Kaleo bandleader JJ Julius Son met drummer David Antonsson and bassist Daniel Kristjansson as a young teenager in Reykjavik, Iceland. While they didn’t start the band up until three years later, the trio bonded instantly over their passion for classic rock. In 2012, they brought on guitarist Rubin Pollock and officially formed Kaleo. In 2016, they released their hit single “Way Down We Go.” But as JJ tells us in this interview, one song isn’t enough to capture the stylistic breadth of the band.
FAULT: Having grown up speaking mostly Icelandic, were there any challenges that came with singing in English?
JJ: No, because most people in Iceland speak English quite well. I remember growing up, TV and stuff — we didn’t really dub that, we just had subtitles. And once cell phones and computers came along, everything was in English. So you kinda had to learn how to speak English back home.
FAULT: What enabled Kaleo to break through and get recognized by the wider world outside of Iceland?
JJ: To be honest, we kind of had really quick success in Iceland. Then we released “All the Pretty Girls,” and I guess through the internet or somehow, someone passed the music on to the next guy and the next guy. Before we knew it, we started flying to L.A. and New York, doing these showcase shows for all these people and companies. So it’s really been quite an adventure — a crazy ride for us for the past three and a half years.
FAULT: Has the success of “Way Down We Go” changed you guys at all?
JJ: I think it just makes things easier. For me, every song is as important as the next one because I write very different songs. I think you have to include all of them to kind of see the big picture. When people come to a show, a lot of them don’t expect us to be a rock ’n’ roll band because we play a lot of diverse music. It’s very uptempo, but it’s also very melodic and slow-tempo. Like I said, I think every song counts, but success will always make things easier and help you get recognition.
FAULT: You guys have kind of a handprint motif going on with your album cover, the name of your tour, and David’s drum kit. Is there any kind of a special meaning there?
JJ: It was really just an idea for an album cover at the time, and then we felt like it could be something connected to the tour as well. It’s kinda fun. I think it’s different, and it seems like people react to it and remember it. So I think it serves its purpose.
FAULT: What are Kaleo’s plans for 2017? We know you’ve been on this massive our. Is there anything else on the horizon?
JJ: Yeah, there’s been an insane amount of touring for the past few years. That’s probably going to be the case this year as well. But I’ve also been writing for the next album, and hopefully, we’ll be able to get into the studio this year at some point. And I’m very excited about festival season coming up — some big festivals. Then the fall tour, hopefully. The last months and years have been very exciting, visiting places around the world. I think we’ll keep doing that, and hopefully go to some places we haven’t been before. Because so far it’s been a great experience, visiting all these new places and seeing people come out to the show already knowing the music. That’s very special for me.
FAULT: How has the UK been treating you?
JJ: It’s been great. People are very passionate about music here, as they obviously have been for a long time. I love so much music that comes from the U.K. We’ve had a great time, and we had a great time playing here last fall, so we’re very excited to be back and playing a bigger rooms now. Very exciting times.
FAULT: What is your FAULT?
JJ: Sometimes my mind is too busy thinking about everything and everyone, and I kind of forget to live in the moment.
Catch Kaleo’s latest tracks below: