From the immortal genius of Frank Ocean to mass bird deaths, here are some of the foundations of the Swedish pop band's new album.
Yukimi Nagano: "His record ‘Channel Orange’ really made me want to write better. When you hear music and it makes you feel almost anguished because it’s so good, that’s the best way to be inspired. It just makes me want to write. That’s how I felt [with ‘Channel Orange’]. And when you hear a record and you actually like the whole album, it’s something really special – I hadn’t thought that in a while, so I was really excited about that."
Yukimi Nagano: "It was very long, like six months almost, of darkness and cruel weather. I think there’s something about that which gets you in a certain state – maybe there’s an element of [‘Nabuma Rubberband’] being kind of moody, and maybe a little bit darker than the other records.
"This was the first time that we were at home in that season for so long, because we’ve otherwise always been on tour. It was a pretty rough winter last winter. You want winter to be over after Christmas, but in Sweden it’s just about to start."
Yukimi Nagano: "I don’t want to speak for the guys, but sometimes when they got a new synth or new equipment – and I can’t say exactly what it is, because I’m not the right person – I know that it inspired the record. Sounds inspire the guys. As soon as you have more new sounds to play with and mess around with, all of the sudden you have a loop, and then all of the sudden you have a beat, then all of the sudden you have a song."
Does their enthusiasm rub off on you?
Yukimi Nagano: "For sure. At first it’s their enthusiasm, because I’m not that nerdy with gear, but once sounds come out you’re like, ‘Ohh, that’s really nice.’ There are some sounds that really take you to a place without being songs. With the state of mind that you’re in when you’re trying to write – when it’s dark outside and you’re in the studio every day – you look for sounds that have a bit of escapism, and a kind of romantic, dreamy vibe. I think that those sounds are on the record."
Yukimi Nagano: "He helped me out, lyrically, on a couple of songs. The guys are so into their sonics and beats and music, but not as in tune with the lyrics, and I always feel better when I have someone to kind of reflect me. That goes for the guys with singing, too – I’ll record something, and they’ll be like, ‘Try singing it like this’ or, ‘Try singing it not so hard’ or, ‘Try chilling out.’ Sometimes you’ll have a vision and it works, and sometimes you need a person outside to guide you, and Dave was someone like that. He’s someone that we met on the Gorillaz tour that loved our music and who we became friends with. He’s deep into lyrics as a rapper – obviously from a different world, but still appreciating what we do. Sometimes we’d send ideas, just as a, ‘What do you think?’ kind of thing. And he’d be like, ‘Awesome! You know, you could possibly change that word… but you know, that’s just me…’
"We’re friends with the whole band, and the fact that they’ve been together for so long and stayed a band is something that we look up to. We want to stay together as a band and sustain ourselves."
Yukimi Nagano: "It’s where I’d sit and write. When we wrote this record, we moved one floor up from the old studio – same building, but one floor up – and we just had an awesome view looking out over the street. I’d sit there and watch people and just reflect. Sometimes, when I had writer’s block – I had music that I loved, but I didn’t know how to say what I wanted to say – it was my comfort zone. It’s not like I was writing about what was going on outside the window, but I just related to the writing process in that zone."
What could you see?
Yukimi Nagano: "Just people walking, I guess. You’d see, like, a canal, and you’d see the water reflect a night and glitter in the morning. You’d watch people walking funny. Just the other day, I saw this girl, and she looked behind her – just to make sure that no one was there – and she did this funny dance move! Then she looked behind again and moved on. She had no idea that I was watching, which was hilarious. I thought it was so cute. It’s fun to look at how people walk – Eric [Bodin, drummer]’s good at making noises to how everyone walks."
Yukimi Nagano: "There was this article in the National Geographic about birds getting lost and dying – maybe in Hong Kong? – because of all of the light. They were getting dizzy from the city lights at nighttime, and they would crash into buildings and stuff like that. There was this fold-out in the article of all these different birds that they’d found – beautiful birds, dead – and it was very sad and dark… but at the same time, it was, in some weird way, beautiful. I mean, I wouldn’t say ‘beautiful’ in a good way. That was the inspiration for the first line in Nabuma Rubberband – The last bird smash into a skyscraper / Under the Hong Kong lights."
Photo by Lynne Parks, who photographed similar bird deaths Baltimore, USA.
Yukimi Nagano: "The guys went to Uganda, probably about 11 years ago now, and played with this Ugandan reggae artist [Maddox Sematimba, pictured] who filled out stadiums because he was one of the first reggae artists to sing in their language. He brought the musicians over – Eric, Fred [Källgren Wallin, bass], and Håkan [Wirenstrand, keys], and some other guys. They were super excited, because they’d played around Sweden, but all of a sudden it’s a whole new experience. Anyway, [the reggae artist’s] sister’s name was Nabuma. She was kind of his manager. She took care of all of the money. She was this really strong woman.
"I don’t know why some songs get the working titles that they do. It’s so random, some songs are called Diaper – in your unconscious mind, you just write down your song to not to lose it in an ocean of millions of ideas. The song became called Nabuma, and then randomly Nabuma Rubberband. I liked the name so much, and everyone was like, ‘Nahh, it’s too weird, what the hell does it mean?’, blah blah. I would like to put the actual Nabuma as the source of inspiration."
I like the title. It’s a pairing of words that sounds nice together for no obvious reason.
Yukimi Nagano: "We had a bunch of other options which were normal, like Mirror, or other new age-y sounding things. But at the end of the day, we were like, ‘Who cares?’ You go with your gut."
Yukimi Nagano: "On the road, everything’s moving so fast – you’re doing so much, constantly – that when you get home, it’s so quiet and still that you almost feel awkward and uncomfortable and strange. That made me feel like, ‘Oh my god’, like I could look back at the world. It’s crazy how fast things move when you’re on the road and you’re so wrapped up – ‘Can you tweak this, can you move that, can you do this?’ – and then all of a sudden, you’re like, ‘But where did the time go?’ Even being on the road seems like some between space, but it’s actually your base. I had a moment to look back, and I wanted to be able to take it all in and write a song about that feeling, where everything’s going full speed ahead and you’re not thinking about tomorrow. The pace we have is the inspiration for the song Pink Cloud."
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Last month, Swedish electronic pop band Little Dragon released their fourth album, 'Nabuma Rubberband'. Continuing to refine their songwriting, 'Nabuma Rubberband' is a record of seductive digital pop jams, with icy R&B slowjams, tight club rhythms, and crystalline sounds.
To get a feel of the record's creative process and the inspirations that formed its foundations, we caught the band's Yukimi Nagano on the phone as she was on the way to watch her friend "doing a little dance performance". From the weird beauty of mass bird deaths to the immortal genius of Frank Ocean, here are a handful of the things that inspired Little Dragon's new album.
Because Music released 'Nabuma Rubberband' on May 13th 2014 (buy).