While out in Austin, TX during the SXSW festivities, we had the chance to catch up with one of Sweden’s most sought-after musical exports, Little Dragon. The Gothenburg quartet is out and about to release their fourth studio album, Nabuma Rubberband and like any new project, new challenges lie ahead. Have a read through our conversation with this exceptional band and find out about SXSW and their inspirations (such as Janet Jackson) for their latest projet d’art.
What made you Nabuma Rubberband name for the title and how does it reflect your new material?
Yukimi Nagano: It’s an awesome name because it can mean so much although it doesn’t mean anything at all. It’s make it much more interesting that is why it feels so representative for our new record because we feel it can be a place, person, name, state of mind or dance. People can listen to our music with this term in mind and can attach their very own meaning to it.
What moods and vibes are prevalent on the album?
Erik Bodin: I feel the record is quite punchy and direct. We had a lot of time to make it, so in my ears it feels like it’s not half-done, but complete compared to our previous releases (laughs). Not to say that the other records were half-done or incomplete, but these were done under different circumstances with higher levels of stress attached to it. This can be sometimes a good thing or a bad thing. This time, it feels like we really had enough time to go into detail and have second thoughts about it as well, making sure everything’s in the right place. For instance, we now embrace that there are a lot of slow songs although we were contemplating to use more upbeat material at some point. So there comes a certain confidence with having sufficient time. It’s like cooking a steak — well done.
All albums should be described that way (laughs).
Erik: Yeah, it is not overcooked (laughs). Or in pasta terms, it’s “al dente.”
How do you think you have grown individually and as a group?
Fredrik: It’s a long journey for sure. Starting as teenagers that wanted to become something enormous, you have set big goals for yourself. There’s been a lot of struggle, which is still there but it’s taking new forms. There’s always a new challenge. Back in the days, we used to spend a lot of time in vans, sitting compact together and that was very good for us in terms of having a group therapy (laughs) but now, as things are going a bit more well, you start thinking about things like more comfort but there’s also a struggling in being in hotel by yourself somewhere in the world away from home — especially after having shared experiences like with your fellow bandmates. So there’s a lot of struggle in being in a band but it’s a beautiful journey overall. All in all, I am proud that we are still a band after all these years.
Hakan: I think, now that we are a bit older, we are a bit cooler and take certain things a lot easier. It is also a blessing that we have been able to interact with the fans and feel the good vibes and hear their stories.
Fredrik: For instance, SXSW. It makes a lot of sense for us to come to Austin since so many fans are here, but our SXSW experience has also changed a bit in relation to previous years. It’s definitely become more stressful and blurry (laughs). I’ve just cut out my SXSW wristband just to make sure that I can now take it a bit more easy for the rest of the day. But it is for the fans. They’re the main thing. People give you love for what you do and that’s a very big payback for any kind of challenge and stress.
One of the main influences on the album is Janet Jackson?
Yukimi: Yeah. Jane is one of the key inspirations for the new record.
Hakan: I listen to a lot of her early recordings. “Nasty” is one of my favorite songs. Also the one she did with Q-Tip, “Got ‘Til It’s Gone.” Yeah, she was one of the main inspirations for the record since she’s definitely had such an interesting careers — a lot of ups and downs.
Yukimi: “Tonight’s the Night” and “Anytime Anyplace.” She doesn’t oversing, she sings just enough actually.
Fredrik: I like that too actually (laughs).
Yukimi: Janet is essential, romantic and heavy at the same time. Phenomenal production.
Hakan: My favorite has to be “When I Think Of You” — a happy record which was produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. You have to mention them as well when talk about Janet’s music.
Yukimi: She has personality in her voice. It’s that Jackson vibe I guess (laughs.)
Although it’s technically a Michael Jackson song, I really like their collaboration “Scream.” The song and the video was just amazing.
Fredrik: Oh yeah, the video where she wears latex all the time?
Erik: Yeah. Like a science fiction movie. That was the jam for a while.
Yukimi: Yeah, that one got played a lot.
Fredrik: She has this out-of-this world vibe to her, like she’s from outer space. Quite eccentric. I dig it (laughs).
What would you tell if you would meet her in person?
