Iron City and Zero Mile present:
Calexico and Iron & Wine
513 22nd Street S
Birmingham, AL, 35233
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is all ages
Watch & Listen
Calexico is a band from Tucson, Arizona that shares a sun-bleached border with many performers and musical styles. Comprised of two core members, Joey Burns and John Convertino, Calexico became its own entity in 1996 with the release of the Spoke LP. Although that record marked the band’s first official output, Joey and John had already been playing together as collaborating members of Arizona mainstays Giant Sand. A wide variety of tours, performances (including the Montreux and North Sea Jazz Festivals) and recording sessions as Calexico and with other artists (Neko Case, Victoria Williams, Richard Buckner), as well as their continuing relationship with Giant Sand, allowed the band the opportunity to develop as artists. Over time, Calexico has featured a revolving cast of musicians and instruments, and the band’s sonic growth can be traced through its varied releases.
The band took their name from Calexico, California, a city on the boundary of California and Mexico.
Iron And Wine
beast epic. n. A long, usually allegorical verse narrative in which the characters are animals with human feelings and motives.
I must confess that I’ve always shied away from album introductions citing the usual "dancing to architecture" cop out. Speaking to their own work is uncomfortable for many artists, but I’ve made a new album called Beast Epic which is important to me and I wanted to take a moment to talk about why. I’ve been releasing music for about fifteen years now and I feel very blessed to have put out five other full lengths, many EPs and singles, a few collaborations with people much more talented than myself, and made contributions to numerous movie scores and soundtracks. This is my sixth collection of new Iron & Wine material and I’m happy to say that it’s my fourth for Sub Pop Records.
It’s a warm and serendipitous time to be reuniting with my Seattle friends because I feel there’s a certain kinship between this new collection of songs and my earliest material, which Sub Pop was kind enough to release. In hindsight, both The Creek Drank the Cradle (2002) and Our Endless Numbered Days (2004) epitomize a reflective and confessional songwriting style (although done with my own ferocious commitment to understatement, of course). I have been and always will be fascinated by the way time asserts itself on our bodies and our hearts. The ferris wheel keeps spinning and we’re constantly approaching, leaving or returning to something totally unexpected or startlingly familiar. The rite of passage is an image I've returned to often because I feel we’re all constantly in some stage of transition. Beast Epic is saturated with this idea but in a different way simply because each time I return to the theme, I’ve collected new experiences to draw from. Where the older songs painted a picture of youth moving wide-eyed into adulthood’s violent pleasures and disappointments, this collection speaks to the beauty and pain of growing up after you’ve already grown up. For me, that experience has been more generous in its gifts and darker in its tragedies.
The sound of Beast Epic harks back to previous work, in a way, as well. By employing the old discipline of recording everything live and doing minimal overdubbing, I feel like it wears both its achievements and its imperfections on its sleeve. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with different genres, sonics and songwriting styles and all that traveled distance is evident in the feel and the arrangements here, but the muscles seemed to have relaxed and been allowed to effortlessly do what they do best.
I’ve been fortunate to get to play with some very talented musicians over the years who are both uniquely intuitive and also expressive in exciting ways. This group was no different. We spent about two weeks recording and mixing but mostly laughing at The Loft in Chicago.
To be honest, I’ve named this record BEAST EPIC mostly because it sounds really fucking cool! However, with that said and perhaps to be completely honest, “a story where animals talk and act like people” sounds like the perfect description for the life of any of us. If not that, then it’s at least perfect for any group of songs I’ve ever tried to make. I hope you enjoy it. — Sam Beam, Iron & Wine
The songs were written, the band was ready, and the studio was booked. Fans and critics alike were eagerly awaiting the follow-up to Natalie Prass's 2015 self-titled breakout album, a collection hailed by NPR as "a majestic debut," but perhaps no one was more eager for record number two than Prass herself. She'd waited what felt like a lifetime to release that first album and then toured the world relentlessly behind it, sharing bills with the likes of Fleet Foxes and The War on Drugs on her way to becoming one of the year's most talked-about artists. By the time recording sessions were scheduled to begin, she was absolutely dying to launch the next chapter, which made what happened next all the more shocking: she scrapped the whole thing.
"The record was ready to go, and then the election happened," explains Prass. "I was devastated. It made me question what it means to be a woman in America, whether any of the things I thought were getting better were actually improving, who I am and what I believe in. I knew I would be so upset with myself if I didn't take the opportunity to say some of the things that meant so much to me, so I decided to rewrite the record. I needed to make an album that was going to get me out of my funk, one that would hopefully lift other people out of theirs, too, because that's what music is all about."
