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Watch Kaleo Talk ‘Vinyl’ Spot, Icelandic Fans, American Blues

“When people think of Icelandic music, they tend to think of something more atmospheric,” blues-rock band tells Rolling Stone

Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese, co-creators of HBO’s Vinyl, were so impressed by Kaleo’s “No Good” that they requested to use the blues-rock hit on their show – even though they hadn’t heard the final version. “We hadn’t even finished the song,” singer-guitarist JJ Julius Son tells Rolling Stone. “I guess they just heard some demo from the label.” Scrambling to make the deadline, the Icelandic group were forced to cancel a couple shows. “We pretty much had a few days to finish up, cut some vocals and mix,” he adds. “It was all done in a short time.”

That whirlwind creative process is representative of the band’s rise to fame – from forming in Iceland to crashing the American charts with singles like “Way Down We Go.” The Vinyl spot was a huge break, but Julius Son admits he doesn’t even watch TV. “I was excited for [making the soundtrack for FIFA 16], the video game, for example,” he says. “I’ve played that since I was eight. That was exciting, I remember. It’s all really good. We’re seeing a huge response. It’s all happening. It’s all good things.”

“It was a dream to definitely come to America and perform and record,” he continues. “That’s what we wanted to do. We didn’t quite expect it to happen so fast since it’s only [been] two years since we were recording for the first time in Iceland.” 

Kaleo’s music, inspired by American blues and folk, contrasts with many listeners’ clichéd concept of an “Icelandic” sound. “When people … think of Icelandic music, they tend to think of something more atmospheric,” says percussionist Davíð Antonsson. But the band remains loyal to their home country – and impressed to see so many Icelanders at their shows. “Iceland has a really big music scene, even though it’s a really small country,” Antonsson adds. “People are really proud.”


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