Kaleo

The Icelandic Band with Bluesy Roots

They sound like the veils had a magical music baby with kings of Leon (before they shaved their beards). Their tracks are so full of that dirty bluesy rock - think Clapton with cream or the sheepdogs - that you could almost believe they were born and raised somewhere like Nashville. But Kaleo is a pure Icelandic product that made it their mission to captivate your body and ears with their gritty sound.

 By Marie-Ève Venne

During their show at Osheaga this summer, you could hear the crowd singing every word of their hit single “All the Pretty Girls,” before totally losing it and moving their hips like all the lust from hell just unleashed on earth to their more bluesy and rock and roll songs like "No Good" and "Way Down We Go". The lead singer and guitarist, Jökull Júlíusson (JJ for his friend sand people clearly not speaking Icelandic), has the raspy of a real bluesman, while his bandmates  Davíð Antonsson (percussion and vocals), Daníel ÆgirKristjánsson (bass guitar) and Rubin Pollock (guitar and vocals) are playing rhythms that Buddy Holly himself would have approved.

While sitting down with JJ after their performance at the festival, I try to discover how a band with members born on a Nordic island can sound as, if not more, rock than any American artist.

“We all grew up listening to old music from the 60sand 70s, mostly southern singers, and that is how we learned to play guitar with this particular sound. My dad had an impressive collection of classic rock vinyls and I couldn’t get enough. We began learning English in school when we were still young and while watching some American TV shows on cable.”

The band gained success pretty quickly in their native country with their single "Vor í Vaglaskógi" before deciding to risk everything and make the big move to the United States - Austin, Texas to be precise.

The band gained success pretty quickly in their native country with their single "Vor í Vaglaskógi" before deciding to risk everything and make the big move to the United States - Austin, Texas to be precise.

They didn’t have to wait very long to get a reaction from the American public. Their album A/B, released last June, debuted at number 15 on the Billboard Top 200,and their music has since been heard in many popular TV shows, such as Empire and Vinyl.

I address the clear change of pace halfway through the album, since it goes from raw, strong rock melodies to slowed down and more folky songs. I ask him if this particular order is something he and the members of the group gave a lot of thought to.

“The whole concept of the album was based on the idea of a vinyl record. You have the first part that is like the A side, with a strong rock and roll sound and some blues accents, while the other part is what could be the B side, which is more about the lyrics and soft melodies.”

Their most popular song from the album, to this day, is definitely “All The Pretty Girls.” With its mix of country-style guitars and strings, it sounds just like the perfect ballad you want to slow-dance to with someone special. So far, the video has over 6,000,000 views on YouTube alone.

Before ending the conversation, I asked him what the band does on tour to wind down a little, when they are not playing and breathing music.

“We actually don’t have a lot of free time on our hands.When we are not playing for the public, we are working on new songs or practicing,” he says with the smile of someone doing exactly what he likes for a living.

If you want to catch them live, they will return to Canada in March 2017. Go to officialkaleo.com for more details.