Going Deep: Before Florida show, Little Dragon's Erik Bodin says he has an itch to get nerdy on new music

"Who cares if it fits into the mainstream?"

click to enlarge Little Dragon, which plays The Beacham in Orlando, Florida on March 14, 2018. - IB Kamara
IB Kamara
Little Dragon, which plays The Beacham in Orlando, Florida on March 14, 2018.

As Little Dragon arrives in Florida to support its latest album, last year's Season High, drummer Erik Bodin is reflecting on how it's taken the band a full five albums to find some self-confidence in its sound.

"It's funny how making your sixth album is like where we are now, we are still gaining confidence," he said when asked about how Simian Mobile Disco's James Ford helped the band on Season High. "I don't know. That's how it is being an artist. Being a creative person, you have to be so self-confident, which is not always easy."

But Bodin — who will be behind the kit when Little Dragon hits Orlando's Beacham on March 14 — doesn't really want to do the easy stuff. He cites Mononeon as an artist who pushes him to be provocative and go for the difficult, nervy stuff. He won't even rule out the possibility of a full-on jazz or acoustic album for Little Dragon.

"Lately I've been having a dream of making, sort of, like a big jazz drum kit with double kicks and everything, but everything tuned up. I know Tony Williams had a kit like that — very, like ray and aggressive, up-pitched jazz kit," he said. "I mean Håkan just saved a bunch of money and brought a grand piano, and Fred has all these double basses laying around, so soon, who knows. Maybe it could be a jazz trio, and why not bring in Yukimi."

He loves the American jazz movement over the one happening in his native Sweden where jazzers are more or less leaning on mellow and sentimental sounds.

"I really like what's going on at the moment with Bad Bad Not Good. And love, what's his name, Mononeon and I like that kind of American jazz wave that is coming. I hear music, I get an itch in my fingers that I kind of want to burn up a drum kit or something. I want to be more provocative, you know?," Bodin said.

"Who knows. We might do some acoustic versions of the Little Dragon songs. I don't know. But it feels like we're getting closer to making more acoustic music than ever before."

Read our full Q&A with Bodin and get details on the show below. 

Little Dragon
Wed. March 14, 7 p.m. $30-$35.
The Beacham, 46 N. Orange Ave., Orlando.
More info: thebeacham.com


Your tour starts on the 2nd, are you guys in the States already?

No, we are basically waiting for our working Visas to arrive and our passports (laughs) to arrive from the U.S. embassy because we are leaving tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow. On Wednesday we leave.

Where are you going to practice when you get here?

I don't think we are going to practice there, I think we are just going to do like we usually do, jump straight in to it. Just to keep us on our toes.

Speaking of staying on your toes, I wanted to know if it was OK to talk about "Meditation Mike," "Ghamid God Damnit," or even "Sway Daisy" and see how those songs are going?

Yeah yeah yeah, you heard them.

Well I saw a mentioning of "Meditation Mike" and "God Damnit" and then I saw you guys were working on "Sway Daisy" last week. So I was wondering how those particular songs were going and how the record was going, it’s been a year since Season High so...

Yeah I think it’s been going good, we are always in the next phase and realizing that everybody is ahead of everybody, but the Season High, it’s still fresh I suppose but we are already aiming for new material but we don’t really have any plans and we’re making new music so, "Meditation Mike, I don’t know what we are going to do with it, I don't know if there’s any particular plan at the moment but "Sway Daisy" was released a days ago I suppose, so we will see how that goes down. But we are way excited to do what we are doing, we feel very blessed to be able to keep on doing the music we love

And you probably did it the same way before but I feel like Little Dragon has always committed to this holistic artist statement when it releases music and plays the shows. Does the large scope of what you guys try to accomplish as a band ever get exhausting for you.

Yeah of course, I think our ?? Have evolved over the years, I think when we started out there were some of us who knew even how a computer worked and how to make songs and some of us were just occupied jamming out so as time evolved everybody became sort of a songwriter and to make everybody feel like they were represented on the album we had to compromise and become very sensible and democratic creatures but I think now we’re confident enough to think that if somebody has something ongoing, we don’t have to really push for ourselves to be represented in that particular song because it is quite demanding when you really want to keep together the band and you want everybody to feel represented and you know you feel like their ego got represented as well. But, as we are growing older we are dealing with it better.

