Press releases are often the superlative, superfluous bane of any music hack’s daily ritual. Once you’ve cut through the hyperbole and era-defining embellishment, you’re often left with one lingering nugget of information: the celebrity fan. Often it’s laughable and tenuous (sorry PR types) but sometimes it’s laudable. Credible, even.
Little Dragon, unashamedly, have a few. After making ends meet working in cafes and as session musicians in their native Sweden and beyond, it’s been a slow burning rise to prominence. Their ‘Machine Dreams’ LP generated a healthy amount of plaudits in 2009 but it seems that only now are they really nudging over the precipice.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s drastically changed for us,” singer Yukimi Nagano starts, “it’s been gradual. It’s always a boost and motivation to hear that artists that you’ve been inspired by have been inspired by your music, but it wasn’t like Gorillaz or all the other artists contacted us at the same time. Everything happened one thing after the other. When you’re on the road as much as we are, it’s natural to get the chance to meet and work with artists you’re inspired by and that you admire but we’ve never been seeking it out.”
Others have been seeking them, though. David Sitek (of TVoTR fame), Big Boi and Damon Albarn were all enthralled by Little Dragon’s chameleonic music approach, and in a year that’s seen a mainstream upturn in the more experimental side of pop – take a bow School Of Seven Bells, Rainbow Arabia, Glasser – the shifting backdrops, playful transitions and Yukimi’s dynamic vocal similarly, quickly take root.
They’re a band destined for hybrid, bastardised genres to be desperately coined in their honour; to be shoved and shoe-horned; compartmentalised for context. It’s something they’ve managed to constructively avoid for most of their career, dancing around labels of electro jazz or dream pop, and it’s a lack of definition that Yukimi takes some pride in.
“We’ve been ourselves and haven’t been compromising our music and I think there was a point earlier in our career that our music was too experimental but we’ve kept doing what we did when we started and it’s a good feeling to hear people are catching onto it without having to transform yourself to fit an environment that’s more accepted or accessible. We want to make music that feels somehow different and I think it’s a compliment, for sure.”
“When we’re in the studio it’s never really about challenging the listeners,” she continues. “I don’t think we even think that far ahead. It’s more about challenging ourselves and each other and it’s more about our dynamic as a group. It might be that two of us go to the studio and start playing something and one of us says they don’t like it – that’s enough to hurt us right there, but we play it out and go on from it.”
It’s the first indication that behind the subtle arrangements [supplied by bandmates Erik Bodin, Fredrik Källgren Wallin and Hâkan Wirenstrand] and Yukimi’s soft purr, there’s an unexpectedly uncompromising edge. Masked by a playful imagination, there’s a hard focus that isn’t fully belied in the music they make. It’s an indictment of an attitude steeled, and contented by, the opportunity to create. This time round, we should all be ready for Little Dragon’s life story.
“Usually when we’re in the studio, it’s impulsive. It’s just about inspiring yourself and being playful with it and that’s we did with ‘Ritual Union’ and pretty much what we’ve always done. The approach has always been the same – it’s about challenging yourself to do something. On tour you go to places, see things, meet people, and create this story in your head. I think it’s unconscious and it’s just life that you experience. You might not plan to remember or express those thoughts but in the studio, they just emerge in that way.” – Words by Reef Younis