SWEDISH electro-pop veterans Little Dragon have been going for more than 20 years, a winding journey that’s taken them through several disparate guises, seen them accompany several megastars, and made them an indie hit.
Fronted by notoriously fiery Japanese/ Swedish vocalist Yukimi Nagano (for whom the band are named), Little Dragon’s adventurous journey has seen them appear on Gorillaz hit album ‘Plastic Beach’, and TV shows Grey’s Anatomy, The Vampire Diaries and 90210. Oddly, they’re more famous in Britain, Ireland and the US than in their native Sweden.
Drummer Erik Bodin has seen a transformation in the band’s recent work, describing it as “increasingly DIY. We’re definitely more interested in doing what we want to do than making hits. Music has to be a natural progression for us. Labels generally try to say that you should do this or that, especially with collaborations and stuff like that. All they want is hits and collaboration names for confidence, but we’re more confident now on the way to move forward.”
“Gothenburg is a great place to do this stuff. It’s cheap to live in and has a really nice feel to it, and it really works for us being here.”
Little Dragon are fantastically creative, morphing in style notably from album to album. While the Gorillaz collaboration and subsequent tour alongside Damon Albarn perhaps gained them the most attention, it’s the distinctive vocals and spaced out, fuzzy beats that have become their calling card.
“We don’t know how to reproduce the same thing over and over,” Bodin says of their career progression. “We stay curious and keep experimenting, we’re really open-minded in what we write. It’s quite abstract, hippy and free. We don’t really think about it, it just kind of happens.”
“We love reproducing it live, though, and really making an atmosphere. The most difficult part has always been sampling the synth sounds and making them easy to control. It takes time to set up so he can just play them like a piano, but Håkan [Wirenstrand, the band’s keyboard player] loves it, it’s just a real passion for him.”
“We’ve always built from the sounds and played live, which is kind of fragile, but once you’re into it, you just get hypnotised by it. A lot of our inspiration comes from nature now. [vocalist] Yukimi has calmed down a bit over the years. If it wasn’t for the band, I’m sure she would be furious, I think it’s like therapy for her. Things are a lot smoother now.”
There is new work on the horizon for Little Dragon, though they’ll be stepping away from full album format for a while. “There’s the stuff there for an EP in the fall,” Bodin explains. “That music was done in early spring, we’re always ahead of ourselves. We’ve tried to let it go once it’s done, so it’s not in our ears all the time and we can stay excited about it, so we won’t be doing that stuff live yet.”
“We’ve started bringing back old songs in a different way on stage. We’ve added an accordion and approached things in a different way. When we get the accordian out people wonder what’s happening, and we kind of like that, it’s good to do things differently on a few songs. It’s been fun to be free.”