Forming in Gothenburg, Sweden, when lead singer Yukimi Nagano was just 14 years old, Little Dragon have forged a path as one of the most consistent, respected and universally loved bands of recent times. Their new album “New Me, Same Us”—released on Ninja Tune—represents another chapter in the continuing evolution of Little Dragon, finding new direction in their unique style of unhurried, off-kilter r’n’b, pop and electronics. Entirely self-produced and recorded at their long-term home-built studio in Gothenburg, it’s the sound of a band going back to basics and falling back in love with their instruments: drums, bass, keyboards, harp, guitar and voice, to produce some of their most focussed and inarguably best music to date.
Having grown up with a passion for writing poems and lyrics from an early age in her diaries, Yukimi Nagano shunned formal vocal training, instead joining up with school friends Erik Bodin (drums and percussion) and Fredrik Wallin (bass) to sing on the various musical projects they were involved in. They were soon joined by Håkan Wirenstarnd (keyboards) to form the quartet that persists to this day. A group of self-confessed ‘weirdos’, they would meet up after school to play records to each other and jam, a method of working that has remained largely unchanged to this day; the now much-mythologised legend states that the band took their title from a nickname given to Yukimi for her fiery temper during those early days in the studio.
With a sound that is notoriously hard to pin down, Little Dragon have always been a unique melting-pot of their individual influences and styles, previously referencing artists as diverse as Brian Eno, Snoop Dogg, D’Angelo and Alice Coltrane as touchstones of their musical tastes. Yukimi cites icons such as Prince and Kate Bush as early influences, with her and Erik being particularly into the hip hop and r&b of artists such as De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. Fred brought with him a love of jazz and more experimental and electronic sounds. With Håkan it was a pasison for all things synth; bands like Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk and the sounds of synth pioneers like Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre.
After all trying and failing to get into music college they moved into a local squat-cum-recording studio—affectionately named the Seal Colony—in central Gothenburg and began making music together full-time, while taking on part time jobs as a last resort in order to stay afloat, with Yukimi selling strawberries and Erik driving trucks.
Their first breakthrough as a band came with the single ‘Twice’, initially released by a friend of theirs at the Swedish label Off The Wall Records it was picked up a year later by UK label Peacefrog, who went on to release a collection of demos from the band which would form their eponymous debut album in 2007. The release saw Little Dragon’s profile begin to rise in the UK and—particularly following the inclusion of ‘Twice’ in the popular TV show Greys Anatomy (as Yukimi’s grandmother excitedly called to tell her)—the US.