Last week we were asked if we’d like to have a chat with Erik Bodin of Swedish electro-pop crew Little Dragon, to which we said “hell yeah we do!”
Erik confirmed Little Dragon will be back in Australia this coming August, and again in January 2015 – wonder what that trip will be for….?
Where are you and what are you wearing?
I am in old London town..of the UK, and I’m wearing my workout clothes…
Keeping in shape on tour?
Yeah! I’m heading to the gym. I’m wearing my shoes and my shorts, and I’m ready to go. Usually when I want to do something, I know that if I put on the clothes for it, I’m ready to go. And if I don’t put on the clothes, I’ll usually just go back to bed.
Well I’m glad we can squeeze in a chat, before your gym session. The new album Nabuma Rubberband is out next week, but before I ask you all about that – who or what is a ‘Na-boo-ma’? Am I saying that right?
Yeah that’s right – Nabuma is a woman, I think there’s many women in the world, especially in Uganda, called Nabuma. It’s not typical I guess, we have a friend called Nabooma, but in the sense of the album we were messing around with things. I had a little music sketch called Nabuma, and Yukimi (Nagano) wrote a song that was originally called ‘Rubberband,’ and from there it just happened that we ended up naming the album Nabuma Rubberband. Only later did we think hey, that’s a really strange name, so then we decided to name the girl on the album cover, Nabuma Rubberband.
So Nabuma is the character of the album?
Yeah, I mean she didn’t inspire the album, but she is the fruit of all the songs on the album.
Who did inspire you on this album – my instagram stalking shows a lot of Prince, Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson in your feed?
Yeah, especially Prince, he’s always been a big inspiration for us. Maybe a few songs are more directly Prince inspired than before, but Janet Jackson especially is someone that we started listening to a few years ago, we were going through a phase that we looked into her (huge) catalogue of songs and we found something really special with her that we really liked. The way she sings, for being an R’n’B singer is quite minimal really – rather than being airy she’s quite a sexy, sensual singer and sometimes she can also roar like a lion [chuckles]. It’s not like she’s across the whole album, but on a few bits you can find her in the background.
Were there any particular things going on in your lives that influenced the album and the tracks?
I think our songs have always been about a huge range of things, the way Yukimi writes songs is almost like having a rapper around – she hears a beat and starts singing or rhyming or whatever. But on this record we didn’t want to have any pressure of time, and I think she also took that on and really focussed on the lyrics – though at the same time she was still a little all over the place. I think there’s a lot of dark or melancholy themes on this album, that didn’t necessarily come from our lives, but just came from us being in the studio together and being creative. The studio gives you the opportunity to be free and surprise yourself, do things that you haven’t done before and evolve yourself.
So what was different about being in the studio this time and how did your sound evolve for this album?
Well we have our own studio, so we fooled around a lot just recording some drums or some bass – all those typical things you do in the studio when you spend time there day after day after day. But a few things changed, for instance we have strings on this album. We connected with some guys from the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, so that was really different – we had to write arrangements for some strings and had to get in touch with our note writing skills…it took a while but eventually we got it right. I think that’s one of the things that’s really different, also Dave (David Jude Jolicouer) from De La Soul has co-written a few of the songs. I think we have been less isolated and opened up a little bit getting help from various people with mixing and writing and so on..
So a bit more experimental on this album, but still no guitar?
Still no guitar! We don’t know how to play guitar, well that’s not true, Fred (Fredrik Källgren Wallin) knows how to play guitar. But I think the main problem is that we don’t have a guitar. I think if we did, it might be on the record..but it’s not like we ever sit and think ‘oh what’s missing… oh it’s a guitar.’ We’re very keyboard driven, so we’ll always turn on a synth and see if we can find something there first.
So today, we just had the video for ‘Paris’ come out here in Australia. There’s a lot of roadtripping in the Kombi, Yukimi dancing on hotel beds and countryside shenanigans – tell us a bit about making the video and working with director Trever Kane?
Yeah this felt like the first time we were actually in the video, because it was very directed, and it was a lot of fun! We were in Austin at SXSW and we decided to go out of Austin to a little town called Luling in Texas – which was completely dead! It was a very inspiring surrounding, it felt very cinematic just the way it was. We met Trever through Big Boi when we recorded with him, as they’ve been working together a lot. We had a lot of fun making that video.
So speaking of Big Boi, did you get to catch up with him at Coachella when you performed this year?
No, we didn’t get to catch up with Big Boi, we did get to talk to Andre 3000 a bit though. Coachella is so hectic, so unbelievably hectic. It’s the most chaotic festival, everything is squeezed in and rushed there. Anyone you meet there is good luck – you’re lucky if you get to meet anyone.
So did you guys enjoy the hectic experience? How was performing?
Yeah we had a great time performing! It was big crowds, very big crowds, and we played a lot of new songs ‘cause we can be a little bit risky at a festival especially when you know that some people in the crowd don’t even know you! But it went down really well, and people were really excited, so we felt like it was a very good start to our festival year.
Is there a particular track (off any album) that you are really looking forward to performing?
We have this song called ‘Only One’ which starts off pretty minimal and dark, but then turns into a little bit of a techno beat. That’s one we’ve played live a lot and it keeps on evolving, becoming almost trance-techno like in the live show, which is heaps of fun. We really enjoy those moments when you get absorbed by all the rhythms. I guess we fall under the Electronic ‘genre’ somehow but it’s nice to be able to be inspired by all those minimal and beat driven rhythms like techno..it’s a nice way to play music.
You just touched on electronic, trance and techno, and in the past few years, we’ve really seen electro as a genre hit mainstream, open up and forming sub-genres – where do you think electro is headed next?
Yeah I don’t really know really…it’s such a big genre. When I hear the word electro, I’m thinking of when I was in kindergarten listening to Break Machine. I thought electro was just break dance music! But I realised that electro/electronica can be anything from like house to techno to minimal, trance, rave or the more ambient music, and even pop or R’n’B. So I don’t know where it’s going, but I feel like we’re in a time that rhythm is the main ingredient. People really enjoy having rhythms – it seems like the big anthems are the house music songs nowadays which I think is great, people are up for losing their minds into a beat, which can only be a good thing! I think this has been influencing a lot of ‘conventional’ musicians that play drums, guitar or whatever, and it’s been a big inspiration on our music too.
I love that – ‘people losing their minds into a beat’ – what’s been your favourite gig you’ve played, where you’ve just seen the audience totally lose it and really get into Little Dragon music?
It has to be Coachella, the last time we were there. There’s always this crowd pleasing that happens where musicians are getting people to wave their hands or clap along – but then there’s this more subtle losing it – the crowd seems pretty quiet, but everyone’s moving their heads and bodies individually, and you can just tell they’re really into it – everyone’s dancing on their own, they’re not being told how to dance or to put their hands in the air. They’re just moving with the rhythm and it’s fun to be part of one big body. I really enjoy that – seeing everyone forget themselves.
Awesome, and I have to ask for all the acid stag readers – when will we see you down under?
I think actually we’re coming in August, it’s pretty much confirmed, maybe not out there just yet, but definitely in August and we’re also planning to come in January too! We’ll see you then!
Nabuma Rubberband isn’t out until May 13, but you can pre-order it now on iTunes.