NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — While Bjork may be Iceland’s best-known musical export, a four-part rock band is making waves in the U.S. with its bluesy rock sound.
Growing up on the island populated by volcanoes, Kaleo’s lead singer JJ Julius Son dreamed of the American South.
“I think American music influenced me more than other people my age who maybe didn’t connect as much,” the 26-year-old said during a recent interview in Nashville, Tennessee, where the four-member band recorded its first U.S. album for Atlantic Records called “A/B.” ”I am very influenced by music from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s as many people can probably hear. And then all the way back to the ’30s and the Delta Blues.”
The band, whose members are in their mid-20s, released its self-titled debut album in Iceland in the fall of 2013.
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“It all happened really quickly,” the singer said. “We released an Icelandic song in spring of 2013 and that just really took off and was the most played song on radio that year.”
Since moving to Austin, Texas, over a year ago, the band’s songs have been popping up on U.S. television and radio. “No Good” was used on the HBO series “Vinyl,” produced by Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese, and was featured in the soundtrack. The single “Way Down We Go” has broken into the top 10 on the Adult Alternative chart and has been used in soundtracks, promotions and trailers for shows like “Orange is the New Black” and “Empire.”
Produced by Jacquire King, who also produces the Kings of Leon, “A/B” — released this month — is a mix of Southern influences, from soft and sweet folk songs to blues rock and jagged ’70s guitar anthems. The band even has a country-tinged tune, “Automobile,” inspired by California and Mexico, two places that Julius Son had never visited before writing the song.
“I kind of consider it a country song,” he said. “When I lived in Iceland, I would go to Spain sometimes to vacation and write music in the sun. … It’s obviously a very sunny song.”
But the band also paid tribute to its homeland on the album with an Icelandic song, a haunting ballad called “Vor í Vaglaskogi.” Julius Son said he was surprised by the reaction from American audiences when they played it, so they felt it had to go on the new album.
“People seem to bond to this song and have a response on an emotional level, which is incredible considering they don’t understand one word,” Julius Son said.
Follow Kristin M. Hall at twitter.com/kmhall