KALEO is one of the newer artists from Iceland to burst onto the international music scene. The band was formed in 2012 by a group of childhood friends from Mosfellsbær, a suburb of Reykjavík. The group quickly became a big hit locally.
The band is lead by vocalist Jökull Júlíusson or JJ, as he goes by, drummer Davíð Antonsson, bassist Daníel Kristjánsson, and lead guitarist Rubin Pollock. As of early 2020, the band has released two studio albums, KALEO in 2013 and A/B in 2016.
The single “Way Down We Go” from A/B reached platinum in the US twice, eventually reaching number one on the Billboard Alternative Songs in 2016! The band is famous for their creative music videos featuring their home country, Iceland.
Here’s the video for “Way Down We Go” inside Thrihjnukagigur, the only volcano in the world you can actually go into.
Band members Jökull, Daniel and Davíð went to school together in their childhood town of Mosfellsbær. The friends would meet up and play together, mastering their instruments. They got a few gigs as a cover band, and have been quoted as saying that they would pretty much play pretty much any gig offered.
It wasn’t until 2012 that the band was officially formed and the group began to focus on creating original tracks. It was right around this time that Rubin Pollock entered the mix. Things escalated quickly and it wasn’t long until they played Iceland Airwaves, Iceland’s biggest music festival where they received great feedback from the audience. This success was followed by their cover of the famous Icelandic folk song ‘Vor í Vaglaskógi’ which was released with a great, yet almost eerie music video.
The original version of the song was made famous by Icelandic legend Villhjálmur Vilhjálmsson and can be found on Youtube.
By the end of 2012, KALEO was signed by Iceland’s biggest record company, Sena. Which led to the release of their self-titled début album Kaleo. The album was a big hit and five songs of its songs became number one hits. Perhaps the most popular of them all, ‘Automobile’. The album was later followed by the single ‘All the Pretty Girls’ which received over 87 million streams on Spotify. Eventually landing them a record deal. Que next chapter…
The rising stars were signed by Atlantic Records and the ball really started rolling. Iceland and its nation of 360.000 thousand were waved goodbye. Bags were packed and one-way tickets bought to the US.
They spent their first year in Austin Texas and focused on playing around the US. The band played South by Southwest in 2015. Subsequently, landing on Esquire’s list ‘40 bands you Need to Hear.’ The song ‘All The Pretty Girls’ just kept gaining fans and peaked at number 9 on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Songs Chart.
Now there was nothing left to do than to release another album. First came the singles ‘No Good’, ‘I Can’t Go On Without You’ and the groundbreaking ‘Way Down We Go’ which certified gold in the UK, Belgium, Ireland, South Africa and Germany. It made Platinum in Russia, Australia and the US. Moreover reaching triple platinum in Canada.
‘No Good’ was released shortly after ‘Way Down We Go’ and was featured in the promo for HBO’s Vinyl but none other than rock’s icon Mick Jagger had asked them to write a song for the series!
Then, on the 10th of June, 2016 their major-label debut album A/B came out. Featuring all of those songs and of course the one that started it all ‘All the Pretty Girls.’ The album did amazingly well and was followed by multiple tours! After reaching over one billion global streams, almost 40 international certifications, and countless sold-out headline shows, the band completely sold out their US headline tour. The buzz has been none-stop around these guys. And, in 2017 they received their first Grammy nomination, alongside fellow Icelanders Jóhann Jóhannsson, for the hit single ‘No Good.’ Nominated in the Best Rock Performance group–yet another recognition of their profoundly fast track to stardom.
By the end of 2017, the band teamed up with the Lumineers, opening up for them on their tour that year.
In October 2018, the band wrapped up their three-year-long tour strap and settled back into the studio where JJ began working on songs for their much-anticipated follow-up album.
In June 2019, the Rolling Stones released a statement that KALEO would open for them later that year. This was the second time Mick Jagger and the band would work together. Previously having been on HBO’s Vinyl. These two performances took place in August the same year in Pasadena and Glendale, California.
Early January 2020, fans finally received the answer to their prayers then the band released not one, but two new singles: “I Want More”, “Break My Baby.”
Daníel Ægir Kristjánsson
Additionally, the group has worked quite a bit with Þorleifur Gaukur Davíðsson who plays Harmonica, Bongos, and Keyboard.
This might come as a surprise given how much emphasis the band puts into their Icelandic heritage but the name Kaleo is actually not Icelandic. It has no meaning in the native tongue. Nonetheless, the word Kaleo does have meaning. It means ‘the sound’ in the native Hawaiin language!