[Interview] Little Dragon Illuminates the Masquerade Stage
Little Dragon has a sound that is difficult to describe. They're as equally dance and electronic as they are soul and hip-hop. They performed on Friday night at the Heaven stage of the Masquerade's new location in Underground Atlanta as part of the Shaky Beats Late Night series and took the stage at around 12:30 am.
Decked out in a trippy neon-lit headdress, singer Yukimi Nagano made her presence known, backed by Fredrik Källgren Wallin and Håkan Wirenstrand on synths and Erik Bodin on drums. Hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, they wasted no time bombarding the crowd with heavy bass hits, with Yukimi delivering a powerful vocal performance during Season High opener "Celebrate."
It almost seems like you're watching a sort of neon ritual at a Little Dragon show. Pulsating strobe lights and pounding beats went on and on throughout, leaving the audience in something of a trance as Yukimi's striking appearance and delivery captivated everyone on the show floor. The bubbly groove of "Pretty Girls" really got the crowd moving, and the bright synthesizers of "Little Man" seemed to bounce off the walls of the Masquerade as the bass drum kicks echoed through the crowd.
A big highlight of the night was 2014's Nabuma Rubberband single "Klapp Klapp." Huge house-inspired bass synths rattled our brains, while Yukimi's soaring vocals emitted a powerful flair that just oozed style. Another highlight was the aptly titled "Strobe Light." Waves of purple beamed from the stage as the entrancing synth lines mesmerized the crowd in a hypnotizing splendor.
The nonstop dance party hit its peak as Little Dragon ended the performance with the title track from 2011's Ritual Union. An incredibly soulful vocal delivery from Yukimi combined with rattling hi-hats and a smooth, downtempo synth bassline left a strong impression on the audience. Little Dragon kept the show brief at 75 minutes, but left little room for filler, keeping everyone's eyes glued to the stage at their marvelous exhibition of light and soul.
I didn't know much about Little Dragon going into their performance. I listened to Ritual Union a lot around the time of its release and have kept up with the singles they released since then, but I'm kind of regretting not being more invested in their music in the last few years. They create super-stylish and futuristic blends of house and R&B that aren't really seen by any of their contemporaries, and their performances are an all-out blast of spectacle and fun.
Our Publisher, Liz Turcotte, caught up with Fredrik (bass) and Håkan (keyboards) before their late night set at the Masquerade.
Congrats on the recent release of your album Season High last month, right?
Both: Thank you.
How has life been since the album came out for you guys?
Fredrik: It’s been busy. They day we released is the same day we played Coachella. The first festival and before that we had some production rehearsal and we’ve been on tour every day.
How was Coachella?
Håkan: It was good. It was great.
Any cool stories from there?
Håkan: Not so much from our side, I think. We were in and out.
Fredrick: It was all a blur. It was a month ago and we’ve had shows every day. It’s hard to keep track.
How was the crowd there?
Håkan: It was good. The second show, we’ve done that a few times. The second show is usually better for some reason I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a mental thing that if you do it twice that the first time is not going to feel as good as the second time.
That makes you want to go both weekends, right?
You guys recently worked with a designer, Saina Koohnavard, and she’s also from your hometown, correct?
And you guys worked with her to create some custom name clothing. What goes in the experience and the process of creating your own onstage attire? What is that like?
Håkan: It’s fun. I think we’ve been limited by brand and the clothes we have ourselves with our wardrobe. We don’t know how to sew, to make clothes.
Håkan: Yeah, we don’t know the art of how to sew. Yeah, whatever. When you meet somebody who can actually do it and creative ideas, it’s such a nice door to open. Actually, being on stage with the lights and everything, it really has nothing to do with normal everyday fashion. It’s something else. That’s when you start to get mind blown by Grace Jones for example. She doesn’t give a fuck.
Fredrik: She just went for it ya know?
Håkan: Of course, this was just the beginning to work with (Sina), but I feel like we are onto something here where we can build.
