Incendiary swedes

Fire-breathing electro-Indie band Little Dragon will light up the crowd in TA.

Little Dragon 521 (photo credit: courtesy)
Little Dragon 521
(photo credit: courtesy)
Amid this season of visits by one-time greats, pretty goods and “who wanted to see them even thens?” how often does a truly current buzz band stop by our shores amid little fanfare? Little Dragon proves to be the tantalizing exception amid the barrage of 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s oldies shows showering down on Tel Aviv clubs and arenas. The electro-indie band from Gothenburg, Sweden, may not be a household name, but their star is rising around the world thanks to their bright take on dance music and a high-profile boost from another buzz band – Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s virtually animated Gorillaz.
After their 2007 debut album, the quartet – fronted by quirky Swedish-Japanese female vocalist Yukimi Nagano – slowly began building a word-of-mouth underground following in the US. By their 2009 follow-up, Machine Dreams, with its synthesis of sleek, vintage Prince-style R&B, cheesy new wave and modern electronics, they began being championed by tastemakers like hip Los Angeles radio station KCRW, which put the band in heavy rotation in its programming schedule second only to Radiohead, and TV On the Radio’s Dave Sitek (who took them on tour with his band for a brief run in 2009).
But last year’s collaboration with Albarn and crew on two songs for the Gorillaz’s 2010 album Plastic Beach (“Empire Ants” and “To Binge”) – and a featured slot on the ensuing world tour alongside other guest artists De La Soul, Bobby Womack, and Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of the Clash – introduced Little Dragon to a mainstream audience that have liked what they’ve heard.
“It was one of the best support slots that there could ever be. The main thing with the Gorillaz audience is they’re open to new stuff,” said Little Dragon’s drummer Erik Bodin, speaking last week from Glasgow, Scotland, where the band was getting ready to perform. “And it was amazing to meet and perform with De La Soul and Mick Jones. Toward the end of the tour, we became like a big family.”
Amid the Elvis Costello/Pixies cancellations of last summer, not much attention was given to the fact that the Gorillaz also bailed out of a Tel Aviv show – part of the tour that would have brought Little Dragon to Israel. But the situation has been remedied, with the band – also including Fredrik Wallin on bass and Håkan Wirenstrand on keyboards – slated to perform on May 23 at the Barby Club in Tel Aviv ahead of the summer release of a new album, Ritual Union, and a couple months after their US television debut on The Jimmy Fallon Show.
It’s a long way from Gothenburg, the Volvo capital of the world, where the band grew up and still lives. According to Bodin, the members – all high school friends – turned to music as an outlet to escape the daily doldrums of their hometown.
“Gothenburg is similar to Glasgow, where I am right now – cold, rainy and sleepy,” said Bodin. “You have a lot of time and privacy to go into a bubble and do your own thing. There are a lot of bands, but in general the music scene there is more about people hiding out inside, like we do, and making their own music in an effort to deal with the boredom.”
Anyone witnessing Little Dragon’s performances would have a hard time believing they were bored – or boring. Hypnotic beats with pop sensibilities over a sleek indie veneer are topped by Nagano’s entrancing image leading the way.
“It’s good to have Yukimi there in the front. We try our best to lift her up every night and make sure she’s on fire so she can light up the crowd,” said Bodin, who disclosed that next week’s stop in Tel Aviv won’t be his first. He also performed in 2008, accompanying Swedish alt-folk singer José González.
“I didn’t have any expectations on that trip, other than assuming that Israelis must love music. I was right, and I loved the country. I got to run along the beach in Tel Aviv and visited Jerusalem, which was mind-blowing. Now I can be the tour guide for Little Dragon,” said Bodin with a laugh. Now if he could just talk some sense into the Gorillaz.
Little Dragon, May 23 at the Barby Club, Tel Aviv. Opening act: Computer Camp at 9 p.m.