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‘Amazing’ journey: Arizona-based band Calexico keeps ‘trying new things’

When Joey Burns and John Convertino began Calexico in the mid-1990s, neither one of them imagined performing in the band for more than 20 years.

Today, the pair are still touring and making music as indie rock outfit Calexico.

In fact, Calexico released its ninth studio album, “The Thread That Keeps Us” in February.

“I didn’t imagine any of this,” Burns says in a recent interview from his Arizona home. “I was telling this friend I was talking to that there are days I didn’t know if this will be able to carry itself. Then I think of the people who have never seen us perform live and when they do, it gives me a different interpretation of where we are. The journey has been amazing.”

Calexico is known for its musical style, which is influenced by mariachi, conjunto, cumbia and tejano, as well as country and jazz.

Burns says that for the latest album, he and 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 ambiance soon made their way into the songs.

“I had a lot of fun writing and being in this eclectic house,” Burns says. “It was a beautiful spot to be in, and we were close to the San Francisco city lights.”

Working with their longtime engineer Craig Schumacher, Calexico co-produced “The Thread That Keeps Us,” gathering musicians from across the globe.

“There’s a little more chaos and noise in the mix than what we’ve done in the past,” Burns says.

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.”

After years of performing, Burns feels like he finally has found his talent.

“My talents come with music and bringing people together,” he says. “I lead with an open mind and am learning every day. I want to be able to use my talent in helping communities and be an advocate for cultural education.”

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