From Iceland To Chicago: Kaleo To Play Bottom Lounge

Kaleo, a famed Icelandic band, is bringing its musical success from across the world to the United States.

If you had the chance to see Vance Joy last year during his national tour, you might have been lucky enough to see Kaleo open for him, exposing the band’s name and bringing awesome music to the stage. And now, kicking off this Feb. 19, Kaleo is headlining its own Way Down We Go tour.

But before traveling across the States and visiting Chicago on March 4, The PHOENIX was able to interview with Kaleo’s lead singer, Jökull Júlíusson (who goes by JJ), over the phone. We talked about Kaleo in general, the band’s upcoming tour and the remarkable advice he has for those who are chasing their dreams.


In case you were wondering (I wondered about this for a long time, too), “Kaleo” is the Hawaiian word for “the sound.”  The name is appropriate for the band, as its music refuses to conform to a single genre and instead emits a remarkable mix of blues, folk, indie pop and rock.

In 2014, Kaleo became increasingly popular in the United States through its acoustic single “All The Pretty Girls,” which entered AAA Radio’s top 10. The group’s other single, “Way Down We Go” (for which the music video was filmed in a volcano), was featured in EA Sport’s FIFA 16 video game and the American TV series Blindspot.

A lot has happened for the band in the last few years, but listening to Kaleo’s music proves that the group’s quick rise to success was a product of hard work and talent rather than luck alone.

Júlíusson, Daniel Kristjánsson (bass) and David Antonsson (percussion/vocals) have known each other since they were in elementary school. They’ve been writing music ever since, and eventually Rubin Pollock joined the group as the guitarist in 2012. However, it wasn’t until three years ago when the band’s music broke out in Iceland, that the guys seriously considered becoming professional musicians. “Vor í Vaglaskógi” is Kaleo’s popular Icelandic song, and although it’s sung in a different language, it’s a unique single that adds diversity to the group’s other musical creations.


It’s no doubt that Kaleo’s music has led it to travel across the world and across the U.S., but now that the band is visiting Chicago, The Phoenix wanted to know what Kaleo is excited for in particular.  And it seems that music continues to be the driving attraction everywhere they go.

“I’m definitely going to go to back to the Chicago Music Exchange,” said Júlíusson. “We bought some great things there last time. It’s a really great store.”

And what can you expect from Kaleo at the Chicago show?  Well, definitely keep your ears open for new music. The band is currently recording its new album in Nashville (fingers crossed it will be out this summer), and along with their well-known singles, Kaleo vows to play a few new songs off the new record.

Júlíusson said that because the band’s music is so diverse and brings a lot of dynamics to the stage, he hopes listeners will enjoy the whole musical performance.

“Hopefully it reaches out to people. That’s my favorite type of response from fans: that they connect with it in their own way,” Júlíusson said. “That’s the biggest thrill to hear as a writer or musician. We always want people to come out to the live show to experience it in a different way.”


For the four men, doing what they loved helped them sort out the future.

“I think we weren’t really expecting all the success we’ve had the past two or three years, but because we’ve been writing music for a very long time, we were already prepared in a way,” Júlíusson said. “But we didn’t really know what to expect moving to the stage so it’s kind of been like an adventure. It’s all very exciting.”

And in case you’ve been working for something that perhaps seems unreachable or unrealistic, take a word of advice from Júlíusson, who achieved his own dream: “Believe in yourself, and believe in your own choices and the decisions you make. No one else is going to know better; you are the best judge.”

Kaleo’s Way Down We Go Tour begins Feb. 19 and shows are starting to sell out. The band will be at the Bottom Lounge on March 2, and tickets are on sale for $15.

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