The result is 'The Future And The Past,' a stunning work of art and a powerful feminist statement from an artist who's only just begun to tap into the full range of her considerable powers. Reuniting Prass with producer and long-time friend Matthew E. White, the album is at once celebratory and defiant, capturing all the joy, frustration, fear and hope inherent in modern womanhood as it synthesizes the influence of everything from vintage gospel and 80's pop to 90's R&B and Brazilian Tropicália. Prass displays a rare gift for transcending time and place in her songwriting, tapping into age-old struggles for autonomy and equality that resonate profoundly in the present.
Though she'd been honing her craft and paying her dues for years, Prass first emerged to international acclaim in 2015, when her debut record earned its rightfully rapturous reception. Rolling Stone swooned for the Virginia native's "beguiling voice and refined taste," while Pitchfork praised her album as a "smoldering perspective on passionate romance," and The New Yorker simply called it "timeless." She appeared on the Martin Scorsese-helmed HBO series Vinyl, performed on the BBC's Later With Jools Holland, and CBS This Morning, and racked up more than ten million streams on Spotify. Before long, she was headlining dates around the world and playing festival stages from Bonnaroo and Rock En Seine to End Of The Road and Forecastle.
Once touring for the album had wrapped up, Prass took a stab at writing in new cities with fresh faces, spending time in London, LA, and Nashville, but it only served to reinforce the feeling that she belonged back home in Richmond. There, she holed up with White for intensive creative sessions as she attempted to work through the difficult existential questions she found herself facing in a country that expected women to be seen and not heard.
"I went over to his house every single day, and we'd work from 10am to 5pm straight just writing and listening and talking," she explains. "It was very therapeutic for me, and I think it actually helped Matt to understand my point of view as a woman, too."
Recorded once again at White's Spacebomb Studios, the album showcases both a new political depth to Prass's songwriting and a bold willingness to follow her muse wherever it leads. While her debut was marked by elaborate horn and string arrangements, 'The Future And The Past' finds Prass stripping her songwriting back to its most essential elements. Groove reigns supreme as she channels Dionne Warwick and Janet Jackson and lets her dazzling vocals dance across funky instrumental arrangements. Album opener "Oh My" sounds like a lost slice of 80's gold, complete with off-kilter Talking Heads-esque guitar, but dig a little deeper and you'll find a song that's pure 2018 as Prass sings, "Seems like every day we're losing when we choose to read the news." Losing's not an option, though, and Prass makes it abundantly clear that women won't even entertain the notion of moving backwards. On "Ain't Nobody" she confidently promises that there "ain't nobody can take this from our hands," while the soulful, swaggering "Sisters" plays out like a mission statement for the entire album, as Prass and a chorus of female backup singers proclaim, "I wanna say it loud / for all the ones held down / we gotta change the plan."
"I didn't want to point any fingers, and I didn't want to sound desperate or defeated," she explains. "I wanted to stay positive and joyful. The world's obviously not perfect, but there's nothing we can't do if we love and support each other. It was really important to me that these songs make people feel that way."
It's a principle that guides Prass throughout the album, no matter her subject material. On "Short Court Style," she taps into Diana Ross disco and reflects on the bliss a healthy relationship can bring, while the hypnotic "Hot For The Mountain" assures all the outcasts and misfits that they're not alone, and the playful "Never Too Late" conjures up a world where a wish upon a star can bring back lost love. Even in the album's darker moments, like the Karen Carpenter-inspired ballad "Far From You" or the cooing pop gem "Nothing To Say," Prass refuses to let go of her rebelliously optimistic streak. "I will never kneel when power is in fear and aimed upon me," she sings on the South American-influenced "Ship Go Down," adding "no no I am never drowning" in a breathy delivery that's light as a feather and tough as nails.
Ultimately, 'The Future And The Past' is a record that's about neither of those things. Instead, it's about womanhood and the modern world and the things we can do right this very moment to make them both better through love and support and camaraderie. The album may have been born out of deep doubt and disappointment, but it insists on faith and optimism, and it succeeds because Prass leads by example, embracing her femininity on her own indomitable terms. "Music's supposed to make you feel better," she reflects, and in that respect alone, she's created a genuine triumph.