So this is maybe going to be an ongoing thing?
Fredrik: Yeah, she’s very experimental.
Håkan: Yeah, she has the knowledge and all that history. She’s like a teacher. Textile University. She has all the new technology.
Fredrik: Yeah, like a textile laboratory.
That’s awesome. So, you guys are like the experimental group, right?
No, but exactly. We are very happy to, we realized that we found another field to experiment in.
Yeah, cause you guys say “maybe sewing yet.” Does that mean maybe in your free time when you’re not touring every night? Do a little sewing on the side.
Håkan: You never know actually.
It’s good to keep your options open.
Håkan: Knitting maybe.
Crocheting. Make throw blankets for your fans.
I saw that there was some special edition signed posters that you guys were offering for your fans, is there a specific artist that you work with to create these posters?
Fredrik: From the Integratron?
Yeah, the most recent one that was on your Instagram.
Fredrik: Yeah, yeah. I think it was a local poster craft that was setup through some contact.
Also, on your Instagram page, it looks like you guys are proponents of marijuana. Do you feel like it helps you to get the creative juices flowing or keep you sane with a busy schedule?
Håkan: I don’t know. I think that it can be a beautiful way to reboot and slow down the pace and just realize the simple minor details that all of sudden have an impact on you. It’s just beautiful. You know it can be anything, but it can also not be so great when you’re in the studio trying to maybe organize your folders on a PC. It might ruin your career forever. Like making music because we are very much engineers, I feel like most of the time music hits me hardest when I’m as sober as I can be actually, but to re-energize in between.
Tell me about the process of creating music. What does that look like?
Håkan: I mean we have a studio in Gothenburg with cheap rent that is just waiting for us that we have been collecting instruments. It’s very simple. It’s basically like a home studio and growing bigger.
Are you excited to get back there?
Håkan: Yeah of course. It’s our Oasis.
Do you feel like it pulls you there whenever you’re not?
Håkan: Yeah. It’s a source of spring water.
Do you think that America can take any advice from Sweden right now?
Fredrik: No, you’re all by yourself.
N-o, can I come back with you guys?...yeah, no!?
Fredrik: No, since being Swedes, we love the stuff that we are proud of. Stuff you love you want to share with others. We’re not going to force it on you. Socialism has been working very well in Sweden for all classes of people. It’s very safe, but we also have our frictions and right-wing politics, but the most part it’s been working good.
Do you feel like, sometimes in America artists really struggle, is that sort of across the board? Is that in Sweden too when you are creatively trying to get there, do you think it’s just part of the process of being a creative person and getting there and finding your niche?
Fredrik: Yeah, I mean you got to struggle to find your own voice. It’s never easy, but maybe for some people.
Håkan: The struggle is probably more emotional than financial I guess. Unless you really want to have a big house and then you want to have everything without doing anything.
Fredrik: Just living it.
Håkan: Like you said to find your inner voice. To find your own genuine self and get confident.
I agree. What are yall's plans for the rest of 2017? Anything special happening?
Fredrik: I’m getting married.
You’re getting married! Congratulations! When are you getting married?
Fredrik: In July.
Is there a special place picked out?
In Sweden at a secret place.
Alright, we won’t tell the paparazzi. Anything else?
Håkan: It’ll be that and some more tours. We are going to release some more music actually. We haven’t decided yet, but we are going to try and work on that and release some more videos.
Your videos are super cool.
Håkan: Thank you. It’s very hard to, well, the way we are living right now, it’s very much a continuation of what was started a long time ago. There weren’t any plans according to the years. It’s a…
Ride the waves
Håkan: Yeah, we’re riding the wave exactly.
I think that’s the hardest part is learning how to ride the wave.
Yeah, and to see when it’s time to get up on the surfboard. When it’s time to...
Stand up or will you fall?
I agree. Is there anything else that you would like your fans to know about?
Check out the album and listen to “Strobe Light.” There’s something cooking there.
Remaining Little Dragon tour dates here.