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2nd December 2014

Interview: Little Dragon

Alyssa Vongapai talks to Little Dragon about collaborations, the meaning of life, and taking techno to a desert island

Swedish group Little Dragon are definitely not one of those one-hit wonder synth-pop bands. They’ve come back with Nabuma Rubberband, nearly three years since their breakthrough album Ritual Union. Not only do they possess the Swedish style, they have upped their ante with their new album by being more musically experimental and magical. It consists of rigid electronic beats, melted R&B and is anchored with addictive sweet vocals. Their band name came from their front woman’s nickname ‘Little Dragon’ because she had a little temper in her sometimes when recording.

I spoke to their humble and cool bassist, Fred, about their collaborations with big names such as SBTRKT, DJ Shadow and Gorillaz. Their collaboration with SBTRKT “was a happy coincidence.” He thinks “the outcome” is what makes a good collaboration and he feels that as a band they are continually collaborating with each other as individuals. I asked Fred if they could collaborate with anyone dead or alive, who it would be: “We might have said Jimi Hendrix previously, but I don’t know, it’s kind of tricky to collaborate, so maybe a producer, someone like Brian Eno, would be interesting.” Sweden tends to spout out great musicians, and Little Dragon are definitely counted amongst those. Fred explained that they are “still kind of underground in Sweden.”

There’s no doubt that Little Dragon are an integral part of the current dance culture, and they have been pushing its boundaries with an injection of slow burners. Fred has always had a passion for dance music; I asked him what kind of dance music he is into: “I am into dark techno. I like the current Berlin sound a lot… Neil Landstrumm… so many names—so hard to remember.”

Nabuma Rubberband has been inspired by “Janet Jackson slow jams,” that front woman Yukimi Nagon used to listen to whilst wandering around Gothenburg in the winter. I discussed with Fred what they wanted their next album to sound like: “I want it to sound really banging.” I asked him if he wanted it to sound more techno: “We’ve been thinking about making an EP or something with more dancey stuff, but we’ve never really conceptualised stuff before so it’s hard to see what kind of stuff comes out, maybe it can be a ballad album.” I jokingly suggested maybe doing a half-techno and half-ballad album. He laughed and said: “Maybe an 8-hour techno song, and 30 minutes ballad.” I asked him if he had any inspiration already for the future album: “You tend to pick up small things from different artists, when you travel, you just want to listen to music you can relax to like Brian Eno or something like jazz music, a bit of Miles Davis, great artists like Nils Frahm and Max Richter.”

I asked him one of the most annoying questions you can ask someone, but it’s interesting and makes you think hard! The question was: “What song would you bring with you if you were stuck in a desert island?” After a long and hard thought he said: “I’m going to be smart and bring something that can grow on me and be a record I can experience stuff with…” Whilst pondering he asked me what I would bring, I responded with Jon Hopkins—Immunity, which still feels like the album of the year for me. Fred has sick taste; he agreed that Jon Hopkins is sick and then decided that “maybe dance music would be good ‘cause it keeps up the spirit, I’m going to bring Shed.”

Little Dragon are in the midst of a string of sold out shows. “Sometimes if we have time we see some DJs—but we mainly do that when we have time off. You’re on a different spirit or mode when you are touring, and so you are in a working mode so it’s hard to let go and rave for hours, but sometimes we get to catch some good DJs. The last DJ they saw was Skrillex in a festival in Las Vegas: “He played after us, it’s not really my cup tea.” I could have guessed that someone that likes Shed wouldn’t really like Skrillex.

Finally I asked him what he thinks the meaning of life is, if there is one: “I would say to enjoy it to the fullest—that could mean so many different things.”

Little Dragon are definitely a band to watch out for. They will always excite us with their dreamy vocals, slow-burners and heart-pounding electronic beats.

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