Little Dragon Delivers the Ultimate High

We met up with the band at FYF Fest to talk creative freedom, transportive music, and their magical new pop album.

It’s a couple of hours before Little Dragon’s set at FYF Fest—on the main stage, no less—and the band seems unnervingly serene, standing beside a fence away from a sea of food stands. Three months deep into the release of their fifth album, Season High, a deliciously hypnotic, electro-pop experience, and the Swedish foursome is riding the wave of success. Again. Although, something tells me that critical reception, be it glowing or scathing, does little to inform the group’s own sense of accomplishment. They’re too focused on creating music that makes them happy—the kind of music that transcends reality, they tell me. And they’ve done just that. Later on, when Little Dragon takes the stage, lead singer Yukimi Nagano covered in an electric red veil and wielding a racket tambourine, I’ll be transported into another world—one that I’ll never want to leave. But first, I chat with Fredrik Wallin, Erik Bodin, Håkan Wirenstrand, and Yukimi about secret pre-show rituals, the art of listening to an album all the way through, and the beauty of making mistakes.

I want to start out by saying that I love your new album.

Fredrik: Thank you.

What was your writing process like for Season High? When did you start writing it?

Yukimi: We don’t remember exactly, but we started the process by just going to the studio and trying to experiment. We accumulated a lot of rough sketches, and then at some point we played our sketches for each other. We felt like, okay, we’re getting somewhere, we might have some stuff there. We did that for another amount of time, and then we picked out our favorites and finished them off as album songs.

Were you listening to any other music at the time?

Yukimi: A lot of stuff, I think.
Erik: Yeah, it was maybe one and half years ago, so it’s hard to keep track of what we were listening to, but we’re always curious about music. Old, new, everything in between. All genres. It’s such a fantastic world, the world of music. There’s so much music out there to get inspired by.
Fredrik: And yet so little.
Erik: [Laughs] Exactly. So little time.
Fredrik: Sometimes you can feel like it’s a desert. There’s nothing that’s interesting. Then suddenly, there’s so much. The thing is, with our attention span, there’s so much new stuff coming out. If you give it some time—I’ve noticed now that if I download stuff and listen to it on the plane, I can listen to the whole album, but if I’m just at home, it’s like, ahh.
Erik: You’re always restless.
Fredrik: Yeah, restless.

I was actually thinking about this today. In the past, people listened to full records, but now it’s rare that you sit down and listen to a whole album. I did that with yours, and it reminded me of how important and different of an experience it is.

Fredrik: Good to you.
Yukimi: Yeah, that’s nice to hear.

The name Season High comes from your love of music as a form of escapism. How did you come up with it?

Yukimi: It’s one of the reasons why we love music. It somehow takes you somewhere, whether you’re in the club or listening at home, doing the dishes in your kitchen or on the plane. When it’s good and it hits you, it takes you somewhere—it makes you high. It is kind of like the ultimate high when it’s something you love, and that’s something we want to try to achieve with our music.

“When [music is] good and it hits you, it takes you somewhere—it makes you high.”

Now that you’re performing these songs that you wrote over a year ago, do you still feel connected to them in the same way or do they seem more like memories?

Yukimi: That’s a good question.
Fredrik: I think you always feel some kind of a connection to them. You get into the groove and the movement, and that doesn’t get old. Maybe the mood is not the same when we wrote it, but there’s something else you can get stuck on—some other journey of the sound. There’s always a new crowd as well, and it’s how they react.
Yukimi: We switch it up live as well, and that gives it life too. Not always, but we try to switch it up a little bit, so it doesn’t feel too repetitious.

How so?

Yukimi: Maybe by jamming out certain parts or—
Erik: We don’t have any tracks with us that we play along to. If there’s something we don’t want in there, we don’t play it. Or we play faster or slower or expand. It’s a good way to keep it healthy for us, I think.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Yukimi: A couple of drinks.
Fredrik: We actually switched it up. We used to do a high five kind of thing, and then we were like, nah. So we just have a shot of something secret, and then we do a cheers.
Erik: Maybe a 20-minute jam session with the guitar before, just to get into the world of music.

What have you learned about yourself since setting out to write the album?

Fredrik: That we still got it.
Fredrik: I’m just kidding.
Yukimi: It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly, but I feel like there are layers of things that we’re still learning. We still make mistakes a lot. Every time you go into the studio, you learn that you have to feel shitty sometimes to write good songs. It’s okay to feel bad or like you suck.
Erik: We’ve learned that you’ve got to keep playing to be good at playing. I feel as a drummer, I’m getting back into it now with doing all the shows. There’s nothing like not having played for a very long time and then hearing an amazing drummer. You’re just like, oh, he’s so loose and free, and I want to be that. He probably played a lot recently.

You were a band for 10 years before releasing your first record. Is that right?

Yukimi: We’ve known each other for that long. We weren’t really a band, but we met early on. We were friends first.
Erik: We were in and out of different bands.
Yukimi: Musicians, kind of.

Did you ever feel rushed to make an album or were you just having fun jamming out towards the beginning?

Erik: When we made the first album, of course we were super excited about somebody wanting to release it. We wanted to make it perfect, but what we had worked on didn’t come out. It was the previous versions. So that felt a bit sad, but still, looking back, I feel like it was such a golden time, where you didn’t know what to expect or you hadn’t created some kind of momentum. It was just very free and curious. I feel like that’s always what I want to go back to when I’m in the studio.

Håkan: There’s never enough time in the studio.

Season High is available now on iTunes and Spotify. For more on Little Dragon, head on over to their Instagram.

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