Little Dragon Makes Big Return to Santa Barbara

KCRW-touted Band Brings Swedish Synth to SOhO

Sweden's latest musical export, Little Dragon, will bring their down-tempo electro jazz sounds to SOhO this Saturday, November 22.

A lot of people are talking about Little Dragon. And though the Swedish four-piece might not have the blogosphere buzzing in the same way as, say, Vampire Weekend, the band definitely have some critical heavyweights on their side-namely KCRW head of state Nic Harcourt. By spring of next year, the group (who classify themselves as a mix between jazz, electronic, and Swedish folk) will have finished the follow-up to their mesmerizing self-titled debut album, and probably won over a few more fans in the process. But for now the team of high school buddies (fronted by half-Japanese, half-American, Swedish-born chanteuse Yukimi Nagano) is just happy to be playing live. This Saturday, the band will return to Santa Barbara as part of a nine-day West Coast tour. Recently, Nagano and bassist Fredrick K¤llgren phoned in from their hometown of Gothenburg to give us the lowdown on their musical brainchild.

I know you guys all met as high schoolers. What originally drew you to one another?

Yukimi Nagano: Well, we were in different years, but what drew us together was we had similar tastes in music. [We went to] a high school that had music as the main focus. It was a perfect place for teenagers to meet other people who had the same interests, and you sort of were drawn to the people who you felt had the same sort of influences or musical ideas.

And how did you come to settle on the ambient electronica genre?

YN: I think we’ve always liked synth sounds and had an interest in finding sounds that were unique. That drew us to electronic music and electronic house, because it’s just exciting when it comes to hearing new, strange sounds. I think we just adopted that in our music naturally. And H¥kan [Wirenstrand], who plays the keyboards, he listens to a lot of techno and stuff, mixed with strange Swedish folk music. For him, I think he had it growing up and listening to that in his teenage years. And Fredrick, you listen to house music and stuff like that. I didn’t listen to that much electronic music growing up, but I’m definitely still finding new influences now.

How do you bring that electro-heavy production to the live arena?

YN: I think that we always try to change the songs when we play them live. It’s a process, and it doesn’t always happen at once, but as we play the songs, they sort of develop. We all like to be open when we play and have our own sort of improvisation. That kind of playfulness means that the songs change with time. I guess our goal when we play live is just to have people dancing.

FK: I also think it’s that interaction with the audience. If people aren’t being open it’s hard to bond them with good music. : The audience definitely makes a big difference-especially when people are dancing.

You played Santa Barbara in the beginning of this year. Do the live shows differ between Europe and the States?

YN: Yes, definitely, there’s a difference [laughs]. I think Americans are very expressive. It’s such a joy for a European band-well, I can only speak for us, of course-to come to America and feel : People aren’t shy in giving compliments. It’s not like Germany or Sweden where people are snobs. It takes a lot for someone to come up and say something, but in American people say, “Oh! It’s amazing!” It’s kind of shocking for you if you’re not used to it. You definitely feel loved in a different way.

Top five favorite albums?

YN: Ah. Well, I guess it has to be spontaneous, so I’m sure I’ll change my mind later. I would say Sign o’ the Times by Prince is one of my favorites. I really like Kate Bush’s album-the one with “Hounds of Love” on it. There’s this Swedish musician called Jan Johansen; he’s a pianist and he plays old Swedish folk songs interpreted in a jazz trio. It’s very Swedish-it makes you feel like you can see the Swedish landscape and rocks and moss and all that. It’s very beautiful. I’m trying to think of what the other guys would say:

FK: It would be Kraftwerk-one of their first [albums].

So what does the future hold for Little Dragon?

FK: The U.S.!

YN: The U.S., yeah, that’s coming up for us. We’re definitely, definitely looking forward to releasing our second album in the spring; I think in April or something. I’m really excited about the new songs. We play a lot of them live because I just can’t wait. That might be one of my favorite albums [laughs]. We’re looking forward to playing festivals in the summer and touring. I think we’re just so happy to play live that anywhere we are asked we gladly come and play.


Club Mercy presents Little Dragon at SOhO (1221 State St.) this Saturday, November 22, at 9:30 p.m. Call 962-777 or visit for ticket information.


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