Music & clubs

Little Dragon: Cut-ups

INTERVIEW. Gothenburg, Sweden is better known for its twee and pensive singer-songwriters. One wouldn’t expect it to also host the lair of a Little Dragon. Hear them roar at Astra (Dec 8) as they show the world their new album Nabuma Rubberband.

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Photo by Michal Andrysiak

Gothenburg, Sweden is better known for its twee and pensive singer-songwriters. One wouldn’t expect it to also host the lair of a Little Dragon.

But for the better part of a decade, the off-kilter dance-pop consortium, consisting of singer Yukimi Nagano, bassist Fredrik Källgren Wallin, drummer Erik Bodin and keyboardist Håkan Wirenstrand, have been climbing into public consciousness, with a boost from Grey’s Anatomy, Outkast’s Big Boi and, notably, Damon Albarn, who anointed them honorary Gorillaz. They take down the tempo a bit on Nabuma Rubberband (Because Music), their latest; you’ll hear that slow roar Monday, December 8 at Astra.

You had cut back on touring.

ERIK BODEN: We had a long period where we didn’t do any shows, so you kind of lose your identity, somehow. We actually managed to, for the second time in the history of Little Dragon, forget somebody at customs. It’s not fun.

FREDRIK KÄLLGREN: It’s easily done, I guess.

EB: It’s easily done but nerve-racking for the person that’s left behind, I suppose.

FK: You’re in the bus, and then maybe in the middle of the night or in the morning everyone has to go out to show their passports, then everyone needs to go back to the bus. And that’s when. Maybe you are a bit stressed.

YUKIMI NAGANO: It’s like four in the morning, usually, when we go through customs.

FK: I went off for a wee, and when I went out from the toilet [laughs], I saw the bus driving away in the distance. I freaked out – I didn’t have my phone but I had my passport.

When did they notice that you were gone?

YN: Like, two and a half hours later.

FK: Yeah, one and a half, actually. But then it took 1.5 hours to drive back.

EB: I mean, you still have the Gmail correspondence with the American Homeland Security guys…

FK: They were great.

EB: You sent Christmas cards – you got under their skin eventually, and even became friends a little bit.

FK: Yeah, there was one lady helping me.

Are you guys happy with how the album has been received?

FK: Yeah, it feels like we’re on the verge of something.

EB: To be brilliant! [Laughs]

FK: To be brilliant!

YN: No, on the verge of success. We’re just on the verge.

EB: We’re constantly not quite there yet.

FK: No…

YN: OK. We usually make fun because someone wrote that in an article.

EB: Is that what you were rephrasing?

YN: No, it does feel good actually, but, I mean, it’s weird. You know, it’s been quite gradual but I feel like it all depends on who you’re compared to. We want to do this kind of uncompromised and as solid as we can. I mean, for this record we wrote all the songs and we produced them ourselves. But we gave away the stems and had someone else mix the record. So that’s kind of a mini-step in giving away your baby.

Are any of the lyrics based on a relationship?

YN: No, certainly. I mean, absolutely, I think it’s both personal but also fictional, and the fictional stuff is also personal somehow, if you know what I mean. It’s kind of inevitable for it to get in the mix, so yeah, some things are dreamy and fantasy and other things are real.

So, are you in a relationship?

YN: Yeah.

And you guys?

EB, FK, HW: We’re not. [Dour mumbling]

YN: We’re family right here.

What is this other parallel universe that appears throughout the album?

YN: I think it’s a kind of escapism, and if you really love music, it is a kind of natural high state. I like to kind of dream myself away and I think music really enhances that way of seeing life. You know, like, if you had a soundtrack right now everything you see would feel a little bit different and the memory would be different.

FK: Well put.

It’s like technology encouraging life. What are your thoughts on technology?

HAKAN WIRENSTRAND: Well, I like the mix of electronic sounds, synths and stuff being played by hand, you know, and sometimes it’s not perfectly in time and everything, but I think it sucks you into becoming interested even though you’re not really knowing why. Sometimes it’s kind of the dirt or all the mistakes and, uh, the human touch. There’s a lot of bands like that. Like Devo: super-strict machine kind of playing – wait a minute, there is actually a drummer there, really trying his best to be as machine as possible.

FK: I was out taking a walk, and there on the lawn was this grass clipper robot coming towards me and I stood and watched it. It’s funny.

It was a robot?

FK: It was a robot, a grass-cutting robot, and it was helping the lawn. That was crazy. All of a sudden there is a little dude, it felt like a little dude running around by himself or herself. I’ve been out on a lawnmower, you know, you sit on it and steer, and for me that was kind of like, a big step. Wow. [Laughs] But is it better? I don’t know, because I kind of enjoy cutting the lawn. It’s a dream for a lot of people. It’s definitely a dream. But I’m thinking maybe we’re going to get used to that, having more machines, which is scary.

EB: I think it’s funny how a lot of these things, you can start feeling like they have a personality, which is kind of scary. They don’t actually have a personality – it’s all just programmed – but sometimes it’s like, “Whoa, why are you doing this to me?” And you get angry at some computer.

FK: A lot of people kind of get angry on the computer.

YN: Or when you’re buying groceries and you don’t pay for your groceries anymore to a person. You buy them at the machine. Technology is good. Technology is destroying us. It’s very grey.

FK: It’s very interesting, though, because we’re probably going to get to that stage where we get more relationships with computers.

EB: I had a phone with Siri on it. I won’t name the brand or anything, but I started talking to Siri there for a while, actually. I was like, “Siri, can you put on the alarm for me?” They just start talking to you. I’m like. “Please end this conversation,” and she wants me to talk more and I noticed I was laying there talking to Siri.

FK: One thing that I’ve been thinking about with technology is this phenomenon of the singularity that you talk about, because you know the artificial intelligence that is getting more intelligent, and they say at one point it will be more intelligent than humans and we will become useless. But my question is: what drives this technology? Because it doesn’t have a body, it doesn’t have urges and drives and loneliness and hungriness, you know? But in a way we are machines, as well. What is driving us? Basic needs and complex thoughts! And food.

EB: I think it just wants to be updated! [all laugh]

They’re trained to be modelled after us.

FK: It’s going to be random and kind of start being self-contained.

HW: For me, it will be so smart it will kill itself.

There have been thousands of movies about this subject.

HW: Yeah, let’s watch some.

Little Dragon w/ NAO Mon, Dec 8, 20:00 |Astra, Revaler Str. 99, Friedrichshain, S+UBhf Warschauer Str.