteen Maybe Less".
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly
  • New Sound Album: Feast of Wire leaned more towards shorter, poppier songwriting than previous albums did, and its followup Garden Ruin is the closest the band's come to releasing a straight indie-rock album.
  • Rearrange the Song: "Trigger" (from The Black Light) started as a dark, stripped-down folk song. On Carried to Dust, they rework it as an instrumental (reminiscent of the theme from The Magnificent Seven) and rename it "El Gatillo (Trigger Revisited)".
  • Softer and Slower Cover: Their version of "The Guns of Brixton".
  • Un Installment: The Black Light has "The Ride, Pt II", and no Part I. Hot Rail has "Untitled III" and "Untitled II", and no "Untitled I".
  • With Lyrics: At some live shows, they would perform the instrumental "Frontera" with the lyrics from "Trigger".