Indie pop favorite Jaakko Eino Kalevi doesn’t bother himself with commercial goals. Instead, he lets the music do the talking, as the old saying goes. Quite literally.
For a week, Jaakko Eino Kalevi has been visiting Finland. He has run from an interview to another and played a sold out record release concert in Helsinki. Then to Amsterdam for yet another gig.
Now he’s back in Berlin, his current hometown. When we speak on the phone, one thing surfaces clearly as the daylight: Jaakko is a man of few words.
An example: when I ask him about living in Berlin, Jaakko tells me that it has helped him to “build networks” and “meet new people”.
Helsinki feels more like a home, he says. But when I ask him whether he still wants to live in Berlin, the answer is short.
In the noughties, Jaakko Eino Kalevi was an eccentric underground act with an idiosyncratic sound that changed from DIY cassette to another.
I had an idea why I would name the album Out of Touch, but after finishing the album, I didn’t remember it anymore.
The first song that made him something more than just a random name on a music magazine was his low-key synthpop hit "Flexible Heart". It was released in 2010, on his fourth album released under his own name. Back then Jaakko was a tram driver by day and a DJ by night. His speciality niche was Finnish synth and disco rarities.
In 2013 Jaakko Eino Kalevi was signed to Domino Records as the famed indie label’s first Nordic act ever. His eponymous Domino debut was released in 2015. Finnish music fans went crazy, maybe even crazier music than fans in other small nations would. The jealousy of our neighboring country Sweden being the successful pop music nation that it is, is a trauma rooted deep in us. But now at last someone notices that we make great music as well!
By then Jaakko Eino Kalevi had already moved to Berlin and doesn’t remember there being any expectations.
“There wasn’t much hype to bump into. I feel like the coverage was surprisingly low then as well”, Jaakko says.
“But on the other hand, I was already here in Berlin when the album came out.”
In October 2018, Jaakko released his sixth album, the second one on Domino, called Out of Touch. It swaps some of the psychedelia of his earlier albums with yacht rock. Like Steely Dan with a tendency to human error, as I described the album in a review in the Finnish music magazine Rumba.
Jaakko says that he had a dogma of several “trivial technical things”, when recording the album: he limited the amount of synthesizers that he used and recorded demos with an electric piano and tempo grids. The sound has more harmonies and layers than its predecessor.
“Limits boost up your imagination”, Jaakko says.
“But regarding the album’s theme: I had an idea why I would name the album Out of Touch, but after finishing the album, I didn’t remember it anymore. But that doesn’t matter. Out of Touch is a name that invites listeners – and me too – to make their own interpretations.”
What matters to me is the music. I think it is the most important thing.
Regardless of what we Finns hoped for, Jaakko Eino Kalevi considers himself an antithesis to today’s growingly career-oriented music business with its built-in self-promotion and brand management.
When I ask, would the description “drifting hippie” sound more suitable for him, Jaakko laughs.
“The idea of a career sounds pretty dull to me, or the idea that I would be something to be exported from Finland. What matters to me is the music. Yes. I think it is the most important thing.”
But can’t you agree with me that there has to be some quantified commercial goals to reach as well?
“I don’t know much about that. I let my label take care of that side. Maybe they have been pleased with what I do.”