Interview: Little Dragon
We chat with Little Dragon ahead of their time in Australia with the Laneway festival.
Little Dragon's fourth album Nabuma Rubberband was a fiery piece of electronica mashed with the haunting vocals of Yukimi Nagano. 2014 has been an exciting year for Little Dragon as they have toured all over the world but have sadly only played two shows in Australia. Following up from their tour of Europe and America Liam Apter chatted with bassist Erik Bodin while he was in his hometown of Gothenberg, Sweden. Talking about their choice to refuse collaborations Erik revealed that they were hesitant to work with people they didn't know as it wouldn't be an honest experience, and how a documentary on a man who ran a company that allowed fake relatives to be hired for events inspired their song Underbart. Little Dragon will be returning to Australia for a full sweep of the country as part of Laneway 2015, tickets and the full lineup can be found HERE.
Hey Erik, how are you?
I'm good, how are you?
I'm good, thank you for asking. So where are you at the moment?
I'm at home, well I'm not at my house but I'm in Gothenberg which is my hometown on the west coast of Sweden.
And what have you been up to recently?
Little Dragon have been touring, we had a month in America and then a month in Europe. And we came home just a few days ago so it's been a week of adjustment into the everyday life of a normal person.
Cool man. Now I wanted to go back all the way to 1996. What motivated you to join the band?
I think it was mainly because of Fred and Yukimi, we were in the same class and we went to a music orientated high school. When you're 16 years old the only thing you care about is music. You then want to find somebody to play the drums and someone to play the bass who feels the same way about music you do. It's a very deep love. Fred and I were always jamming out, we would skip class and play in the music hall. It was no-brainer of course I had to be in a band with Fred and I met Yukimi a year after that. She had this very dark voice which mesmerised everybody.
You talked about a deep love of music and thus it was necessary to be part of a band. So moving up to 2014 is this still one of the reasons why you're part of the band?
Yeah definitely. We've kept this openess and a kind of playful childish relationship to music. It would be very boring to be trapped in some sort of concept where we have to be a synth-robot band. We can be that but we can also be many other things.
And that flexibility, do you feel that has kept it fresh?
Yes! Exactly. I think we would have left a long time ago if it wasn't flexible.
And I also wanted to talk about the album, Nabuma Rubberband, you released this year. You recently put out a track-by-track commentary. Why did you do that?
Yeah...Why did we do that? That is a good question... I think it was because somebody from the label suggested it. And we were like, 'Yeah sure!' Although the music does speak for itself but yeah why not. I remember that day it felt... It's hard to talk about the music that you make because there wasn't any analytical part of your brain making it. But there you are trying to describe it with your words and of course it starts to feel strange. It kind of takes the mystery out of it, you want the listener to feel however they want about it.
I also wanted to about ask about a few of the tracks. With Underbart it was described as about a man driving off a bridge and his sense of elation in his final moments. And Only One was described as being about a man on death row. Which seems like really a dark subject matter. Can you expand on this?
When Yukimi got into writing the lyrics of this record she wanted to get out of the usual procedure where she can be very fast writing lyrics. She wanted to get into story-telling and she was really attracted to these dark stories. There is a beauty in them and they are, it seems like a very used word but epic. When you allow the darkness to be involved it becomes quite an epic story.
Were you in any way part of the songwriting process or was it just Yukimi?
No it was mainly Yukimi. I wish I was though.
And how was it creating the music around these epic stories?
We kind of make everything at the same time, one might an ambient soundscape or a beat and usually Yukimi hears the music, gets a feeling for it and turns it into a deeper story.
And the stories I mentioned before, are they reflective of anything in particular?
Some of them are from movies she saw, like Underbart is very much inspired by a documentary we saw about a Japanese man where he had a company that rented out fake relatives if you were getting married because your family in reality was quite disturbed. So you could get a brother and all these relatives to appear. It's quite far out. He wasn't a happy man who had this company, he didn't even tell people about it so that's how that story came about.
With the writing of the album you constructed your own studio and most importantly you created your own rooms instead one shared space. How was that?
We did it because the studio we had was only two rooms; the production room and recording space. So we basically ended up sitting on each other's laps. And the space on the next floor was bigger so we took it and re-purposed so we had our own room to blast music and feel it. I think it's been for the good because we get our own space.
You talked about having your own world. How do you feel that impacted the album?
It's the way we always made albums actually. We always had our own little worlds and we eventually opened it up to the others who added to it. That's always the way we made music.
And something I also wanted to talk about was that Yukimi stated you turned down offers to have other artists collaborate with you. She said that was because you wanted to learn about yourselves writing-wise. Could you expand upon this?
It's always very flattering when someone reaches out to us to collaborate but for us it's a very honest thing. Maybe we're slow but we feel like it takes time to build a relationship where you can honest and not have to be polite, 'Oh yeah, that's okay...' But in reality you're not super excited about it. Especially with us being solo writers we want to let ourselves bloom. Rather than doing the obvious, collaborating all the time.
So you're saying that it could be difficult to collaborate with people because it's hard to at times to honest about a song.
(laughter) Yeah, exactly! Of course over time it is something that can be developed by using an honest way of talking but at that particular moment I don't think we were particuarly ready for it.
I read in an interview with Yukimi that once the recording process was over she didn't listen to the tracks again. Is this the same with you Erik?
Yeah! We kind of let it rest and by the time we've finished up the record you're kind of getting tired of it. So it's nice to let it rest and destroy them when you play it live. Let them evolve in a live format into something else.
And to wrap up you guys are coming down to Laneway in 2015, is this something you're looking forward to?
Yeah! Definitely. I've only heard about the lineup but there seem to be a lot of nice bands that I want to check out. And with the Laneway festival you get a chance to hang out with them, as well as seeing them everyday.
Anyone in particular you want to see?
Yeeeah. I want to see Caribou, FKA Twigs and Lykke Li. I also want to discover all the bands I don't know!
I definitely agree! Well thanks for chatting with me Erik, best of luck when you come down here to play.
Follow Little Dragon: FACEBOOK