Kaleo means “the sound” in Hawaiian and having seen this excellent four piece band take Dingwalls in Camden by storm on Tuesday evening I think they may be the sound of the summer. Some bands are not governed by genre or expectation and Kaleo are one such band. They are already a phenomenon in their home country of Iceland with a blend of folk, blues, country and rock and their new album A/B perfectly illustrates how all of the genres can sit comfortably together.
Lead singer JJ Juliusson, drummer David Antonsson Crivello and bass player Danny Jones were friends at school in the small town of Mosfelsbaer outside of Reykjavik and started playing together at the age of 17. After a few years guitarist Rubin Pollock joined and the Kaleo we know was born. After getting good reviews at the Iceland Airwaves music festival, they recorded their first pair of original songs, ‘Pour Sugar On Me’, and ‘Rock’n’Roller’, the former of which gained some airplay and press coverage in Iceland before a YouTube cover of traditional Icelandic song ‘Vor I Vaglaskogi’ went viral. The studio version of ‘Vor’ went straight to number one with almost all the radio stations at home and with the resultant attention that followed Kaleo signed to Sena, Iceland’s largest record label and recorded their full length eponymous album from which five singles reached number one. This helped turn the album gold and firmly established Kaleo in their home country. It was the lovely song ‘All The Pretty Girls’ which seems to have been the catalyst for international attention and it wasn’t long before US label Atlantic signed the band and moved them to Austin, Texas.
On Tuesday night, Kaleo opened with the bluesy, ‘Broken Bones’, and then moved on to ‘Pour Sugar On Me’, which still holds up excellently alongside the material on the new album. From that point Kaleo proceeded to play a mix of tracks from both of their albums along with a sultry cover of Sonny & Cher’s ‘Bang, Bang’ before launching into ‘Way Down We Go’, a song recently used on a TV advert and one certain to stick in the mind even more once seen performed live. The finale of the gig was a fantastic rendition of ‘Rock’n’Roller’, their very first song and a fitting way to draw the evening to a close.
Lighting was moody throughout and the capacity crowd at Dingwalls, a favourite venue of mine, were noisy in their appreciation of the band whatever style they were playing. There was a fantastically widespread demographic too, with all ages and a number of nationalities well represented. JJ asked if there were any Icelanders in attendance and of course there were. He rewarded them with the mesmeric “Vor I Vaglaskogi” and such is the power of their version that I think everyone loved it despite not understanding the lyrics. JJ seemed to be blown away by the hugely positive reaction of the crowd and thanked everyone for making their first London date a very special time for them.
Kaleo will next play London in the autumn when they come to KOKO on November 23rd and I would advise getting tickets early if you would like to see them play.They are now extensively touring the USA and Canada where I’m sure their mix of styles will go down a treat . I firmly believe that this band will go from strength to strength now that they are on the world stage and I think the main reason for this is that not only do they make it impossible to pigeon hole them with their genre defying music, but also that they do them all very very well.