Interview: Clash Music speak to Erik Bodin of Little Dragon

How many gigs have you been to in an abandoned fortress? From 6th-9th September Dimensions festival in Croatia will be bouncing bass-heavy beats off the walls of Punta Christo – an eighteenth century citadel. It’s a bit like having piss-up on a National Heritage site, only the dilapidated remains and overgrown walls add a secret rave feel. “It looks awesome,” says Erik Bodin of Little Dragon while in Buenos Aires on a South American tour. “It looks like one of those places that come with a special vibe you can’t take away. I’m very excited about going there.”

They’ll be playing their part in a line-up which collects the best underground electronic acts from around the world and brings them together. Already announced are Carl Craig, Mount Kimbie, Moodymann, and lots more. As one of the only live acts, Eric is relishing the opportunity to bring something different to the festival: “We love house music as much as everyone else but it’s nice to be that odd bird who does something different,” he says excitedly. What are ticket holders in for when they see Little Dragon take to the stage? “They can expect an up-tempo explosion – home made, organic, wholesome, free-range – a big dance omelette!”

The Swedish group’s repertoire has grown increasingly electronic as things have escalated, a change instigated by crowd reaction. “The first album – we were told to put it out basically or there wouldn’t be a deal. I guess we were naïve. We thought we would work more on it. So the first album was a little more chilled out I would say, but then playing live you realise you can’t just be chilled out all the time, people want to party, we want to party. We got tired of ourselves so we decided to step it up for the next album and after that we decided to step it up even more, so maybe we will end up playing some super-fast smurf techno by the end… I don’t know.

“Dance is the most natural reaction to music. We really like those hippy philosophies of getting into one unity and going into a trance. The brain doesn’t have to think as much, you get a good work-out, and you might see some pretty girls too… If you’re single that is.”

The show will be a visual performance as well as having an electronic feel: “We do everything live. We try to always keep things fresh and have an element of fear within the performance and ourselves. It’s good to not always know what’s going to happen,” he explains. Things have been quickly building for the group and their position on the bill at Dimensions reflects this. “We’ve always strived for this. It’s been an amazing journey. We’ve worked really hard so I’d be sad if it wasn’t there but I’m still surprised by it every time I go onstage. We’ve been doing it for such a long time now that it’s part of our lives. We’re constantly on that daily euphoric routine. We’re always searching for that euphoria so it’s hard to think about anything else but when I look at this whole thing from the outside it’s incredible.”

The journey to becoming a world-renowned dance band has been immense, and not without its peaks. “When we collaborated with Gorillaz it definitely felt like things accelerated. It’s nice to see such big crowds knowing your lyrics and singing them back,” he says. Another undeniable step forward was the release of ‘Ritual Union’, an album which propelled them further into public consciousness. “Our idea was to make a very grainy, poppy record. It’s funny how you don’t think there’s a concept to it and then as you look back on it there seems like there was one all along although it wasn’t outspoken. When the track ‘Ritual Union’ came up we realised we has a concept to run with.”

Dimensions has a great sound-system for such an intimate location. Spaces being utilised include a dungeon, a ballroom, and a moat, plus there’ll be beach and boat parties in the daytime. Tickets start at £120. A range of accommodation is available from the traditional camping option to hiring a private villa. Source.

Review: Little Dragon live at the O2 Academy by Clash Music

Little Dragon are at an odd place right now. The success of ‘Ritual Union’ (the song), and Yukimi Nagano’s attention-grabbing – and brilliant – collaborations with Gorillaz and SBTRKT have earned them popularity, and a large crowd. But ‘Ritual Union’ (the album) still feels like a bit of a let-down; a sporadically pleasing, but undernourished follow up to 2008’s excellent ‘Machine Dreams’.

Spooky support comes in the form of Holy Other. He’s a mysterious one, Mr Other. You can tell that because a) no one outside of his inner circle (and, presumably, his mum) knows his real name, b) he’s signed to Tri-Angle – purveyor of all things witch housey, and c) he’s wearing a shroud over his head. Yes, a shroud. Unfortunately, given that his performance is basically him manipulating a sampler (in a shroud), it’s not the most visually exciting of performances. Doesn’t matter, it sounds pretty ace, all densely throbbing bass and half-formed female vocals. One track sounds like a house tune, slaughtered at the altar of Genesis P-Orridge. But, it’s so not suited to a half-empty Academy dance floor. This is music for smaller, more intimate, and preferably subterranean venues.

Little Dragon arrive shortly after, Yukimi dressed in what appears to be a pair of gold spandex tights and a PVC kimono. “It’s great to be back!” she says. What, in the Bristol Academy? Really? Well, OK…

They certainly sound like they mean it. ‘Looking Glass’ is a gentle way into the set. It’s quickly followed by ‘Ritual Union’ – the song you imagine a lot of the audience is here for. Little Dragon are a brave band playing their big hit so early in a set, but it works. The already packed floor is moving.

It’s not until ‘Brush The Heat’, though, that the tone of the show is set. A reasonably sedate, slightly forgettable song on CD is transformed here into an extended polyrhythmic jam. It’s a tactic that the band returns to four or five times during the night, with drummer Erik Bodin getting a solid workout. And it sounds fantastic. Music that previously felt polished, but sometimes a little cool and distant, is now fierce and alive. Tonight Little Dragon aren’t a cute indie-electro group – they’re an impressively tight dance act. ‘My Step’, already one of the band’s best tracks, sounds phenomenal and funky.

When they change pace, then, with ‘Test’ and ‘Crystalfilm’, it feels jarring. They’re wallpaper songs, too discreet and nice to stand out on such a raucous evening. But hey! There’s a man in the crowd here who looks eerily like Grant Morrison. A gorgeous, ethereal ‘Feather’ gets everyone moving again. Kudos to the wonderfully into it guy throwing extravagant Christian rock moves.

The night ends with ‘Twice’, the first song from the first album. Yukimi murmurs quietly over a gently ebbing piano loop. It’s atmospheric, but not sombre or overbearing. An appropriate end to a night that left this reviewer clear that while ‘Ritual Union’ may have left him cold, live Little Dragon are just fucking great. Source.

Yukimi Nagano talks to Clash Music

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