Bluesfest festival director Peter Noble discovered Kaleo on a recent trip to their home country Iceland and couldn’t wait to introduce the four-piece band to Bluesfest audiences.
JJ is the principal songwriter for the Icelandic group who blend folk, blues, country and rock to create a dreamy layered sound.
However, don’t think Bjork. Kaleo couldn’t be farther away.
‘We’re not anywhere close to that sound. I am inspired by old American music – blues music. My music probably has a more American sound, although we do add our sound to the mix.’
So if they had to box their sound in a genre, where would Kaleo sit?
‘I don’t try to limit myself to genres. If you do come to the show or listen to the album we’ll be releasing this summer you will hear that we vary from country or folk all the way to some rock’n’roll,’ says JJ.
Most recently the band recorded in Nashville, a place JJ believes is the perfect melting pot for recording artists.
‘We are fond of Nashville. It’s a special place and it’s certainly changed from being the country place. That is still there but now there is a focus on all kinds of music. Everything is there. We recorded at Blackbird Studios, which is one of the best studios in the world.’
The process of taking a song from concept to playlist is something that intrigues JJ.
‘I write the music, and then we kind of jam it out. It’s quite different for each song but it usually starts with my bringing the music, and then you have to find the right sounds; you have to treat each song differently. You always are wondering how to make a song the best it can be. You have to let go. It’s a hard thing listening to a mix; it’s like standing in front of your fears and judging yourself. Sometimes you know exactly what you want and sometimes you don’t. You have to have the courage – that’s the most important thing – to admit if something doesn’t work, or take a different direction.’
Kaleo’s strength is that they have musically evolved together. You can hear it when they play. That quiet understanding that exists between players who know how to move from being individuals to a tight unit.
‘I have been writing songs from an early age, the foundation of the band is me and David the drummer and Benny. We were in school together since 14 or 15; we started jamming and playing together since 18, and have been playing together for seven years. We evolved together and I think how we came about is an important part of the band’s story. It’s why we play together so well.’
So what should newbies to the music of Kaleo expect for their Bluesfest performance?
‘A dynamic show. Like I said, we don’t limit ourselves to one genre, and we like to have the show energetic. Most of all we like to connect with the audience!’
Kaleo play Bluesfest every day – Thursday and Saturday on Delta stage and Friday at Mojo and Monday at Juke Joint.