Little Dragon on working as a cohesive unit and creating as a live band

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Little Dragon on working as a cohesive unit and creating as a live band


 It’s interesting to ponder that until blues and soul music proliferated across America, and then throughout the world in the ‘30s and ‘40s, the production and performance of music was saved for professional musicians who mostly played in orchestras. As for regular citizens, their musical performance mainly happened on Sundays and involved singing 400-year-old songs about God and Jesus.

With the advent of affordable production and distribution of music, the recording industry began to mean that anyone driven enough to make good music could get it out to the world first via physical recordings and now via the web.

Sweden’s Little Dragon are a group of friends that work as a contemporary example of to the freedoms afforded by the modernisation of the recording industry. The members came together over a passion for rap, Motown and electronic music which saw Yukimi Nagano, Fredrik Wallin, Håkan Wirenstrand, and Erik Bodin form a band and release five LPs, beginning in 2007 with their self-titled debut.

From a tour bus travelling to a show in Belgium, Drummer Bodin explains the reason behind the band’s longevity and productivity. “It has to be an equal partnership and you all need to agree on what sort of music you want to create.  We are all just as important as the other, from the creative process to the performance.

“It’s not very hard for us because the reason we started the band was that we all liked the same hip hop and funk and acts like Prince,” Bodin says. Prince was the reason he became a musician. “My parents took me to see him and that show has stayed with me to this day, it was about the way he moved and the music he created.”

On the topic of live performances and ahead of the band coming to Australia, Bodin now explores the paradox of pairing and intent to push boundaries via technology in the studio as a live band. “We make it happen live,” he says, but adds that it’s tough contending with the weight of work involved in doing that. “We don’t use any backing tracks. To do it all live we have to strip it down. To try and do everything live would be hard.”

He closes out on the topic of the band’s live performance with a tantalising hint as to what Australian audiences can expect this New Year’s. “We love it when it’s a bit fragile because we can take it to different places, even get lost and then have to find a way to bring it back. I think you could say we are a bit of a jam band.”

There’s one song in particular that the band has had to rework for a live setting, not only because of the technology involved but also because it was a collaboration. The song is ‘Wildfire’and it was co-written and produced with Aaron Jerome, who under the moniker SBTRKT turned dance music on its head.

“It was hard initially to get perspective on the song as it was all of us sending him files, then him sending them back which with both of us touring could mean long breaks between working on it. We started sending music to him that were experiments and he stripped them back and made them very lovely and mellow and chill. We brainstormed a lot and it was great to work with someone who was up-and-coming and had a lot of new ideas.”

Recently, and almost as an unintended counterpoint to ‘Wildfire’, Little Dragon released ‘Peace Of Mind’, a song that features vocals from US music legend Faith Evans, whose 1998 song ‘I’ll Be Missing You’is still regarded to this day as a watershed moment in contemporary rhythm and blues. “After we had finished the music we brainstormed a lot on what to do and decided that it could use another female vocalist. We thought about using an up-and-comer but then we decided to reach out to Faith because she is one of Yukimi’s great idols and we’d listened to her a lot in the late ‘90s and early 2000s.”