Two decades on, high school friends Little Dragon are still living their dreams.

Swedish trip hop act Little Dragon have been enchanting the world with their soulful, punchy, electro-pop since the late nineties, consistently re-examining their sound with each of four albums. They were last here in late 2010 supporting Gorillaz on their Plastic Beach world tour, and they're very excited to be back to share their recent release Nabuma Rubberband.

Their lead singer Yukimi Nagano was the one who was given the nickname "Little Dragon" in their early days, apparently due to her combustible temper, but speaking from the US where they're just wrapping up another tour before heading downunder, she sounds like one very chilled-out Scandinavian.


"It is a little crazy to think we've been doing this for two decades. I think we're all artists at heart, so no matter what, we all would've been working in some artistic way, but it is a bit of a dream come true. I'm pretty impressed sometimes that we've stayed together and we still love it, and we've challenged ourselves to keep growing."

The four met at high school, and Nagano remembers they were drawn together very naturally.


"Fred [Wallin] and Erik [Bodin] were two years older than me at school, and I remember Erik seemed like a very confident drummer with his own distinct style, and Fred was this kid who would take off from school to go to film festival movies on his own, he was just a very artsy interesting person, and so I think we just gravitated towards each other because we really admired each other.

Hakan [Wirenstrand] came in the picture a little bit afterwards, and he became this extra new element, because he was deeply into synthesisers, and he was the first one to have his own home studio set up."

Having spent more than two years on the road after the release of their 2011 album Ritual Union, they were desperate for some time out when it came to writing Nabuma Rubberband, and decided to sequester themselves away for a winter in Gothenburg.

"It was so great to be at home, and to be together, and to have time to write. It was a terribly cold Swedish winter, and we hadn't been home for winter for so long that it shocked us a bit, all the darkness and cold definitely rubs off on your mood for sure. But it was really important and really good."

Nagano felt particularly challenged by writing this album - she was getting plenty of music from the guys, who were churning out plenty of different ideas, but she was struggling with the lyrics.

"I had so much music I wanted to write to, but my lyrics felt like they were coming really slowly, they definitely didn't happen overnight. [Our single] Klap Klap for example definitely wasn't an instant track, it just had a bassline and drums, and it had a great drive, but I didn't know how I was going to make a song out of it initially. It worked out in the end though."

And when they deliver these storming new tracks at Laneway next Monday, they're aiming to keep it as live as possible.

"We definitely feel like a live band, that's how we identify ourselves, so we sample some sounds, but we don't have any backing tracks or anything, and we just try and bring a lot of energy.

"I think for us, it's not so much about having lots of fancy production but more about keeping it minimal, giving a lot of energy, and vibing with the crowd."

Who: Yukimi Nagano, lead singer of Little Dragon
Where and when: Performing on the Cactus Cat Stage at 8.10pm at Laneway Festival on Monday January 26.
Listen to: Little Dragon (2007), Machine Dreams (2009), Ritual Union (2011), Nabuma Rubberband (2014)

• TimeOut has five double passes to Laneway to give away. To enter, simply head to our Facebook page and tell us who you're most excited to see. Winners will be drawn Friday, January 23 at 5pm. Tickets will be emailed to winners ahead of Monday's event.

- TimeOut