Eclectic Swedish electropop band Little Dragon – Yukimi Nagano (vocals, percussion), Erik Bodin (drums), Fredrik Källgren Wallin (bass) and Håkan Wirenstrand (keyboards) – has been around the block for almost 20 years since their high school days, and in that time they have collaborated with Gorillaz, travelled the world, and become closer than ever before. Their latest album Nabuma Rubberband has been touted by many as their best to date, combining “Janet Jackson-style slow jams” with their signature bouncy synth-based tunes. Consequently, even more doors than before are starting to open for this Gothenburg quartet. JUICE talks to groovemaster Erik Bodin about the album, the secret to a peaceful band, and working out ways to collaborate with Jimi Hendrix (no, not really).
We know you’ve just released Nabuma Rubberband, but we’ve heard that you’ve already started work on your next album! What can you tell us about it?
Yeah, we’re always ahead of ourselves. I think before we actually finished the album, we already started on something else, you know? We kinda work that way. We always do ideas, and sketches, and demos, and we’re all over the place all the time.
That’s always good to hear. It’s amazing to see bands evolve, and Nabuma Rubberband was a shift off your previous direction. What can you tell us about the basis behind it?
We tried to make people get sucked in and absorbed into the music, and sounds and lyrics, and just get to lose sense of time, just enjoy. I think it’s up to the listeners to interpret what we’re trying to say. It’s just a sign of how we are, we always change and get tired and want to do something else. I think we allowed ourselves, with Nabuma, to get into that slow, mellow thing. So, next time maybe we’ll do something upbeat, or maybe more mellow and ambient. Basically we always want to do something different to ourselves.
This band has been together for quite a long time whereas tonnes of other bands have formed and broken up within that same period. What keeps you guys together?
One very simple thing is that we split all the money – there’s not a person that gets more than anyone else. We’re just as broke or just as rich as each other, which makes it very easy and balanced. And then, also, we’re very good friends, we’ve known each other since high school. We started touring in 2005, we’ve been in and out of different crises, and we’ve always been there for each other in one way or another, and I think as long as we feel that everyone is represented as much as possible, and everyone is respected, we’ll be fine. I think it’s very easy sometimes to have a mastermind – to have one person who writes all the songs and makes all the money, but still that person needs a band. And eventually people get fed up and don’t want to be a part of that.
A few years ago, you guys worked with Damon Albarn on Plastic Beach. How did that come about?
I think it was his wife who listened to Little Dragon over and over in the background and after a year or whatever, he asked, “Hey, what is that?” and she said, “Oh, it’s Little Dragon,” and he said, “I really like it! I should contact them and do something.” And so he did and we went there and you know, just played, had fun, had some ideas. It was a really nice experience.
Speaking of which, is there anyone else that you’d like to collaborate with?
Yes. Always. Jimi Hendrix. But we haven’t figured out how (laughs). But besides that, we’re open, but we feel like we’re already collaborating within our little group, so we don’t really think about collaborating. But if it happens, it happens!
Do you guys work on anything on the side when you’re not recording or on tour together?
Mmm… no, not musically. Maybe I’ll go and play some drums with my uncle, which I always did in a little bar somewhere. Håkan [Wirenstrand] has this really nice little house, and he’s into making it kinda sustainable – we all have our different hobbies outside of music that makes us happy. Yukimi [Nagano] dances a lot – we’re having like a little dance collective in the basement of the studio where she hangs out with a lot of talents and dancers. It’s pretty good! (Laughs)
We’ve seen a huge group of Swedish artistes broke through in the past few years to the world stage. How is the music scene like in Sweden, really?
First of all, the music scene in Sweden where they sing Swedish is a very big open thing. It’s all kinds of music – hip hop, soul, reggae, pop, rock, punk – it’s all kinds of things. It’s huge, diverse, and innovative, and there’s a huge interest. People really love music, and since everybody has been doing this for a long time, it’s not very rare to be in a band, and it’s been like that for many years and generations. So it’s always been alive. People might work and stuff, but I think when you realise that if you sing in English, you can get outside of Sweden, which is very nice also. I wouldn’t say that there’s anything different in the Swedish music scene, because I always hear bands that I think are from America, but it turns out they’re from Sweden, so I don’t know.
Little Dragon will be performing at Laneway Festival Singapore ’15 on Saturday 24 January ’15.