There are few bands that can boast a 22-year lifespan, and there are even fewer who can say they have remained faithful to their sound and style throughout it. By their nature, bands and artists tend to fluctuate between genres and styles as they explore new sonic territories in an effort to offer fans and listeners something new, fresh.
This has almost become a necessity in 2018 when the attention span of the average listener is so short. Hence, it is a true testament to bands who, instead, look for innovative ways to introduce new elements into their music while retaining the core attributes of their original sound. Little Dragon are one of the rarities that have done just that.
In his hometown of Gothenburg in Sweden, drummer Erik Boden has just finished the morning school run and is enjoying some downtime before he collects his three kids from school again in the afternoon, “I’m the housewife when I’m home,” he says in a thick Swedish accent. His routine sounds remarkably normal for someone who’s currently on a world tour with Gorillaz. Priorities shifted for Bodin when he had his first child, who is now 12 (his youngest is 5), “it’s okay if I’m alone – I’m just taking care of myself. I know that I can just I can sleep on a sofa if everything goes to pieces. But this, now, is more of a reality”.
Parenthood brings with it a lot of new responsibilities, many of which are difficult to fulfill when you’re in a busy, touring band; they return to tour in two weeks-time for the remainder of the summer and Bodin will travel home in between shows to fulfill his “housewife” duties.
A lot has changed in the music industry since the Little Dragon’s inception in 1996. They didn’t started releasing music officially until 2006, before Spotify even existed and when Limewire was the biggest problem that the industry faced.
They were part of a mass of bands that signed record deals in the UK in 2006, during what Bodin calls the “big record industry craze”, the results of which meant that care and attention wasn’t evenly distributed to each band on their roster. Despite since boasting a Grammy nomination and collaborations with De La Soul and Flume, Bodin explains that their career was “an uphill climb” from the get-go and that success never came easily (though it rarely does).
There is an evident percipience to Bodin’s personality here that can also be heard in the music; the band’s last album Season High sounded even more careful and considered than earlier ones, with intricate melodies and neat arrangements that contrasted well with Yukimi Nagano’s quirky, sometimes sporadic lead vocal.
The band employ a democratic writing style in that all ideas brought to the table are considered and never immediately dismissed. Bodin believes that this is one of the key factors as to why they have been together for so long, “to say that we always agree would be a big lie, but we always listen to each other… are fair to each other”.
The band’s ever-expanding synth collection also contributed to much of the writing process of the new album as well as their live set; keyboardist Håkan Wirenstrand was listening to a lot of Depeche Mode around the time of recording, and this can be heard in the analogue synths and bass saw tooth lines.
The band’s sonic evolution has clearly been a very organic one, spurred by natural interest and taste. New material will be even more dancey he thinks, with the synth and electronic influences showing no sign of stopping, “that’s the kind of music we always end up making anyway”.
Most bands revel at being nominated for an award for this work, let alone a Grammy, but Little Dragon are not most bands; at the very mention of the prestigious award ceremony, Bodin’s tone changes and he explains his dislike for award shows in general – he doesn’t believe in grading and comparing music, “I feel like it’s tough enough for creative people already. I’m sure there are a lot of people who constantly doubt what they’re doing… It’s not that the Grammys make it worse for everybody but I just feel, in a wonderful, utopian world, that everybody would be sitting at home with their synths making music that would make them happy – I wish there was like a gold medal for everyone”.
I think that that’s a philosophy the whole music industry could get on board with.
Little Dragon play Beatyard this August.