Exclusive Interview: Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano Offers Required listening for Swedish Psychedelia
The psychedelic pop sounds of Sweden's Little Dragon are a delectably danceable layer cake of juxtapositions. Far-out synths laid atop driving beats and basslines covered in the sweet iciness of Yuki Nagano's delicate voice. Their sound has gained momentum in Europe, and despite having no record label in the U.S., Little Dragon has culled a devout following in the States due to tours with TV on the Radio and constant radio rotation of cuts from their newest album, Machine Dreams. Tomorrow night, Little Dragon release their ethereal pop at El Rey Theater, but before then, enjoy West Coast Sound's Exclusive interview with Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano.
(MP3, interview and Nagano's 5 essential Swedish bands after the jump)
Q & A with Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano
West Coast Sound: Gothenburg is an industrial city, but it is home to many Swedish bands. Why do you think the city is such fertile ground for music?
I think people inspire each other and there are so many bands around. There is not a lot going on in our city, so starting a band and being creative is a good way to spend your time. Or you could always blame it on the long dark Swedish winters.
How would you describe the sound of your band, and how much does your sound reflect the other groups in Sweden right now?
It's electronic based with soul/synth/pop influences. I think even if it feels like we are in our own bubble we are still very influenced by the Swedish music scene. There is a lot of great electronic music in Sweden and of course pop music that inspires us. But we try to do something that we never heard before so hopefully it doesn't sound like what they're doing in the studio next door.
If your music could be the soundtrack for a movie, what would the movie be about and what would it look like?
Perhaps a sci-fi with a bit of mystery... psychic martians, their dreams, fears and love. It would be psychedelic with pompous nature scenes and gloomy old Swedish winter vibes.
Little Dragon does not have a label in the U.S., but has received quite a bit of air play. Our hometown station, KCRW has spun your songs pretty consistently. What led to your success? Do you think we are in a post-label era for bands? What advice do you have for bands looking to tour internationally?
KCRW has been such a big support for us. First show we did in the US was at the Roxy. We played there with no record out, no press, solely on the support from KCRW, it was a full house and we were a bit shocked. I think it proved the power of radio support. We have been back many times since.
Our tours are full of contrasts everything from the most rundown punk clubs to old theaters to proper venues. My advice would be to work hard and fight to get gigs and you will get better and better. Feels like the live part of the music industry is taking over.
You were last in L.A. for KCRW's Halloween party. Was this your first Halloween in the US, and what kind of surprises did you experience backstage?
Yep. It was our first experience and it was great! We were a bit dizzy from our masks though. Backstage was a lot of crazy costumes. We were excited about being on the bill with DJ Shadow who we are big fans of. Luckily we met at the hotel and hooked up for a lunch later in San Fransisco.
You've been touring for the last month, throughout the American south and the west. You also toured the US back in May with TV on the Radio. What were some of the most memorable moments on the road? Any horror stories?
Touring with TV on the Radio was so much fun! They are inspiring people and we keep in touch with Dave Sitek who is the sweetest person ever. Horror moments are when you have to drive for hours into the morning after a late show and then get up early and drive another six or so hours to get just in time for soundcheck and then directly have a show. But playing your music is a high, so you manage the horror.
Your father is Japanese, your mother is American, but you grew up in Sweden. What is the story behind your multicultural background and in what ways does it inform your music/lyrics?
My mother has Swedish roots from my grandfather's side and she lived in Sweden for 15 years my father moved to Sweden in the early 70's and still lives there. I was born in Gothenburg and I feel very Swedish but moving around in my childhood made me experience alot of contrasts in cultures. I think experiences from my past will often give me images for lyrical ideas. I like to mix up images in songs, a bit of the present a bit of the past a bit of a dream maybe.
How did you meet José González and have you worked on any collaborations with him?
Erik was playing with José as a percussionist for a year or so with Nicolaus Sparding from Love is All. Nicolaus started getting too busy with his band, I needed some money and jumped in for him. We wrote one song on his latest album In Our Nature together, and Erik put down a lot of percussion. We enjoy writing together so I'm sure we will do it more.
What are 5 Swedish musicians/bands that influenced your band, that you think American audiences would need to know about?
Bo Hansson- is one of the leading keyboard players during the 70´s. There are some great instrumental records that are worth checking out like ´Trollkarlens Hatt`
Ralph Lundsten- is one of the more far out synthplayers. He mostly hangs out in his pink wooden castle and creates very abstract things.
Peter Bjorn and John- are pretty popular over here I think. They have a good sense for melodies and rhythm that hits you in the heart.
Bosse Skoglund- he is one of the old times big session drummers. He came out with a record called Groovesopor. He plays all the instruments. Its very trancy and hippie-oriented I guess.
Then we have Curt & Sigge- Curt is the brother of Freds (our bassplayer) Grandfather. I don't know how you could find them other than steeling Erik or Freds Ipod but anyway. Curt plays the drums and sings, Sigge plays the Hammond and accordion. Together they are the suburbs north of Gothenburg´s cool cats, playing the Swedish love songs that make all the elder girls melt. At least in the Seventies.
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