August 2024


Little DragonLittle DragonLittle DragonLittle DragonLittle DragonText: Digby Woods

Here’s a bit of trivia: the oxymoronic Little Dragon took their name from the frustrated in-studio tantrums of lead singer Yukimi Nagano. Thankfully for the other band members, that fire is no longer spewing forth at random but has been creatively channeled into the likes of Ritual Union, Little Dragon’s third, and arguably most eclectic, album.

Although difficult to categorise, their sound is instantly recognisable, drawing deep upon familiar concepts such as love, heartache, renewal and uncertainty. Having earned fans in Gorillaz and Erykah Badu, Little Dragon are set to burn the stage down at this year’s Parklife festival. In anticipation of this, Digby Woods talked with Yukimi about songwriting, recording on the road, Toro Y Moi and Star Wars.

Digby Woods: When asked about the songwriting process, many bands say that they simply get together and make music. How does Little Dragon go about this initial creative process?

Yukimi Nagano: Well, we pretty much do what you described. If you want to simplify it, it is pretty much just getting together and trying stuff and experimenting to see what we can come up with and to try to stay inspired, make sounds and songs that we feel excited about. As passionate as we are about making music, I think the reason we got addicted to it was that we just wanted to have fun and I think that’s still what we want to keep when we write today.

DW: Is there a specific place where you prefer to make music, that is more comfortable, or can you do it anywhere?

YN: I think that we could do it anywhere but we’ve recorded the first, second and now with Ritual Union, the third album, all in our studio in Gothenburg. That’s kind of our space, our security. We can get a little bit lost. We have a huge kitchen, we make food, we hang out, we rehearse there, we record everything there, we used to live there at one point, and it has our history in it. I’m not saying that we couldn’t do it anywhere else, but I definitely feel that it’s good to be in a comfortable zone where you can try stuff and not feel like, “Oh my god, it’s costing me this much to be here,” or, “I don’t want to record something that’s weird because maybe someone is listening who’ll think that’s stupid,” you know? You want to feel completely relaxed.

DW: What is it like for you to record while touring?

YN: We can come up with ideas on the road but I think we still want to record them properly at home in our studio. It feels a bit limited on the road. I feel like 50% of the time I record vocals on the road I want to redo them when I get home. But definitely when you instantly want to write something down when you feel inspired, that’ll happen and we’ll record then for sure.

DW: What kind of equipment/programs do you use in the production process and how has this changed over subsequent albums? Have you upgraded over time, or stayed with more or less the same instruments etcetera that you were first using?

YN: This is definitely a question that one of the guys should answer and not me (laughing), because they each have their own individual set-ups. It’s basically one room with three computers and a bunch of synths and a bunch of junk everywhere, and the ideas come up from the individual corners and by the end of it everyone has added their piece and it’s a song that we’ve made together, but it starts out from one person pretty much.

DW: When creating a song, do you wrap your vocals more around an idea one of the others has come up with, whether Erik or Fredrik or Hakan, or is it vice versa, do they build off you?

YN: It’s definitely the beat first. Generally it’s always a bass line and drums first, and then the melodies and lyrics come afterwards.

DW: Is there anything past or present that you’ve especially had fun experimenting with while songwriting?

YN: I think the process has always been the same but we’re always looking for a new sound, like this new album is based very much on live drums, it has more of an organic sound to it, maybe a bit more minimal. I think Machine Dreams has a lot of layers and a lot of soundscapes and is sort of thicker in the sound, whereas the production on Ritual Union, our most recent album, is more minimal, more resolved.

DW: If you could score any movie, past, present or future, what would it be and how would you do it?

YN: Probably Star Wars. I’m kind of a Star Wars fan. Fredrik has a sophisticated film taste whereas I don’t really watch that much film. I really like A Serious Man, the Cohen Brothers film. I love the Cohen Brothers, I thought A Serious Man was great, but I especially like their early stuff. I thought Fargo was great. They have kind of a weird feeling in them, an atmosphere that feels very realistic but also kind of like a nightmare at the same time.

DW: Are there any artists you’ve been listening to lately that you’re particularly taken with?

YN: I really like Ariel Pink, The Dreams, Nite Jewel. I haven’t listened to Toro Y Moi’s new album yet but I heard some songs from before so I’m really excited to pick that up.

Little Dragon

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