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Interview: Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon

Before their UK tour, Laurence Morgan spoke to Little Dragon lead singer Yukimi Nagano about stepping up, playing live and Prince.

When you released your fourth album, “Nabuma Rubberband“, it was your first proper release in the US. Did it feel daunting to make a step up in terms of promotion?

It was definitely a big step but it was fun! We were excited about having a proper release and it had like a “finally!” feeling about it.

You’ve released 4 albums now, with growing success each time. Do you ever still feel like you’re not as well known as you should be?

I think we realise that there is a lot besides just the music that predicts how things go. It’s always harder when you choose to be uncompromising in the music but I’m really happy things were not an over night success for us. We would not have been prepared for that had it happened on for example the first album.

It’s been well documented that your album was influenced in some way by Janet Jackson songs. Do you actively try to listen to different types of music when you write a new album?

Not really actively but it kind of happens when I hear music that touches me. I’m influenced in the sense that it gives me a feeling and an eagerness to want to write.

“I  think a good show is when you feel the most free and uninhibited.”

After touring before recording the most recent album, you all spent some time apart from each other. Did that help in terms of musical inspiration as well as band relations?

I think it’s healthy to take a break from each other. Being on the road together is amazing but also intense. It’s kind of like that space to think and gather ideas on our own before we start sharing them.

After being together for about 18 years, has your song-writing process changed drastically?

We started as friends who would jam out. We didn’t start writing songs until around 2006. But yes definitely the style has changed. I think it’s always good to change up the process just to feel Little_Dragon_live_at_Parklife,_Sydney_2011inspired and not set in your ways.

You’re half Swedish, half Japanese – do you feel like you have a national identity, and do you think that comes across in your music?

I think so. I moved around a lot as a kid so I always felt a bit different in that sense. My parents listened to a lot of music at home and that had a big impact on me.

You’re playing a few dates in the UK at the end of the year, including a gig in Leeds on November 21st. Have your experiences of playing in the UK been much different to other countries?

It’s always felt fun to play in the UK. We have played way more shows in England than in Sweden through the years. British people seem to get pretty nerdy with their music which we like. Yeah, the UK has been good to us.

Would you agree that Prince is one of your bigger influences? Was it perhaps his shift between genres that you sought to emulate in Little Dragon, or was that just your own preference in terms of music-making?

Definitely a huge influence . I always looked up to him as a performer but also as a true fearless original. I think our mix of genres comes from the diversity in the guys; as producers each one has their own style and background, and when we work together it creates that nice clash.

Having played in many different countries this year, which was the best festival experience you had this summer?

Glastonbury was so fun, and my wellies were muddy. Coachella was a blast too. There’s been a lot of good memories this year.

The band are known for being fairly quiet when not performing. Do you consider gigs the time when you can really let go of your modesty?

Yeah, I  think a good show is when you feel the most free and uninhibited.  That feeling varies of course, but that’s the aim somehow.

You once said that you were probably going to do a solo album before you formed Little Dragon. Can you see yourself making a solo album, and if so, do you think it could happen soon?

That was probably over ten years ago I said that. Currently I don’t have any plans for solo work.