Jaakko Eino Kalevi
Standing tall on a bed of crisp leaves, beneath a dense canopy of green, Jaakko Eino Kalevi composes himself amongst his serene surroundings.
We’d transported the erstwhile Helsinki tram driver, now critically-lauded indie darling, to Wick Woodland in Hackney Wick, a disarmingly pastoral and picturesque location to find so close to the metropolis. More ethereal waif than exhibitionist, Kalevi’s shyness in front of the camera translated the airy fragility of his sound. “It was very relaxed and calming” he reflects a couple of days later. “The perfect thing on the day after a show.”
Kalevi’s upbringing in rural Finland doubtless feeds into his creative practice: “I spent a lot of time outdoors” he tells us, “I still do. Nature helps you to live your life lightly. It is the inner voice that tells you what is best for the environment and yourself.” That connection to organic spaces informs his self-titled debut album, including tracks like the juiced-up twilight boogie of Night In The Field. It all feels so effortless. “I didn’t really aim to produce any specific feelings, but I’d guess there is some kind of tranquility,” he says of the album. “The ideal context to listen to this album would be a nightly hang out at some ancient temple.”
It’s a record which pitches him as a different prospect to any artists who could roughly be considered peers: his sensuous, baroque take on synthesised indie-pop, his voice flitting from androgynous falsetto to rich, commanding baritone. There’s a conflict at play – of tradition and progression, of the reticent poet and the burgeoning superstar. It’s a quality reflected in his outward appearance: on one hand a man out of time, on the other a very contemporary, slickly put-together package.
Kalevi finds it impossible to draw a line between his visual identity with his musical output. “I don’t think you can really separate these two things” he insists. “I sometimes surprise myself with the impressions my music and the visual things create.”
Our shoot emphasises the artist’s personality as a figure at home in his environment, at one with nature, but ready to step onstage and perform at the drop of a hat. Wearing a range of clothing from white-hot upcoming designers (Alex Mullins, Liam Hodges, Matthew Miller) and established icons (Issey Miyake), Kalevi cut a striking figure, but still blended into his leafy backdrop. The unassuming young romantic wouldn’t have it any other way.
Photographer: Bex Day
Photo Assistant: Juan Ortiz
Stylist: Charlotte James
Stylist Assistant: Susan Daniel
Make-up & hair: Natasha Lawes using MAC Cosmetics & Redken hair products
Words: Geraint Davies