Little Dragon Comes Together for a 'Season High'

Little Dragon Comes Together for a 'Season High'

The band's vocalist, Yukimi Nagano, talks about group ups and downs, and the escapism of their fifth studio album.

The band's vocalist, Yukimi Nagano, talks about group ups and downs, and the escapism of their fifth studio album.

Text: Ilana Kaplan

Throughout Little Dragon’s two decade-long career, the band has never shied away from experimentation. It’s something they’ve embraced, oscillating between R&B, trip-hop and electropop. And with the Swedish quartet’s latest album, Season High, they continue to push sonic boundaries, weaving ‘80s synth-heavy club music into modern R&B.

While the band has grappled with their differences (something that ultimately comes from being a democratic group), they’ve all landed on the same page when it comes to making their fifth studio album about escapism. It’s a record that hones in on lead singer Yukimi Nagano’s soulful lilt, accentuated by the idea of finding whatever makes you euphoric and hanging onto it. With Season High, the band sought production help from Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford, challenging Little Dragon to create melodies and music outside of the box.

Before Little Dragon’s new LP drops on April 14, we caught up with Gothenburg-based frontwoman Nagano on the Euro soul outfit’s new album, internal struggles and why it’s important to put creativity ahead of business.

How did you come up with the title Season High for the record?

Well, it comes from our addiction to music—it’s the ultimate high for us. It’s the reason why we’re so in love with what we do. It’s just a real, natural high. That’s the background for why we decided to name the record Season High.

How did you land on “High” and “Sweet” being the singles for the record?

“High” is a chill, laid back song. It felt like a good introduction for us since we’ve been busy writing in the studio. “Sweet” is a much more uptempo track, so it felt a fun to introduce something a little more upbeat after “High.” It felt like a natural thing.

You’ve said that your relationship as a band has been a struggle. How have you guys been able to stay friends and bandmates?

There have definitely been lots of ups and downs, but we get better at communicating with each other. We have our arguments, but we somehow get through them. It definitely gets more complicated the longer we stay together. Things are so layered, and there’s a lot of history there. It’s kind of like a marriage—a long marriage. I think we would need a counselor sometimes like Metallica.

Have you ever considered breaking up because of your differences?

No. It’s never really gotten that far. I think we have so many conflicts that we know that we always work through it. Everyone is really stubborn and has a really strong will in the band. If there was one leader making all of the decisions that would be one thing, but we try to stay pretty democratic so it gets complicated when people want different things. I think everyone is pretty one with the idea that you can’t always get your way—that’s just part of being a band. There’s so much beauty in being a band that it outweighs the negative side of not always getting your way.

How long did it take you to make your forthcoming record? Did you start writing it right after Nabuma Rubberband?

Yeah, after that touring cycle we started writing. “Should I” is a track we found on our computer. We’ve written so many sketches of songs where you need that right moment [to use it]. Most of the songs are brand new from when we wrote them, but it took over a year of writing, experimenting and making a lot of sketches and music.

Compared to your previous albums, do you think there’s a big difference between Season High and your previous ones? What do you think fans will notice?

For us, there is. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly it is. We didn’t want to write another Nabuma Rubberband album. We challenge ourselves in the writing process to do things a little bit differently. During the end phase, [Simian Mobile Disco’s] James Ford co-produced some of the tracks. It was super helpful in mixing some of the songs. We’re always challenging ourselves in the studio to not only stick to the same thing.

Is Season High a concept record, or is there a theme behind the album?

It’s not a concept record. I think the title [of the album] just comes from our love for escapism. While some songs may be fragmented or abstract, we want people to feel like they’re taken away from their everyday [lives]. It’s pretty open—not like “the album is about this specifically.” The album is a bit more intuitive than analytical. That’s what steers us more than a concept.

What were you listening to when you made your new album?

I was listening to all different kinds of music. I actually really loved Rihanna’s last album ANTI. I thought she wrote a really good album. Sometimes [I’m inspired by] commercial stuff like that, African music and ‘80s house music. There was no specific artist though.

Is there anything you think fans will find surprising about Season High?

I think it has a lot of layers. I think there’s a lot of stuff to discover, so you can go back and listen to it more than once and discover new sounds. There are some songs that aren’t necessarily straightforward, but sonically, there are little tells in the production that you might not notice offhand.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your music career?

We’re learning lessons with each album release. I would say stick to your guns and don’t let the business side of things steer the creative side of things. I think you can get a little lost if you think that way.

What do you think a future record would look like for Little Dragon?

We hope to be able to keep writing albums for the rest of our lives, but it’s hard to say. Hopefully something new and different that we haven’t done before.

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