Little Dragon is a band of sugary highs and sultry lows. Since their 2007 debut, the foursome from Gothenburg, Sweden, has created catchy electro-pop and lush R&B that conveys a sort of heightened reality, where glittery, fantastical elements overlay the dreary everyday. These sweeteners come in the form of synths and chimes, textural electronic and analog combinations, and a skillful mix of pop hooks and slow-burning tracks.
Singer Yukimi Nagano, bassist Fredrik Kallgren Wallin, keyboardist Hakan Wirenstrand, and drummer Erik Bodin met as teenagers in mid-'90s Sweden and began releasing records as a band with their self-titled album in 2007. Their subsequent work includes their 2011 album Ritual Union and 2014's Nabuma Rubberband, as well as collaborations with Gorillaz, Big Boi, and Future.
On their fifth album, Season High — released on April 14 — Little Dragon shows a more self-assured version of their signature palette. There's "Celebrate," the album's exuberant pop opener, "High," a hazy, slow jam, and "Sweet," the synth-drenched dance banger — and that's to speak only of the singles.
As part of their U.S. tour supporting Season High, Little Dragon plays the Majestic Theatre on Wednesday, May 3, with special guest Goldlink. Metro Times spoke with Kallgren Wallin about the creation of the album, how touring the U.S. is different than other countries, and their evolution as a band.
Metro Times: What was the process of making Season High? Did you do any writing while you were touring for Nabuma Rubberband?
Fredrik Kallgren Wallin: No, we were back in Sweden. We're the kind of people who need a day-to-day routine; going to the studio is part of the process. Gothenburg can be boring and dull and cold, and it's nice to go into your bubble in the studio.
MT: So was this album similar to how you wrote your previous ones?
Wallin: With this one, it wasn't really clear when the album was finished.Sometimes you just feel it, "that's it," and you don't touch the cake anymore or put any more frosting on it. But other times it's like, "Can we put some more on there? Strawberries, maybe?" We also brought in two producers, (Arctic Monkeys producer) James Ford and (Charli XCX, Lana Del Rey producer) Patrik Berger, for the first time. They came in late in the process, it was almost done, but they brought some clarity.
MT: What elements did they bring to the mix that weren't already there?
Wallin: Patrik comes from a very pop background. With "Sweet," we were fine with the groove, but he arranged it with a little more structure. And James, with him it's a really fine touch that made it sound even better. He also had a fresh perspective on the songs. We're so used to it just being the four of us. When someone else comes in, it's a new thing and the group dynamic changes. He was very good with feeling the energy, pushing to do things a little differently.
MT: Does this album have any themes?
Wallin: It has a strong theme of escapism and finding different highs. Love and music and working out, stuff that makes you forget the every day.
MT: Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Wallin: That's a hard one. It's like choosing your favorite kid. But "Don't Cry" is a great slow jam.
MT: How does your experience touring the U.S. differ from touring Sweden, or other places?
Wallin: The U.S. is so big and has so many different vibes and people. They aren't shy about expressing their feelings, dancing, and letting go. Whereas in Europe, sometimes, if it's not a Friday or Saturday, people will be more reserved and just stand and listen.
MT: So people in the U.S. cut loose more easily?
Wallin: Yeah, definitely. And that's more fun for us. Every experience is brilliant in its own way, but when you feel the energy of people dancing and shouting, it's very nice.
MT: Is the U.S. your biggest fan base?
Wallin: Definitely, yeah. It's funny; we don't play that much in Sweden. It's grown a little bit in the last few years, but we've kind of been unknown.
MT: I read that when you guys met as teenagers, you were really into hip-hop groups like A Tribe Called Quest. Is that what you bonded over as younger people?
Wallin: Nah, I mean, me and Erik went to the same class in high school, and I was more into instrumental music, jazz and electronic and classical. And Erik was very much into hip-hop, so he kind of opened that door for me. But it was mostly, like, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest — the soulful, positive stuff.
MT: How has your style changed over the past decade of being a band?
Wallin: It sounds boring to say we've matured, but, it's kind of like the process of boiling something; the essence becomes stronger. We understand more what we like, and we're a bit surer of our aesthetic and our mission. We don't want to compromise on that.
Little Dragon performs at the Majestic Theatre on Wednesday, May 3 with special guest Goldlink; doors at 7 p.m.; 4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit; Tickets start at $29.75.
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