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Baker's Dozen

Escape To The Country: Willy Vlautin Of Richmond Fontaine's Favourite LPs
John Freeman , April 6th, 2016 09:55

Following the release of Richmond Fontaine's tenth and final album, You Can't Go Back If There Is Nothing To Go Back To, the singer and author talks to John Freeman about his favourite albums of storytelling escapism


Calexico – Feast Of Wire
Calexico have been one of my favourite bands. Again, if I was a better musician I would have moved to Tucson and sucked up their air – and at least have seen Calexico play more times.

As for Feast Of Wire, I guess there is a theme running through this list of music as escapism – of music creating a world that you can easily dip into. When I moved to Portland, which is so green – it is like Ireland but with huge trees – I would listen to Calexico and dream about the desert. They taught me about mariachi music, they taught me about Morricone and they taught me that instrumentals could be cool. They had nothing to do with punk rock or angst. They taught me that you could make music for all different kind of reasons.

Fontaine did a record in Tucson. I was so obsessed with Calexico that eventually I had to make a record in their hometown. Thirteen Cities was recorded in Tucson, mostly because our producer at the time, JD Foster, was working with the Calexico guys. He said to us that he didn't want to come to Portland because it was "too fucking rainy" but would meet us in Tucson. So, we went down there and I was so excited to be in the same studio as Calexico and then Joey Burns comes and plays on some songs, and their brilliant guitarist Jacob Valenzuela also played on the record.

They are seriously hotshot musicians. John Convertino is one of my favourite drummers. When you go to a Calexico show, he has a whole posse of people just staring at him. There are always about 200 people who don't pay attention to anything else but his drumming.

When I think about Feast Of Wire, it is the band at their peak. And, like with If I Should Fall From Grace With God, it is a band who can dip into different styles effortlessly. They can go from style to style and it is seamless. The songwriting is seriously tight. They can throw in a really dark instrumental and then go straight into a mariachi track. I think 'Quattro (World Drifts In)' is a perfect song and one of my favourite songs. 'Across The Wire' is a brilliant song about illegal immigration. I wish I could have written either of those songs.

So, Calexico taught me about desert music and they got me obsessed with spaghetti westerns. I must have given Feast Of Wire as a present about 50 times over the years. They should fucking be paying me, man. I should be on a retainer.