WORDS: BECTON SIMPSON

With a population of just over a quarter of a million, Iceland is a pretty tiny place. But although JJ Julius Son – the brainchild, chief songwriter and lead singer/guitarist of KALEO – hasn’t lived there for six years, he described the music scene as “very diverse” ranging from reggae to death metal and everything in between. “The most interesting thing about the scene was that everybody was quite fearless in trying out different things…I think and I hope that’s still the case, just a great variety of all kinds of music.” And JJ has adopted the same mentality, as he recently explained to us. “All my career I’ve never boxed myself in and narrowed myself down to a genre. I play all kinds of music and that’s just been my thing since I can’t remember. I get easily tired of doing the same thing and I don’t see why there should be limitations in art or music.” As such, JJ famously doesn’t talk much about the meanings behind his songs, preferring fans to apply their own meanings and interpretations to the lyrics. “I think it just leaves so much more creativity for the listener,” he mused. “I find it interesting…I kinda prefer it that way. It’s like…once you watch the movie and see how the characters look, that doesn’t leave much to the imagination.”

He was however, pretty psyched to talk about the band’s upcoming album ‘Surface Sounds’, their third record and set for release in June although two singles from it have already been dropped to tease the fans and build up some hype – ‘I Want More’ and ‘Break My Baby’. JJ told us the reception to the new singles had been excellent so far and that it was a “good start” to the new album he was “very excited about.” The record itself has taken a while to come together with JJ describing “jumping into studios in different countries while on tour. Then when we finished I took a year off and kind of just got down to it, I guess.” The songs themselves make up a variety of old and new material with some of the tracks “going back years…I’ve got so many songs written over several years,” JJ told us. “That’s just kind my creative process. It varies quite a bit between songs.”

“I don’t see why there should be limitations in art or music”

It’s potentially looking at being something a bit different to past albums with JJ saying he was eager to “explore as much as I could sonically for this one, the main difference being that he allowed himself more time to explore, “really dedicating my time and hours in the studio to kind of see where I could take each song” and allowing the songs to “speak for themselves…they seem to have their own life…That’s something that I enjoy and I think it should be part of the recording process. Sometimes you want to leave some creativity to happen in the studio. Sometimes you can just plug in and play but others require more time.”

KALEO have had a pretty exciting journey so far, having formed in 2012 and released their first self-titled album via a local Icelandic label to now, being an international touring band with a following all round the world. “We got recognition quite quickly in Iceland,” JJ explained, adding they were “very fortunate. I think within about year people started reaching out to us, from the US mainly and also from Europe. It’s always been something that I wanted to do – record and make music outside of just Iceland.”

“I don’t think I could have imagined five years ago where I would be now”

Reflecting on his achievements so far which include but are not limited to a Grammy nomination and opening up for the Stones, JJ told us he enjoys “setting goals that are exciting to fulfill” and that “sometimes it takes a while to get there” but ultimately it’s worth it in the end.

“I don’t think I could have imagined five years ago where I would be now. It’s amazing that we’re able to travel the world and get all this exposure.” The change in his life over the last five years has been “pretty drastic…not only moving away from Iceland and this small society but traveling the world, making on friends on the road, and not only living in the US for a big part of the time but also not really living anywhere, basically being on the road traveling. That definitely changes you and you have to try and adapt quite quickly.”

The band were set to embark on a world tour in July which obviously has sadly been postponed but hopefully JJ and the guys will be able to get back on the road soon and get the new music out there being heard by people. “It’s exciting to visit new places and to see the crowds grow bigger…but what I’m truly most excited about is just to keep working. Finish this record and start the next one.” It seems there’s no shortage of material either, with JJ telling us he has plenty of songs and music, “just piles of it that I wanna get to. That’s what it’s about for me as an artist. Keep writing and hopefully keep evolving and growing.”

 

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