Back Issue__ Yukimi of Little Dragon
Set to release their third studio album this summer, Little Dragon's lead singer Yukimi's roar will be anything but little
The idea of “home” can change quickly. Fall in love with a new city, fall in love with a new partner, fall in love with a new apartment, and what you once considered home may become something very different. Despite moving around a lot when she was younger, Yukimi Nagano, the lead singer of electronic band Little Dragon, has always felt at home where she was born. Growing up, Yukimi lived in Sendai, Japan, Anaheim, California and Gothenburg, Sweden--her birthplace and also where she has spent the majority of her time. “Gothenburg has always been were I feel most at home. I have a lot of great memories of Swedish summers,” Yukimi says.
Currently based in the place she feels most comfortable, Little Dragon—named after her outbursts of frustration in the studio—is like the dream we all had in high school. Start a band with your friends, get famous, tour the world. After releasing a double A-side 7" single, titled Twice and Test (Off The Wall 2006), they signed with, Peacefrog Records, and in 2007 released their debut self-titled album. Cue the fantasy. Machine Dreams was their second album, released in 2009. This summer, Little Dragon will release their third studio album, Ritual Union on July 26.
Born to an American mother, and a Japanese father, Yukimi tries to bring a piece of herself to her work. For Little Dragon’s first album they used her father’s artwork. “The picture we used was a piece he had made in the 70s, so I grew up looking at that picture and was always very fascinated and drawn to it,” Yukimi says. But, even though it was her father’s, securing the rights weren’t easy. “It was hard at first to get him to allow us to use it, but I think once he got a lot of appreciation for it he felt more okay with it and eventually learned to love the picture.”
Though Yukimi traveled a lot as a kid, being part of a band often means being on the road. From recording to playing to touring, Yukimi is constantly surrounded by her band members (who happen to all be male). She even lived with her band in their studio at one point. Yukimi says they’re like family. “It’s like we are best friends in each others eyes and somehow gender is kind of erased.”
As much as you were probably excited to move out of the studio are there aspects of living there you miss?
Not really because the space is still our studio and we see each other everyday anyway. I don’t really miss never going out and being in that bubble—it was a bit like a escape from the outer world.
Most of the band met in high school, what were each of you like back then?
I guess we were all trying to find ourselves. I was a bit gothic for a second, Eric was very much lost in his headphones when not playing the drums Fred (bass) was taking off from school to go to film festivals and smoking cigars and Håkan (keys) had serious plans of getting into music university with his synths.
Bands can have trouble staying together, do you think your past together has helped you?
We have been through a lot already, so I think we know that it takes an effort to stick together, and at this point we are so close and quite inseparable despite our quarrels.
Do you fight like siblings?
Definitely, we are like a family. We know how to press each-others buttons and make each other mad if we want to. As long as its not serious fighting it’s quite alright.
What role (not musically but position wise like mother, organizer) does each member play in the band?
Generally I lose my stuff everywhere, so I feel like I have three extra parents that remind me to not forget my things when we travel. Still it shifts like Erik can be the mother hen but also annoying little brother, me and Fred are like teenage siblings and Håkan the fragile but stubborn little baby who sometimes acts like the wisest soul of us all.
You grew up listening to American folk music. Who are some of your favorite folk musicians?
I grew up listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen plus my Dad is a serious Bob Dylan fan. I guess folk music, when it first came, was more of a movement than what it is now. But there is a lot of great new folk music out there and Sweden has a lot of talented melancholic girls and boys with guitars.
Was there a large American music influence in Sweden?
My mother is American so I think I grew up listening to different music from your typical Swedish home. But generally, American music has been and still is extremely influential on Swedish culture. Almost all Swedish bands sing in English it’s a second language for most Swedes.
What was it like growing up in Sweden?
It was wonderful many times, I think the dramatic long winters really effected my mother negatively, she is from California and not used to that darkness and sometimes introverted Swedish culture so growing up I recall alot of complaining about Sweden. I moved around quite a bit as a child lived in Sendai Japan at one point then moved to Anaheim California but Gothenburg has always been were I feel most at home and I have a lot of great memories of Swedish summers.
Your mother is Swedish and your father is Japanese. What aspects of each culture do you think are a part of you now?
There is a modesty about the Japanese culture and a work ethic that my Dad has influenced me a lot by, a kind of mantra like--no matter what you always work hard don't give up and do your best. I think I have that in the back of my head. My mother was always telling me that I could be anything I wanted which I think is a quite American philosophy.
What’s your favorite city in the world?
I read the band was named after times when you would loose your temper in the studio out of pure creative frustration for various reasons. Do you still loose your temper easily?
Well, I’m a lot better than what I used to be. I don’t think loosing your temper is a healthy thing but sometimes it happens yes…working on it.
Do you think it has led to greater accomplishment creatively?
No not necessarily, more frustration. I think we are all trying to learn how to disagree about big things be honest without breaking down.
You've worn some pretty awesome outfits on stage. Do you put a lot of thought into what you wear?
Sometimes. Depends on my mood. I love fashion and I’ve been inspired by a lot of Belgian designers lately, like Jean Paul Knott and Cathy Pill and also Japanese designers Tsumori Chisato, and Migh-T. I have always loved dressing up since I was a little. But sometimes you can’t be bothered and want people to close their eyes and just listen with their ears, so you can jump around in floaty flowery pajamas.
Are you nervous before you step on stage?
Depends, like getting on stage with the Gorillaz at Glastonbury was a bit nerve racking because sound was mad and you don’t really have a clue. But generally I feel pretty okay and not too nervous, just enough to be pepped.
Three words you would use to describe yourself:
Butterfly, lightning ,water-puddle at night.
Three words, others would use to describe you:
Caterpillar, thunder, snow flakes on nose.
Where’s your heart at?
In your hands.
For more Little Dragon, listen to their new single Nightlight from their upcoming album, Ritual Union here.