Photo by Chris Harley
With ethereal singing layered over simple but richly textured electro melodies, Jaakko Eino Kalevi's dreamy synth pop is anything but synthetic. He plays at Berghain Kantine on February 23.
As a big figure within the Finnish indie-dance scene, Jaakko saw worldwide exposure after being signed to Domino Records in 2014 alongside acts like Panda Bear and Hot Chip. Since releasing his self-titled debut album last summer, which he supported with a UK and European tour, the former tram driver's dreamy synth pop has been praised for being equally intimate and somber as it is funny and highly danceable.
So, you’re living in Berlin now? I thought you were still driving a tram in Helsinki?
Yeah [laughs], I’ve been living here for almost two years now but I haven’t been around too much. And no, I don’t drive a tram anymore. Although it would be possible here. I think I should learn German first. It could be cool.
Do you have a new album scheduled?
Well, not scheduled. I’ve been collecting some ideas and writing them down, I’m starting to record little by little. But right now I'm working on a cover of a Belgian band called Véronique Vincent. They’re gonna release a cover album next year and they asked me to do one. The song is called “I’m Always Crying.” I actually have a lot going on in the next year.
What sorts of other projects are you working on?
The main thing is to work on my next solo album but then I’m working on a reggae/dub record where all the instruments are played by me called Mad Spiders. Also a collaboration album between myself and a friend, Long-Sam. Our group used to be called Jaakko Eino Kalevi and Long-Sam but we changed our name to Manduo. Then there is a kind of techno band with my girlfriend.
Did you study music formally?
Well, not really. When I was a teenager I took guitar lessons. I went to electrician’s school because I wanted to be able to build my own synthesizers and be able to repair my stuff. It wasn’t really about that… it was more like installing clocks in apartments.
Do you listen to much techno?
Well, I like techno. But there are so many different kinds. And also I’m not sure if I like the club, uh, situation.
You’re playing a show adjacent to the techno temple, Berghain, in its Kantine. Have you ever been?
Yeah, once to the Kantine and once to the club. But I’d like to go to the club again. I was there maybe four or five years ago and it was on a Thursday and it wasn’t that great [laughs]. I’m willing to give it another chance.
Then what sort of influences do you draw from? Growing up in Finland I imagine you listened to a lot of metal.
Yeah, our first band was pretty much a metal band. We were very much influenced by, like, Iron Maiden and Metallica. Metal music was more popular in Finland than it is here – well, it’s actually pretty popular here. Also I guess like, teenage boys like metal music no matter where they are.
I see a lot more comparisons being drawn between your music now and Ariel Pink. How do you feel about that?
Yeah, I like his stuff. He’s great. We were supporting him in Helsinki once and we had an after party at my place. At some point Ariel disappeared and we found him sleeping in my bed.
Jaakko Eino Kalevi, Feb 23, Starts 20:00, Kantine am Berghain, Am Wriezener Bahnhof, Friedrichshain, S-Bhf Ostbahnhof