Arts, Culture & Media

Icelandic band Kaleo is taking the music world by storm

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Photo courtesy of Kaleo

Credit:

Icelandic band Kaleo.

If you haven't heard of Icelandic indie-rock band Kaleo, now's a good time to get to know them. The band is barnstorming across the US, playing sold out shows. 

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For a band that formed just four years ago, the road to fame has been swift. In 2013, their first year together, Kaleo was already well-known and extremley popular group in their island nation. 

Lead singer JJ Julius Son says, like many of the greats, the four-man band started out as a hobby between childhood friends.

"The foundation of the band, myself, Danny and David, met in school when I guess we were 14 or so," says Julius Son. "Shortly after we started kind of jamming together. At first we were doing original music and then kind of led to doing some covers. And then we started performing live at these pubs. ... And pretty much took any gig we could while we were still in school."

Kaleo's debut international "A/B" comes out today.

Kaleo's debut international "A/B" comes out today.

Credit:

Photo courtesy of Kaleo

"I guess in 2012 we just kind of really wanted to start focusing on original music. That was kind of the turning point," Julius Son says.

Those other members Julius Son is talking about are drummer David Antonsson and bassist Daniel Kristjansson. Guitarist Rubin Pollock joined the band in 2012. All four hail from Mosfellsbaer, a town of roughly 9,000 people, just outisde of Reykjavik, the country's capital. 

After several well-received shows at the 2012 Iceland Airwaves music festival, the band recorderd its first original songs in 2013: “Rock N Roller” and "Pour Sugar On Me,” earning Kaleo radio airplay and press in Iceland. 

But the band really took off later that year with the help of YouTube when their live radio cover of an old Icelandic ballad went viral. 

"It's called 'Vor í vaglaskógi' and I think we released that in April and that was a big hit back home," says Julius Son. "It's just a really beautiful poem. And it's a love story between a couple.

"What's beautiful about it is really how it describes a moment. This spring night that they're having in this forest. And how they describe the nature and everything that's going around on this beautiful spring or summer night. I think that really lead people to strart listening to our other songs and discovering the band itself." 

Kaleo recorded a studio version of the song, which went straight to No. 1 on virtually every radio station in the country.

In late 2013, Kaleo recorded a full-length, self-titled debut album in just six short weeks. 

"That was a stressful time, and also our first time really in a studio," says Julius Son. "So we were kind of learning and going at the same time."

Five singles topped the charts and the album went gold.

Then, in spring 2014, Kaleo recorded the single "All the Pretty Girls" and things really took off for them. They started receiving contact from managers, labels, publishers.

In 2015, Kaleo's audience expanded overseas when they debuted at South by Southwest In Austin, Texas. The single "Way Down We Go" made headlines — and not just for the show promos it was featured in, like Fox's Empire, HBO's The Leftovers, NBC's Game of Silence or FIFA 2016. Kaleo shot a live performance of the song inside Prihnukagigur volcano in Iceland. It's the only volcano in the world you can explore. It hasn't errupted in about 4,000 years.

"That was a fun experience," says Julius Son. "And it turned out to be quite more of a task then we realized. ... I think it took like 26 hours to get all the gear down there, shoot the video and get everyone out. And thankfully everyone was super helpful and they made it work. And, you know, obviously the volcano, the acoustics from there, that was ... that was special."

Kaleo released its debut international album "A/B" everywhere Friday.  

The band is currently on the road for its first-ever US tour, which runs through September. 

Correction: A previous version of the story did not use both last names for the lead singer and had an incorrect last name for the bassist.