WITH GUEST DAN MANGAN
JUNE 25, 2018
NORTHERN ALBERTA JUBILEE AUDITORIUM
TICKETS ON SALE FRIDAY, JANUARY 26 @ 10AM
Every story has two sides, and that adage is certainly true
for Kaleo, the four-piece band from Iceland who now call
the US home. Call it a split upbringing: the isolated
heritage that results from coming of age in Iceland has
paired with the fresh inspiration of moving to America, and
the band has built a sound to match the disparate
landscapes. A gorgeous and raucous blend of rock, folk and
blues, Kaleo's debut LP embodies that very spirit of
duality: titled A/B, the album showcases the band's multi-
layered dynamics and ability to play different genres with
equal skill. Best friends since attending elementary school
outside of Reykjavik, bandleader JJ Julius Son, drummer
David Antonsson, and bassist Daniel Kristjansson began
playing together at the age of 17 before adding guitarist
Rubin Pollock to the mix in 2012. They named the band
Kaleo, which means "the sound" in Hawaiian, and started
their career in with a handful of well-received shows at
the 2012 Iceland Airwaves music festival. The band signed
to Elektra/Atlantic and moved to the States in early 2015,
choosing Austin as their new base. "It has obviously been a
big change coming from a small country of 300 thousand
people in Iceland to the USA with over 300 million people,"
says JJ Julius Son.
"We've learned a lot, and we are more experienced now than
when we first came. Overall it's been a great adventure."
The past year has been a busy one for the band, as they've
played nearly nonstop-including over 45 US states-as well
as notching a spot on the soundtrack to HBO's hit show
Vinyl and recording a full length album with the producer
Jacquire King in Nashville. The concept behind A/B comes
from Julius Son's love of the split sides of vinyl records
and their ability to showcase an artist's different sides.
"I write very different songs that many would like to label
into different genres," he says. "The idea of A/B is to
show the diversity and the two sides of the band." The "A"
side is more rock and roll and blues (opener "No Good,"
"Way Down We Go," "Hot Blood"), while the "B" side is a bit
softer with more ballads ("All the Pretty Girls," "Vor I
Vaglaskogi," and closer "I Can't Go On Without You"). But
no matter which side you're on and which song is playing,
the sound can only be that of Kaleo.
A/B was primarily produced and recorded with King, the
esteemed production icon whose past work with talented
artists as varied as Tom Waits, Kings of Leon, Norah Jones,
Buddy Guy, James Bay, and Of Monsters and Men helped Kaleo
showcase both their louder and softer sides. In addition to
the sessions in Nashville, Kaleo wrote and recorded in
various other locales around their new home in the US as
well as a few different sessions around the world, from
their home of Iceland to Spain and London as well.
Additional production contributions to the album in these
various sessions came from Mike Crossey, Arnar Guðjónsson
and the band.
Starting off A/B with a bang, "No Good" welcomes in the "A"
side with its crunching, bluesy stomp-rock. Julius Son's
deep, raspy growl is perfectly paired to the band's
snarling assault, and sets the bar high for the rest of the
record to come. "Kiss your baby goodbye," he purrs, and
with that, we're off and running. "Way Down We Go" is
filled with bluesy angst and anchored by piano and
rhythmic, pounding drumming. Julius Son's vocals shift into
the higher registers just as easily as they find their home
at the bottom.
"All the Pretty Girls" leads off the "B" side, and in a
sense it was the song that started it all for Kaleo in the
beginning. In the spring of 2014, they recorded the lush,
introspective song and in one night their destiny to
outgrow their small, island nation was cemented, as it
spread like wildfire across the airwaves. "Vor I
Vaglaskogi" is a traditional Icelandic love song, and the
only one sung in the band's native language. The song's
beauty and power transcend the fact that most in their
newly found worldwide audience will not be able to
understand it. And for Julius Son, that notion fits right
in with how he likes his lyrics to be interpreted anyway.
"I prefer to let the listener decide what each song means
to them instead of me telling my own personal connection,"
he says. "Some of the songs are very personal for me,
though-some more than others. But it seems that different
people connect to songs in a different way, often based on
personal experiences or things that you are going through
at that time."
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