Lucid, Dreaming: Jaakko Eino Kalevi

"I don’t know what it means, but it’s a nice image..."

Jaakko Eino Kalevi had a dream last night. The Finnish multi-instrumentalist met Jarvis Cocker and Ariel Pink, hid giant ecstasy pills in his mouth and transported them “somewhere safe”.

Does he think the dream has meaning? “No,” he replies, chuckling. In fact, he cares more about other people’s dreams than his own, and in an artistic rather than psychological sense.

The breakthrough EP ‘Dreamzone’ (2013) bears the same name as a Finnish dream forum, from which the lyrics of some of his songs have been translated almost verbatim. The otherworldly sound of the new self-titled record was developed in the same unusual electronic pop vein; except for the saxophone, Jaakko Eino Kalevi plays all the instruments himself.

As the songs unfold you sink deeper and deeper into the comforting bass lines and fluttering synths of his imagination. The vocals are steady, yet distant, a guiding hand in the warmth of a club crowd.

Quietly sipping a glass of white wine, he is nearing the end of a day of non-stop interviews. He is only in London for a couple of days and returns to his adopted home of Berlin tomorrow morning. With a tired smile, he describes a city of endless nightlife, where techno soundtracks daytime cafés and official letters he can’t understand keep piling up behind his door.

True to his music, Jaakko Eino Kalevi’s everyday also hinges on the edge of the surreal.

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How has your sound evolved since 'Dreamzone'?
I wanted to develop the same mood as 'Dreamzone', but compared to my older songs it might be a bit different. All the drums are acoustic, for example. I wanted it to sound like a band and have the feel of being done in one session, but it’s not. It was made over a few years, taking bits and pieces from everywhere.

You play all instruments yourself, except saxophone. Why is that?
I played the saxophone on 'Dreamzone' after only two weeks of practicing, but I’m still learning. I’ve been playing with a saxophonist called Jorja Renn and she came up with some saxophone parts when we played live, so it felt natural that she should play them on the record.

Is that how the album was partly made, with songs developing on stage? During your gig at Field Day festival last year it seemed like you improvised and played around with some of the tracks.
Only with the saxophone parts. It’s ideal if that happens, but there are limitations, because I use backing tracks which are always the same, but the other parts can change and develop.

On the first track of the album, JEK, you repeat your name over and over again. What was the idea behind that?
The vocals for that song came at a very late stage. I guess it’s a way of introducing myself as the album is also self-titled. People also have a hard time pronouncing my name, so it’s instructions for them [laughs]. There are also lots of rap songs made from the idea of “What’s my name?”, so I was inspired by that. And I like the way “my name is” sounds in Finnish; “minun nimeni on”.

Is there any thought behind how you alternate between English and Finnish in your lyrics?
I recently noticed that all the spoken parts are in Finnish and all the singing parts are in English. It wasn’t intentional.

Why is that? Would the spoken parts not sound as good in English?
I paid attention to the way the spoken lyrics sounded in a way I didn’t do with the English parts as much and used certain words only because of how they sounded. I’ve almost only written in English before, so this is probably the most Finnish I’ve ever used on a record. You know what they say; when you move abroad you bring out more of your national features.

On ‘Double Talk’ the lyrics go “We talk double talk, we think double thoughts, we walk double walks”. What does it mean?
‘Double talk’ is when you have a conversation, but start wondering what it actually is about. ‘Double thoughts’… I guess it could be second thought.

‘Double walk’ is this walk I’ve done since I was a kid. Nobody else can do it. I think I have special needs. I didn’t find out about it, I just did it. I step twice on each foot. I would show you, but I don’t want to do it in here.

Have you ever done it on stage?
I hope not.

Why do you find other people’s dreams fascinating?
They are so imaginative. It’s not anyone’s intention to dream those dreams, so how can their minds create such crazy things? I have this old song called 'Poison' and the lyrics for that are almost directly translated from the Finnish dream forum. Somebody had a dream where poison was flowing from the flower beds. In the same dream she saw snakes made out of colours. I don’t know what it means, but it’s a nice image.

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Words: Linnea Enstrom
Photo Credit: Mafalda Silva

'Jaakko Eino Kalevi' is out now.

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