One of Sweden’s most popular exports of the past decade has been the electronic band, Little Dragon. The trip-hop quartet’s popularity has continued to grow, ever since the release of their eponymous début album, back in 2007.
This month sees them on tour in the UK promoting their latest studio record, Nabuma Rubberband.
Fronted by Yukimi Nagano, this LP has provided the band with its first UK Top 20 record.
Little Dragon is well known for being a little unorthodox. The title of their latest offering is testimony to this. Speaking to Nagano ahead of their show at Leeds Beckett University, she elaborated on why they decided to give this title to the album.
“We ended up on one of the songs, which was basically a working title, that we just kept because we loved it. I guess some working titles just sort of happen with your subconscious just thinking of something at the moment because you need a title for a song.
“Nabuma was a girl that I had met when we lived in Uganda years and years ago,” she explains.
“I was singing ‘rubberband’ in the chorus, and the song became Rubberband. As we were thinking of titles, it just felt like an odd, beautiful combination of words that people hadn’t said, and since our other options were a bunch of new-age names, which already tons of bands have had as album titles before, we just decided to call it something that would kind of be like a blank plate. This is something people haven’t said. It could mean anything.”
Since 2007, Little Dragon have released four albums, the last one being 2011’s Ritual Union. Nagano says that the three year gap was a result of extensive touring and a need to regroup to write new material.
“On this record, we’d just been touring so much, we got to the point where we really felt like we’d almost had too much of a break from the writing.
“We were really longing for it and also just longing to be home and not constantly being on the road, so we took a proper year off just to write. It was not so much thinking about the album as a concept or anything, just more thinking almost like this is something that we really want to do – we just want to write and make music, aimlessly.”
Does she listen to a lot of music in her spare time to find inspiration? “I do, periodically, a lot. I guess on the road, not as much, but when I’m home I listen to a lot of electronic music and house music, and remixes – stuff like that. We all have our own tastes, so we listen to different kinds of stuff. Everyone’s really open-minded and likes all kinds of different music. We always try to share it with each other.”
Little Dragon are a great example of a band that have progressed at a 45-degree angle. Now, their mainstream popularity is bigger than it has ever been.
Nagano says that she and the boys in the band have definitely started to see a growth in their fan base.
“We just did this tour this summer, where we started in Japan. We hadn’t been to Japan since our first record, and that totally felt like going back in time and starting from scratch. You get treated a different way.
“It totally depends on where we are, but sometimes you get a slap in the face reminder of ‘oh yeah, we haven’t toured there!’. We can definitely feel that it’s grown. I think if you just keep making music and go back to places, it might not be a big step every time, but you can definitely feel the growth.”
Nagano confesses that, although she and her bandmates do enjoy touring, it can sometimes put a strain on relationships.
“If you’re a little bit unsure about someone, and then you’re suddenly on the road, then you find out pretty fast,” she laughs. “It’s not like you can just hang out and then pour a cup of coffee, and then part and do your thing. You are definitely, constantly, in each other’s face.”
For Little Dragon, critics are not an obstacle. They make the music they want, wear what they want, and play what they want.
However, Nagano says, sometimes, that’s easier said than done.
“Sometimes it bothers me. Like, we had a fantastic show in Gothenburg – our city. Honestly, I feel like I know when we have a bad show. It happens. But it was the best show we’ve had in our home town in ages. I just felt euphoric and so happy afterwards, and we got an absolutely horrible review, and that really bothered me. I think we have this attitude like ‘don’t think you are something’.”
November 21, Leeds Beckett University Students’ Union, 6.30pm, £19.50, http://www.gigsandtours.com/event/little-dragon/leeds-beckett-students-union/789453