St Jerome’s Laneway Festival may well be one of, if not THE, best lineup 2015 has and will see. Packed full with some of the biggest names of recent times, this is going to be one hell of a day (in whichever city you are)! One name in particular that has everyone buzzing was Sweden’s Little Dragon. Having released their fourth studio album, Nabuma Rubberband, last year, touring the world and playing oh so many dates, it’s safe to say Little Dragon are doing pretty well for themselves!
Having met in 1996, they released their first self-titled album in 2007. Seven years later and three more albums down, one of the most admirable things about Little Dragon is that they’ve never changed to suit trends or to “get famous”. They’ve stuck to their guns and put in the hard yards, and are now reaping the well-deserved rewards having become one of the most exciting acts on the planet. They even scored themselves a big tent nighttime slot for Coachella last year and will play at the Sydney Opera House whilst they’re here.
They did things a little differently this time around, having signed to Loma Vista. One particularly different event was the conscious decision to upload their album onto YouTube for fans to stream. It was promotional strategies like this that helped the band reach countless new pairs of ears to work their way into, and saw their fanbase continue to grow, as it still does.
We were lucky enough to have a chat with keyboardist Fredrik Wallin ahead of their trip Down Under to talk about the changes he’s seen in the music industry, work to life balance, and hopefully catching some time with a platypus this time round!
You’re back in Australia very soon, can we expect anything particularly different this time around? Any surprises you can fill us in on?
We have some things planned. I guess there are always new scenarios with new crowds.
You were here recently last year, and you’ve been before of course – is there anything different you want to get up to whilst you’re here this time?
One thing we always want to try and do is go and see the platypus, but we never have time to do that!
Hopefully you get some platypus action this time around!
Yeah, that would be great! Also, some surfing would be nice!
Can you surf?
Mmm, no. But I can work on it!
One of the most notable parts of your upcoming trip is of course playing at the Opera House. How do you feel about that?
Yeah, I’m super excited! I remember seeing it and hearing about it as a kid. It’s so renowned, I’m super excited to play there!
Do you have a preference for venues?
I kind of like club shows myself; like small, dirty, dark rooms! *laughs*
Do you get to play many dirty, dark clubshows now you’re on your fourth album?
*laughs* No, actually not! Once in a while in places we aren’t well known.
Does your set list differ much depending on where you are playing? Will you be changing things up for each of your Australia shows?
Well, at a festival you have to be a bit more direct and try and get the people that are just passing by, so you want to touch the crowd in a different way. In a club show or a venue, you can take people on a journey and be a bit more daring I feel. You can take it down or go other places with the music.
Let’s talk about the album now – things were done a bit differently for Nabuma Rubberband since signing to Loma Vista, especially in terms of marketing – will you take some of those practices for the next album release do you think?
We have actually started the process a little bit right now, and we decided to do it a bit differently. We have some ideas, but I don’t want to say too much!
With the decision to put the album up on YouTube for streaming – did you notice any significant benefits from doing that?
It’s hard to say actually. It feels like nowadays, it ends up on YouTube for streaming anyway unless you have a lot of money to take it down constantly. It’s a nice way to share it, but I can’t tell the differences or benefits. It already happens.
Did you have to compromise anything on this release now that you’ve signed to the label, as opposed to your previous self-produced work?
They were very collaborative and it was a good vibe! There is always a compromise when you have 4 people in a band, so that’s enough to deal with! They’ve been super helpful.
Yukimi actually lives in the studio you created Nabuma in right?
At the moment, yeah she does.
Did that have an effect on your productivity, either good or bad, to have someone there whenever you wanted to go in?
Well, she is notoriously late so we don’t have to wait for her to get there!
I imagine it could get quite hard to maintain work and life balance as you continue to rise in your careers – do you find that’s the case?
Actually, for me, it’s been a little bit easier. You get to a point when you realise you have to have a life apart from that. Of course, that’s easier when you are more successful because you can lean back and rely on that work, but in the beginning you are so filled with passion and you just want it to work so you work really hard. It’s harder to have a balance with normal life at that stage.
So, the more successful you are, the more balanced it is?
Yeah! For me, at least!
I’m curious – I’ve read mixed reviews of Nabuma, although mostly positive – do you take these into account or are you one to remain completely oblivious from critics?
Mostly oblivious, but sometimes you read something and you realise people have different views… The thing that bothers me the most is that you can kind of feel there is something else. It’s not like an analysis of what they hear, it’s more personal or there is something else there like a weird feeling when the person writes. Especially in Sweden actually. I guess that’s the beauty of it though, when it becomes personal because they’ve heard something personal. But at the same time, it may not be the most objective painting or representation of the music.
Do you ever consider what you’d like listeners to take from your records when you’re creating them?
It’s a little bit of what you want to take from it yourself. If you surprise yourself and get some stuff you like and want to play, it might transfer through the music.
I’ve always wanted to ask one of you this, but being in the band since 2005 – what are, if any, some of the biggest changes you’ve experienced within the music industry? Do you have any thoughts on where the industry is headed, or what’s going on, from what you’ve seen?
I guess the whole Internet thing, I guess it was a really big shift in the industry. You can see how labels were really struggling from it and how they were kind of surprised by it and people sharing stuff. At the same time, though, it has helped the live part grow as that’s what the artist has to do now for income. It’s cool because you should love live music!
What can we expect still to come from you guys? Are you wrapping up the Nabuma tour shortly?
Well, we are coming to Australia and New Zealand, and then we are having a little break and perhaps some writing time. But then, we’re doing a US tour. We might release some remixes later in the year.
There was quite a break between Ritual Union and Nabuma, can we expect similar this time around?
I don’t think it will be as long this time. For Ritual Union, we toured for quite a long time off that album, and then we had to have some downtime. I think now we are more in tuned to keep on going, so hopefully it won’t take as long this time!
Little Dragon tour dates:
Monday 26 January – AUCKLAND – SILO PARK
Saturday 31 January – BRISBANE – BRISBANE SHOWGROUNDS, BOWEN HILLS (16+)
Sunday 1 February – SYDNEY – SYDNEY COLLEGE OF THE ARTS (SCA), ROZELLE
Friday 6 February – ADELAIDE – HART’S MILL, PORT ADELAIDE (16+)
Saturday 7 February – MELBOURNE – FOOTSCRAY COMMUNITY ARTS CENTRE (FCAC) AND THE RIVER’S EDGE
Sunday 8 February – FREMANTLE – ESPLANADE RESERVE AND WEST END