Little Dragon to play at Laneway

Little Dragon to play at Laneway
Singer Yukimi Nagano leads Little Dragon, comprising (from left) keyboardist Hakan Wirenstrand, bassist Fredrik Kallgren Wallin and drummer Erik Bodin.

In 2007, when Japanese-Swedish-American singer Yukimi Nagano first performed in Singapore, she was a back-up singer for fellow Swede Jose Gonzalez.

Come January, she will be here for a return performance, this time as the frontwoman of indie music darlings Little Dragon.

The electronic music quartet are among the biggest names which will perform at the fifth edition of Laneway Festival Singapore, alongside other acclaimed acts such as British electronic artist FKA twigs, American art-pop singer St. Vincent, Swedish indie singer Lykke Li and American electronic artist Banks.

A total of 19 acts have been announced for the festival, which is scheduled to take place at The Meadow, Gardens by the Bay, on Jan 24.

With the Esplanade's Mosaic festival ending last year, Laneway is now arguably the most important event for indie music lovers here.

It is growing in size, too. Past editions of the festival, which originated in Melbourne, Australia, in 2004, have seen a gradual rise in audience figures, from 5,000 in 2011 to 10,700 last year.

Nagano is looking forward to being a part of Laneway here.

"It's really exciting because at festivals, especially big festivals like this, you get to see other bands that you would probably never get the chance to, unless you were part of something like that.

It's kind of my favourite part of festivals, checking out other bands," she says in a telephone interview from Gothenburg, which is home to Little Dragon.

The band, comprising Erik Bodin on drums, Fredrik Kallgren Wallin on bass and Hakan Wirenstrand on keyboards, are currently making waves with their fourth album, Nabuma Rubberband.

Since it was released in May, their left-of-centre dance songs - merging R&B, electronic and indie music - have garnered rave reviews from music critics. Music magazine Mojo called it "the quartet's most cohesive and rewarding album", while The New York Times hailed the album for songs that are "more approachable but no less eccentric".

Their live shows are also critically acclaimed. In a review of their gig in London in March, British newspaper The Guardian described them as "a band on the verge of greatness".

It should be no surprise, then, to hear Nagano, 32, say the band "really try to make an effort to play everything live".

She adds: "Even though it's electronic, we don't have backtracks and stuff like that. I think we would just try to stay in the moment and bring really good energy and hopefully make people dance and have a good time.

"I think it's just finding the vibe and sometimes we let the music take over and we go off a little bit, improvise a little bit, but we definitely like to create a good atmosphere and give good energy to the crowd."

And for her, the most exciting part about doing their shows all over the world is to see the diversity in the audience. She says: "There's such a mix. You have people of all different races, from hip-hop kids to indie girls to old nerdy, geeky guys. It makes me really happy and proud to see such a mix of people."

Nagano, whose mother is Swedish-American and father is Japanese, was born and raised in Sweden although she lived in Japan for a while.

She says: "I lived in Japan when I was little and I went to an American school and I think I definitely felt like a foreigner there. In Sweden, people identify me as a Japanese but when I'm in Japan, I feel very Western."

She went to the same high school with Wallin and Bodin, and the three of them jammed and listened to music together after classes.

In 2007, they released their self- titled debut album. A song from the release, Twice, was used in popular television shows such as 90210, Grey's Anatomy, Revenge and The Vampire Diaries, spreading their music farther afield.

Nagano says she appreciates the fact that the band's rise has been gradual.

"When we first met, we were just friends and we didn't start making music until 10 years ago. Everything didn't just happen overnight.

It's not like we suddenly had a hit song on the radio," she adds.

"Today, we have a tight bond, kind of like family. I think the music is definitely the glue for us, something that keeps us together."

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