Music / No one enjoys interrupting a musician’s Skype chat with his one- and five-year-old daughters. However, deadlines approach, and this interview must go on. So winning the Nicest Guy in the World Award is Little Dragon drummer Erik Bodin, who so kindly spoke to the Weekly from his Seattle hotel room after bidding goodbye to his little ones.
Following 2009’s Machine Dreams and 2007’s Little Dragon, this year’s Ritual Union is Little Dragon’s third studio album that showcases the band’s evolution into a more cohesive musical identity with a sharper mood. Having been a band for quite a few years, it is endeavors, like being featured on Gorillaz’s 2010 Plastic Beach and Raphael Saadiq’s “Just Don’t,” have elevated Little Dragon’s public profile. With Fredrik Källgren Wallin’s hypnotizing bass lines, frontwoman Yukimi Nagano’s sultry and versatile vocals, keyboardist Håkan Wirenstrand’s upbeat synths and Bodin’s minimalist-yet-precise drums, Little Dragon’s music can be called digi-pop, but there are also jazz and R&B influences that sex the music up. This potentially baby-making soundtrack is pretty damn danceable, too. Honestly, no other band sounds like Little Dragon. The band members have known each other for 15 years, having gone to high school together. This bond is partly responsible for a compatibility that helps the band grow together.
Bodin says that the progress on Ritual Union also stems from “the confidence to keep it a little bit raw, although we have developed a poppier sound and more direct.” And of the band’s signature genre-challenging style, Bodin says, “We want to be dynamic. We just want to explore and experiment.” Part of how this naturally happens is all the members’ need to create music individually. “We try to make new music on the road, maybe those are what side projects would be. But they never become side projects. It usually becomes more music for the band. We’re like three little duos in one,” says Bodin.
And what is the source that fuels this creativity? Sweden’s geography. “Some of us want to go to Berlin, LA, or somewhere sunny. That would be the purpose of moving, to see the sun. In January and February, it’s too dark. It’s heavy on your head, but it’s perfect for creativity, at least for us. That’s worth it,” answers Bodin to a question of potential relocation or not. So for now, Gothenburg remains home base.
Returning to the theme of family importance, a fun fact to note is that the cover art of Ritual Union is a collage of photos of the band member’s parents and grandparents. “It’s a funny thing, most of them are divorced,” says Bodin. But, “So far everybody loves it. It’s a sign of love to put your parents on the cover. Some of them even cried.” While the Swedish and other Nordic ethnic groups may have a reputation for aloofness, this public declaration of love shows an open and embracing attitude reflected in Little Dragon’s music.
Hawaii audiences may be excited to know that lead singer Yukimi Nagano was born in Sweden to a Japanese father and a Swedish-American mother. While it can be tiresome to always bring up one’s ethnic background, our mixed-race population may appreciate seeing a hapa woman fronting an internationally popular band. (And the last time Honolulu got anything close to a Swedish concert was the touring version of Mamma Mia! in 2009. Thank Buddha for this booking.)
In the future, Bodin and the rest of Little Dragon are excited that a former keyboardist will rejoin the group “to expand sound when we play live. It’s part of the ritual union,” says Bodin cleverly off-the-cuff. We hope Little Dragon continues to mate for as long as its virility makes it breathe musical fire.