The album was done, the tour was announced and audiences were given a sneak peek of what was to come with lead singles. Everything was in place for the beloved Swedish band Little Dragon to release their sixth studio album in April. Then, as we all know, the whole world turned upside down.
No artist has been immune to the effects of Covid-19, but a previously slated album release date and tour landing smack in the middle of a pandemic (March 27, to be exact) was unprecedented for this band of 24 years.
The band had played three dates, including their hometown of Gothenburg, before drummer Erik Bodin says borders started to close and they realized they were on the brink of having to halt their whole tour. He says they made the decision to pack up, head home and prepare for an isolation period along with the majority of the world.
“It’s very strange, I must say,” Bodin says of cutting a tour short for such unfamiliar reasons. “We were so hyped up, we were well rehearsed, and at the few dates that we managed to do, we felt like, ‘Wow, this is gonna take off,’ and were super excited.”
The band felt torn between wanting to continue their shows and wanting to go home and be safe.
“[We were] also thinking, ‘Oh, damn,’ you know? We are trying to be as safe as we can, but now we have a lot of free time to make more music.”
But as far as the album that just came out, New Me, Same Us, the band has much to be proud of. Formed in 1996, it’s quite a feat to just stay a band as long as Little Dragon has, but to gain and keep acclaim and a fervent fanbase (read: two sold-out, jam-packed nights at our own late, great Rock & Roll Hotel in 2018) as well.
And though they’ve been together for quite some time, Bodin humbly notes that this album finally gave way to the group being able to sit back and really reflect on what they’ve created, with New Me, Same Us and over the years.
“It’s rare that you come straight out of the whole process of making an album still wanting to listen to it. I feel like we’ve grown enough to allow ourselves to be proud being in a band. I don’t think we’ve tapped each other on our shoulders enough over the years and said, ‘Hey, well done.’”
You can hear the cohesion, like always, but there’s a quiet confidence creeping in as well. Little Dragon’s signature sound – typically an amalgamation of R&B, pop and electronica – still reigns supreme, but there’s also a tinge of world music influence, or maybe even worldliness in general.
Though it’s easy to get lost in frontwoman Yukimi Nagano’s voice, each band member seems to hold their own even more on every track. No instrument, voice or lyric is more important than the next.
“The process in making this album was very collaborative in comparison to previous ones. We were not scared to break away from the original demos,” Bodin recalls. “We wanted to do all the songs from scratch. And I feel like that opened up a lot of discussion, and in those interactions we developed and evolved. I love the album myself, but I also love the fact that we’ve become so much closer and honest [with] each other.”
In the vein of collaboration, albeit a much different one, is the band’s ability to let other musicians into their sonic world, and to enter the worlds of others. If you’re not familiar with Little Dragon’s work on its own, chances are someone else you listen to has collaborated with them: Gorillaz, DJ Shadow and Odezsa are just a few.
Kali Uchis guests on the New Me, Same Us track “Are You Feeling Sad?” and it’s easy to wonder after years of sharing songs with so many other visionaries in modern pop if there’s anyone the band dreams of working with.
“No,” Bodin says with a laugh when asked if any one artist or band tops that list. He and his band are more concerned with what someone brings to the table musically, not just their name or staying power.
“But who knows? I think what we realized in doing these collabs is that no one person can be lifted to the sky as a complete genius. Sometimes, where our studio is at home, there’s this guy outside playing this string instrument day in and day out, no matter the weather. He is like the true king of showbiz. I don’t even know his name, but it would be nice to bring him in somehow.”
Until they can bring this mystery musician into the studio or even tour again, Bodin and the band are relying heavily on social media to connect with fans – a combination that sometimes borders on bittersweet.
“We did a little YouTube concert and it felt very emotional,” Bodin says. “Over the years, we’ve played so much that just for fun, we’ve been saying, ‘Okay, let’s do that show like it’s our last day alive. It’s got to be good. Let’s do this for real.’ Then all of the sudden, it felt like we didn’t have the option to do anything else but that. It was very serious. It was a very emotional event. I think all of us were close to crying during the set because we just felt how fragile this thing is.”
Little Dragon was previously slated to play the 9:30 Club in April, but the band is working to reschedule tour dates when things are safer. While they may come out of this time of isolation with more music and more fans through social media connection, no doubt the feeling of wanting to return to the stage is mutual among the band and their fans. Hopefully, this will serve as a celebration of the new album and being together.
For updates on Little Dragon’s new tour schedule and for more on New Me, Same Us, visit www.little-dragon.net.
Follow them on Instagram @littledragonflicks.
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