And speaking of democratic music making, will James Ford from Simian Mobile Disco or Patrik Berger be involved again? I mean James helped you really finish Season High, but would you want to go back to self-producing?

Uh. We don't know. We liked the experience. James Ford, it was nice. We are open, we always try different ideas. We had been quite hesitant about bringing somebody into our bubble, but with James Ford it was a really good match. He just did a few tweaks and gave us the confidence in the material that we already had. I think, also, we learned that we are OK the way we are. It's funny how making your sixth album is like where we are now, we are still gaining confidence. I don't know. That's how it is being an artist. Being a creative person, you have to be so self-confident, which is not always easy. It's easy to believe somebody when they say, "I think you should try and bring someone else in," to maybe produce. I don't think, necessarily, that that would've been an opinion coming out of ourself naturally, but we were open to the idea.

So I don't know. Maybe we try to even get deeper into doing the mixes ourselves. It might be that we end up frustrated — and that's a good point to bring somebody in, but we will see.

And do you feel like the band is still locked into the “homemade” and “handmade” aesthetic it went for on Season Hight? Like, how is the sound evolving?

Yeah. Yeah. Definitely.

OK.

I think it will be hard for us to leave. It will be like leaving ourselves. Of course, I don't know how it would sound. I think we're very into having it have this homemade feel.

And while we're talking about different aesthetics and feel. I feel like Little Dragon fans know this one part of Yukimi’s voice. Does she sing anything in the van or during soundcheck that might surprise fans?

Yeah, I think that happens all that time, to be honest. Me and Yukimi, we record a lot of music, and ideas. She has a very dynamic voice and a very dynamic personality also. She brings all these elements, all her, kind of, the personalities. The whole spectrum. It's hard to realize that it's her singing sometimes. I think there is so much more to come, to be honest.

Yeah it seems like the band has a long future in front of it as far as mining sounds goes. Do you still use Cubase a lot when mess around with a song’s structure?

Yeah. Cubase is still the one we are using. We still use home-built PCs and Cubase.

Home-built PCs. Is it hard to get any parts there in Sweden. I wouldn't think so, but it's a small country.

There are a lot of hackers in Sweden. I think Pirate Bay originated in Sweden, after all. Lots of geeks here. Not hard, we went to the local computer nerd store and asked them for the gamer parts. We didn't go extreme, but it's funny how you can build the same type of top-notch Macintosh computer, but for a tenth of the price if you just assemble it yourself. So we are still in the world of PCS.


And I like like that video for “Twice” you did with Johannes Nyholm and even the Season High stuff you did with Ossian Melin really energized you — how hard is it to meet people who push you creatively? Especially in a small country like Sweden where you trade cheap studio space for a less expansive music scene. Does it make you wanna move to Norway?

Hahaha. No, not necessarily Norway. I think they are more old than we are. I think we've been lucky. I think we always felt like a bunch of weirdos that had a hard time connecting. Either it's heavy-metal or slick studio musician vibes. We had a hard time finding other weirdos, but eventually you run across them. They are hiding in their creative spaces and studios. That was the case with Johannes, so we asked him if had any nice recommendations because he was doing his film. That's how we ran across Ossian, who with his friend Aladdin — it's amazing how fairy tale their names are...

Haha. I know.

Haha.

It's like Lord Of The Rings or something.

Haha, I know. I know. They are, maybe, 10 years younger than us, I don't know maybe more, 12, 13 or something. But they are from the same city, the same neighborhood, and we can all talk about the local tobacco store and how great the candy was in the 90s. It's ridiculous. After all this time doing videos and travelling, you can't always take the hottest name in L.A., New York or London, but there's something about sharing being creative with somebody from your exact same neighborhood. You have so much in common, you know. The humor and the language, it's very inspiring. We don't have to be in the L.A. desert to make a video — we can be in gray, old Gothenburg. The most dull place on Earth and still make it feel surreal because it is kind of surreal for us. It's good to bring it back and do something local.

And since you're talking about your neighbors and other Swedes. Robyn says we’ll see a new album from her this year — are you friends? Can you tell us about it?

