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Wed December 5, 2012
For One Day, NPR Gets A House Band: Los Straitjackets
Originally published on Wed December 5, 2012 4:00 pm
We call them "buttons" and "deadrolls" — and, less cryptically, "breaks" — but most NPR listeners know them as the interstitial music spots that pepper NPR's newsmagazines. They add shading, mood, energy and other nonverbal context to our stories.
On All Things Considered, as on other NPR shows, that music is chosen by each episode's respective director — former show director Bob Boilen actually launched the program All Songs Considered as a way of highlighting his most intriguing selections — and is usually word-free, at least in the passages used on air. But until Wednesday, we've never had a band perform a show's interstitial music live; countless musicians have performed on our newsmagazines, but never as a house band.
Enter Los Straitjackets, whose members have been performing upbeat instrumental surf-rock jams for nearly a quarter of a century, all while clad in their signature Mexican wrestling masks. Not long after releasing their 12th album, this year's Jet Set, Los Straitjackets approached All Things Considered about sitting in for an episode — spending a day hanging out at NPR's Washington, D.C., headquarters, and helping to provide the show's soundtrack.
Though Los Straitjackets' playful but evocative music has frequently appeared in movies and on TV shows, the group has never composed music specifically to suit the mood and tone of a given scene. But for just one day, it's giving the news a soundtrack, talking to All Things Considered host Melissa Block and toasting the late jazzman Dave Brubeck with a brief rendition of his best-known tune, "Take Five."