Who Are…Little Dragon
Gothenburg four-piece Little Dragon weave visceral, yearning synth-pop elegies that echo 1980s UK electro-pioneers such as Human League and Japan while simultaneously sounding utterly of the moment. Beneath their deceptively languid surfaces lurk poise, poetry and passion.
Fronted by the distinctly photogenic Yukimi Nagano, who was born in Sweden to an American mother and Japanese father, the quartet met in high school and began making music when the other three were not teasing Nagano. “They used to call me Little Dragon as a nickname,” she explains. “I didn't like it much but, oddly, as a band name, I love it.”
Their eponymous 2007 debut album referenced both electro-pop and R&B/soul sirens such as Aaliyah and Rihanna, but follow-up Machine Dreams sees them ditch the disco in favour of a haunting strain of spectral synth-pop that unfolds with an easy, narcoleptic grace. So what do these electric dreams mean? Yukimi took some time out to tell us.
On musical influences:
As a teenager, I was kind of a goth girl listening to Depeche Mode but I also, in secret from my friends, listened to a lot of music that wasn't goth, like Prince. Making this album, we used a lot of cheap half-analogue synthesizers from the 1980s. We all love that sound so it was a very natural process in the studio, but then when we heard the album back, we thought, “Is this too much like an '80s sound?” But the dream element is also very important to us. We all love music that has a dreamy sound.
On being at school with her band-mates:
Who was the best student in school? It is hard to say because the rest of the band are all two years older than me. Art was my favourite subject, and I would have to say that Math was my least favourite. I just found it really boring and could never be bothered to do my homework. What is 23 x 6? Oh, please don't ask me — I will have to get my computer out!
On Japanese art and music:
Aesthetically, I'm much more inspired by Japanese art than I am by Japanese music. Yellow Magic Orchestra is a big favourite for me, but otherwise I'm not really into Japanese bands. Art is a different question. The artist who designed the cover for the new album, Hideyuki Katsumata, is Japanese and I love how his work feels very traditional, but still psychedelic. And my father designed the sleeve to our first album. I feel very proud of that.
On living in Gothenburg:
Gothenburg is the second biggest city in Sweden. It's industrial, more working class than Stockholm, and the people are just so much nicer and more laid-back. I travel so much with the band that I just love being home. It's so quiet and peaceful; it feels like time stands still here.
A lot of music comes out of Gothenburg. There is [alt-folk singer] José GonzÃ