Uh. To be honest I haven't, I've never, I think I've seen her one time at some big festival in Germany, but other than that I've never really talked to her. I don't know what's going on. She's been going on for a long while. I mean I think she started when she was 13 or something, and she's our age, so she's a legend by now. But no, we never really cross paths. I don't know, I'm too caught up in my own bubble; the PC, Cubase and the sounds coming out of my computer.

Does Cubase keep you away from watching hockey? I'm calling you from Tampa, and we have a very big, beautiful Swede who plays defense for our team here.

Wow. No, I mean, if it was me going to me going to the local ice rink to play some hockey. That's something I've been doing. I miss out on all the NHL, but I did watch the winter Olympics. I don't know if Americana was aware.

I think since a lot of the NHL players were there we didn't really watch that tournament. I don't know who won the gold medal game between Germany and Russia.

I think it was Russia.


Was it? OK. It looked good, but I fell asleep. Back to music. What are the chances of LD doing a straight ahead jazz record? Who would you want to work with on something like that if you did?

Yeah. I mean, why not? I think if we did a jazz record. Lately I've been having a dream of making, sort of, like a big jazz drum kit with double kicks and everything, but everything tuned up. I know Tony Williams had a kit like that — very, like ray and aggressive, up-pitched jazz kit. I mean Håkan just saved a bunch of money and brought a grand piano, and Fred has all these double basses laying around, so soon, who knows. Maybe it could be a jazz trio, and why not bring in Yukimi.

But, I mean, we have this. With jazz, I really like what's going on at the moment with Bad Bad Not Good. And love, what's his name, Mononeon and I like that kind of American jazz wave that is coming. I think in Sweden there is good stuff going on, actually, but it also feels like there is a lot of room for progress. I feel like there's a lot of very, I think the Swedish, general jazz sound is very mellow and sentimental and always going back to that 60s sound, but I feel like it would be nice. I don't know. Somehow, I get this, when I hear music, I get an itch in my fingers that I kind of want to burn up a drum kit or something. I want to be more provocative, you know? Who knows. We might do some acoustic versions of the Little Dragon songs. I don't know. But it feels like we're getting closer to making more acoustic music than ever before.

I like hearing you talk about other artists. Yukimi talks a lot about music giving listeners power — she likes Talking Heads and Arthur Russell, but what music gives you power? Mononeon, those guys?

Yeah. I follow Mononeon a lot. It feels like 10 years ago, maybe, or I don't know, but a few years ago it felt like people weren't really into it — playing super-hard or technical, skilled musician. You know taking it deep and nerdy like that. But I mean, why not? It's like, you only live once. Why not take it as far as you can. I mean who cares if it fits into the mainstream. Any artist like that really inspires me, to be honest. Anyone who doesn't give a shit. The main key in life, I suppose.

Totally. And this tour that you are on right now is it just to get out of the snow?

Yeah. It's to get out of the show. Where we are in Sweden, we are having quite a rare phenomenon, but if it comes it is usually right now. When everyone thinks spring is coming is when a, like, Siberian wind coming in. Even the ocean is freezing, and people are getting ready to go out on skates.

Ugh.

It's pretty ridiculous, but I do appreciate when the winter is hard and when it gives you snow and ice. I don't like it to be mild, misty or gray. But I am very happy to going to California, Louisiana, Mexico and Florida.

Yeah, the Mexico show is going to be fun. Sunburn fun.

Yeah, exactly.

I think we're running low on time. Who is the first person you get sick of when the tours get long? Who starts to annoy you and why?

Probably myself, I suppose.

Oh.

Haha. 

It's OK.

I mean, we have this amazing love/hate relationship. Most of the time, maybe 10 years ago we would have definitely been so happy to not see any of each other, but now, you know I don't want to see them exactly when I come home, but within a week I start missing them. I wanna see what they are up to. But most of all it's just good to get home. I have family and kids. When you're out on tour everything is self-centered, so it's good to take a break from yourself and be slave to the rhythm of a family.

Awesome. Anything else you want to add?

No, man, but I can't wait to get to the states.

Awesome, well I hope the visas work out and that you have a safe trip.

Yeah, thank you.

Cool, man. Talk to you later.

Yeah. Take care, bye.

Bye.

Later.

Later.

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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