Hakan: Do you have Instagram? (laughs)
Yukimi: Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to meet the artists that I like to meet them in person. I’d rather keep the relationship with their music.
Erik: Yeah, it’s weird. It goes with any kind of idol you have. You think you know them but you don’t know them at all. You just create your own little image of that person. It’s usually a one-way communication in some sorts.
Yukimi: I must say I like to maintain that kind of mystery — especially with those kind of iconic artists. Like Madonna for instance, it really is not important what she had for breakfast. We appreciate her fully regardless for her art and what she has done as an icon and what she represents.
Hakan: It feels lonely to be an icon. There’s something very sad about it. It’s lonely at the top.
What made you guys decide to use a zombie theme for the “Klapp Klapp” video and do you guys have a favorite zombie movie?
Erik: I think it was more so the director’s (editors: Taylor Cohen) choice to choose the zombie, he had free creative hands with that, but it turned out well.
Yukimi: I think it was one of those situations where we had so much going on with the record and we loved his previous work so we just kind of gave him free hands to do whatever he wanted to do with that track and so, it’s very much his vision behind the video.
Fredrik: For me, I can’t really take the zombie thing too seriously and my first reaction is always to laugh at it because it feels so … I don’t really know how to get away with a realistic zombie look. Every zombie looks to me like an actual person would if they were a person dressed as a zombie, it’s more like a masquerade thing for me.
Erik: Actually I realized I know one zombie movie, it’s called Zombieland with Bill Murray – it was pretty good.
What’s on your playlist right now?
Yumimo: Popcaan’s “Everything is Nice.”
Fredrik: We listen to a lot of demos that people put up on YouTube and that’s great, some really good stuff out there. That’s where we found one really nice modular synth song that was really beautiful actually. I feel like my playlists are so boring because it’s so seldom that I do playlists, so they’re constant forever and they stay the same, like I have one [17:25 - ???] playlist but it’s a nice playlist, I really like it it’s from the early ‘90s and it has a particular drum machine sound. I don’t know the name of the drum machine sound but I like it, I like that kind of Carribean/Electro sound.
One of the most notable collaborations you guys have done is with Big Boi, but others, like The Internet, have also done remixes of your stuff – tell us about interacting and collaborating with people and sharing ideas like that. Are there any dream collaborations that you guys would hope to obtain in the next several years?
LD: No real dream collaborations at the moment but I think we’re still trying to collaborate with each other as much as we can in the studio and keep growing in that sense and being on top of writing our own music. When that moment happens and you meet another artist that you feel inspired by, and kind of share something then, we’re open to it but it’s not something that we’re seeking out to do.
Erik: Sometimes its nice, like with The Internet for example, where we never really talked to them and its just somebody messing around with what we did and I kind of like that. There can always be a little bit of [20:45 - ???politeness] when you actually meet the people and it takes time to grow a deep music relationship, it’s one thing when it just clicks and you just work but to produce music and to be honest and straight forward with what you think but at the same time not kill the creativity – it’s a thin line.
Yukimi: I think sometimes people collaborate almost as business plans or as marketing plans, like with some remixes its like so-and-so is doing so-and-so, and I think it’s important that it feels genuine and I feel like at this point it feels genuine. We would rather make our own song that has our kind of stamp on it than do something just for the sake of a name, but if the vibe is there we’re open.
Yukimi: It’s like this guy who made a remix of a collab we did with Shadow called “Scale it Back,” and some guy who – if there really is a will to do something, you don’t have to go through managers you just take it – and he really did that, he just took the vocals and built something new and I was blown away. I forgot his name but it’s on The YouTube. But I like that, it felt like it was made under complete no-unnecessary respect and no sentiment, just feel free to do whatever you do.
Is there any news you guys can share with us for 2014?
Yukimi: There’s an album coming out on May 13, and festivals and shows and tours, that’s about it right now. Oh, and Erik is pregnant.
What are you going to name the child?
Erik: Lion. It’s a girl. We genetically modified a mouse and turned it in to a love baby named Lion. Yeah, I might buy a cat.
Interview: Elijah Watson
Photography: Santiago Arbelaez/HYPETRAK