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KALEO: "DOWN" IS THE NEW UP

Very rarely does a debut single go #1 at Alternative radio, but that’s exactly what happened for Icelandic alt rockers Kaleo with “Way Down We Go.” The Triple 8-repped band, whose debut full-length A/B (Elektra) bowed Top 10 on the Album Sales Chart in June, sold out their first-ever U.S. headline run earlier this year. Their music has been featured in EA’s FIFA 2016 and TV shows Blindspot, Suits, Empire and Orange is the New Black, as well as on the soundtrack of HBO’s Vinyl. “No Good,” which Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese requested for their hit show before the song was even finished, went Top 10 at Active Rock, and beloved album cut “All the Pretty Girls” went Top 10 at Triple A. The blues-loving boys are currently on the road with buzzing newcomer Bishop Briggs as their opener. We assume frontman JJ Julius Son must be quite exhausted; why else would he agree to answer our questions? 


What did it feel like when you found out your debut single had gone #1 at Alternative radio?
It was a great feeling. I’m very thankful to all of the people that we work with every day who help make these things happen and so happy that fans and radio have embraced our music.

Frankly, your live show is incendiary. Do you consider the performance aspect and contemplate the live delivery of a song when you’re first writing/crafting it?
My main focus is usually on the songwriting itself. I see each song as a standalone piece of art that must be complete before I consider the other aspects, such as recording and live performance. Once the writing is finished, I set my sights on getting it right in the studio and then move on to performing it live. I have, at times, tried out songs live before recording them so I can get a feel for the crowds’ reaction. There are also times I’ll play with and create different arrangements of a song for the live show. My hope is that people who come to shows experience something more than what they experienced from listening to the record.

Do you feel more comfortable in the studio or on the road?
The last album was pretty much recorded while touring. I like to have time to explore and try out new things in the studio, but time is a privilege I do not always have.

I enjoy both touring and being in the studio. I think it’s nice to go out on tour when you’ve spent a long time in the studio, and it is also very nice to get back to the studio after a long tour.


What was it like working with Jacquire King? The man’s got more than 30 Grammy nominations under his belt and he’s worked with some real innovators. He’s superb.
He is amazing. I feel very lucky to have been able to work with him and hopefully I will be able to do so again in the future.

A/B has such a warm, full quality to it. It’s really sonically inviting. How did you achieve that?
I write very different songs and I try to do each one justice sonically. I think, most of the time, I know what I’m going for, but it can also be exciting to develop and try out things while you are in the studio. I will say that we all do like warm sounds and old recordings; therefore, we often like to record on tape.

You’ve had success at Alternative, Active Rock and Triple A radio. At certain moments, your music evokes stadium-ready rock, blues, folk and at times delicate indie alternative with pop tendencies. It’s arguable that “Automobile” even has a country quality to it. How would you describe your sound? It’s pretty ballsy to stand outside of the genre box, because doing so doesn’t leave you with a lot to lean on or hide behind.
I have always embraced diversity. I see no reason to limit myself to genres. The songs that I write are different, and I find it liberating to be able to write in so many various styles. I also think that you keep growing as a musician and an artist, so who knows what the future holds.

In the future, what direction do you see your music going in?
Anything that comes to mind, really. I am very excited to have some time off after this tour and finish up writing the next album, and then hopefully getting back into the studio before not too long.

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