We’re rerunning this AWESOME interview Little Dragon right before their show SATURDAY @ the 0:30 Club w/ Small Black — BYT was able to finally catch up with Little Dragon’s front-woman, Yukimi Nagano to pick her brain about music, family, and how to make it in the music industry.
BYT: Can you tell me a bit about how the band first formed—I understand you all are longtime friends from high school.
Yukimi Nagano: Fred, Erik, and I met in high school—we hooked up with Hakan a couple years later. I think we admired each others style and creativity even though we were not officially a band the first few years. [Though] it feels like we always [have] been a band even in the early days before we even knew it.
BYT: In the early days post high school, it must have been hard emotionally—how/where did you find the courage to continue pressing your creative ambitions?
YN: I [have] always had the support from my family. I think they saw that I loved to entertain and sing when I was child, and I think I had the confidence because of them always believing in that capability.
BYT: Any advice for young artists who may be struggling to get noticed?
YN: Work hard, don’t be to discouraged by what is the right way to do things. Don’t compromise your creative voice; be whoever you want to to be and love it!
BYT: Was it hard to determine which direction musically you wanted the band to take? Electronic-Soul seems so perfect for you guys.
YN: It was never hard for us musically in the studio. We are free; we never plan things or discuss much, its more about instinct and experimenting around. It became hard once we had to categorize it . Electro-soul, electric-pop, dreamy-trance… whatever works for you works for us.
BYT: I mentioned in my review that your voice is like the leader of your band’s instrumental calvary. Did you always know you had talent vocally?
YN: I always loved to sing. It is a escape and it makes me feel good! I think I started feeling confident about my voice once I started writing songs.
BYT: Can you name an album that has most influenced you musically and/or personally?
BYT: Every piece sonically just seems to fit when it comes to Little Dragon—what is the vibe like when recording?
YN: It’s up-and-down, pretty moody. Sometimes we are all on a high, somedays one person might be in a bad mood and that can change the whole sphere. We try to just be open in the studio. Not be afraid of recording silly things. It’s all pretty spontaneous and about capturing those moments and finding a flow.
BYT: What process do you go about when songwriting and/or composing?
YN: The guys usually start with a beat and some harmonies. Then I’ll listen to that over and over, write some lyrics, [and] record them. Then we add a bunch of pieces—percussion, etc—until it’s done enough for us to know if we want to keep it or just lose it somewhere within the computer… maybe pick it up years later.
BYT: I’ve read a bit about the origins of your band’s name, but for those that don’t know, can you talk a bit about that?
YN: It was a nickname for me. I have had some fits here and there, spit some fire, and earned the name. These days we’ve all got that flame within us; we just let it out on stage [instead].
BYT: Do you get less rattled in the studio now given your success up to this point?
YN: Not any more than usual. I think less. The success just inspires and encourage us to keep doing what we love.
BYT: The cover art for your first album was done by your father—Do you all receive much support from your families?
BYT: About the cover of your newest album, Ritual Union-you include a montage of married couples. What is the message contained within this album, besides the overt idea of marriage?
YN: It’s a bunch of pics of our parents and relatives so there’s that obvious connection. But it’s basically one perspective on the whole ‘Ritual Union’ theme which is pretty ambiguous. It can represent a band, a marriage, humanity, the universe… what ever you feel connected to.
BYT: With each album you release, it sounds as if you are somewhat departing from simple R&B/Soul and adding more and more electronic influences. For this third album, will we see a complete departure, or how would you place it’s sound?
YN: I don’t think there will ever be a complete departure from that influence. I think Ritual Union is come the bridge between the two first albums.
BYT: How do you think you all have changed personally and musically since the first?
YN: All the touring has had a big influence on who we are today. Just by seeing places and meeting people [has] changed and inspired us. I think we have grown together from that experience.
BYT: You’ve worked with a handful of established, noteworthy acts; most notably José González and the Gorillaz—do you find it difficult when working with minds just as creative as your own? Does the music flow easier with a different perspective?
YN: It can be challenging [as] every artist has their individual ways. We never really collaborated with José – it was more just like me and Erik playing percussion and singing backup vocals on his tours as his musicians.
BYT: Who would you most like to collaborate with next, if the sky was the limit?
YN: Don’t know. Not feeling to desperate to collaborate at all. Of coure if the vibe is there and it feels right there are plenty possibilities, but we’re very exited to write more of our own material these days.
BYT: You all seem to have a busy schedule this summer, traveling the festival circuit all around the world—Any bands you’re most excited to see along your journeys?
YN: Def. Ariel Pink, Toro Y Moi, Nas, Prince, TV On The Radio, and a lot more.
BYT: Have you been listening to anyone of note lately as you gear up to release Ritual Union?
YN: A lot of house music and techno.
BYT: If one day you were forced to choose a different path, what would you see yourself doing other than making music?
YN: Don’t know… movies, music videos, babies, gardens, poems… stuff like that.
Little Dragon’s third studio album, Ritual Union, is slated to release on July 26—but for those who have yet to get familiar, their first two albums, Little Dragon and Machine Dreams, are both available now on iTunes. In case you missed it, check out our coverage of their January Black Cat performance.