When we launched our Aesthetic fashion feature at the beginning of 2014, Yukimi Nagano was among the first names that sprung to mind. With the concept of exploring the relationship between music, background and personal style, we set out to feature artists for whom sound and image felt synonymous. And as Yukimi rose to the occasion for this ambitious, colour-saturated shoot, we knew we’d found our perfect fit.
With studiously crafted, crystalline electronic textures and infectious hooks, Little Dragon’s playful synth-pop has won them mainstream recognition without compromising their credibility. And while it feels like the band were always destined for the big stage, their backstory has a distinctly bohemian feel, with the longtime friends creating their sound in a kitschy live-in studio in their home city of Gothenburg.
Having grown up as part of Little Dragon – they formed in 1996 when she was just 14 – Yukimi’s individual identity has always been defined by a cross-section of music, art and performance, even since childhood. “I was in awe of people like Prince and Kate Bush, people who didn’t care,” she remembers fondly in a rare moment of calm between frantic costume changes. “I would take my mom’s clothes and get dressed up and play in my own world, and it’s kind of like doing that now as a grown-up but on stage. It’s really fun being an artist, it means you get to be a kid for the rest of your life, hopefully!”
As with any teenager grappling to find their place in the world, there was a degree of trial and error. “I had my gothic moment when I was like 13 or 14” Yukimi laughs. “It was kind of short-lived, but me and my friends listened to Depeche Mode and dressed up and experimented like crazy with make-up. We put purple lipstick around our eyes and stuff like that. My poor dad, when we go through family photos I skip that year.”
On latest album Nabuma Rubberband, Yukimi’s velveteen voice glides across phased-out, contemporary RnB sounds. It sees the band experiment while maintaining that irresistible sugary feel, and Nagano’s lucid eccentricity is a visual representation of Little Dragon’s soft glamour. It’s proof that even after 18 years, the band’s adventurous spirit shows no signs of plateauing. Motion is decidedly, determinedly forward, and it’s reflected in Yukimi’s approach to style. “My style has evolved from travelling and doing shoots and seeing how people dress around the world” she summarises. Like all off-kilter cultural icons, Nagano values “individualism, being yourself” above all else. “The best shows are when you feel as free as possible and when you don’t care about what anyone thinks. You can pull people into your world and hopefully make them feel the same way.” Article.
Creative direction an styling by Charlotte James. Photography by Tom Andrew. Crack TV.
Yukimi Nagano speaks about song lyrics for “Nabuma Rubberband” with DECODED.
Yukimi and Erik of Little Dragon go shopping at Amoeba Music in Hollywood.
“When you put some of Janet’s really slow stuff on you feel like you’re floating. That feeling really influenced me and maybe that’s why there are quite a lot of slow jams on the record. In the past we’ve been a bit self-conscious about making slow jams after ‘Twice.’ Then we wanted to make dance music which we did with Machine Dreams and then Ritual Union still had a dance vibe, but with this album it wasn’t about that. The intention was about whatever we felt strongly about. I think when we started, we had no vision whatsoever. We just wanted to make the ball start rolling and just brainstorm ideas and see what comes up and then make plans thereafter. I think a lot of visions came through. Our sound is wide – it’s not just one particular style – so we dove into different worlds. New worlds, new spaces we haven’t been to before. There definitely are elements of sonically romantic tracks. It feels like there are different moods and we’re exploring ourselves a bit.” Source.
Here are two beautiful photographs of Yukimi Nagano by Debi Del Grande.
Thanks to Emily Zemler of Rolling Stone we know the following:
- Little Dragon will release their fourth record during the spring of 2014
- A handful of tracks feature members of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchesta
- They will begin extensive touring during the spring
- A short film may be in the works
Here are a few chosen quotes:
- “I think when we started we had no vision whatsoever,” singer Yukimi Nagano said. “We just wanted to make the ball start rolling and just brainstorm ideas and see what comes up and then make plans thereafter. I think a lot of visions came through. Our sound is wide – it’s not just one particular style – so we dove into different worlds. New worlds, new spaces we haven’t been to before. There definitely are elements of sonically romantic tracks. It feels like there are different moods and we’re exploring ourselves a bit.”
- “It’s nice to see your music reflected on another musician [members of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra],” drummer Erik Bodin said. “Especially when they come from the outside and you can see how they interpret it. It’s an honor.”
- “It seemed interesting to let go,” bassist Fredrik Källgren Wallin said. “We’ve never really had the opportunity before.”
- “In the past there’s no way we had a budget to do that,” Nagnao said. “There’s always been a compromise somewhere. We’re happy with our mixes – all the guys are really diving in and honing their own mixing skills – but there are those people out there who only do this.”
- “It’s going to be amazing for us, and hopefully for others,” Bodin said. “We’ve been – not tired of ourselves, but we really needed to make new music to energize the whole band. We toured for a while. This is our life and these are my closest people, and we spend so much time together, so giving us some new songs pushes us to the next step. It fertilizes us.”