Little Dragon knows great food is hard to come by on the road, so backstage at Montreal’s Osheaga festival last weekend, they took full advantage of Iron Chef America winner and city native Chuck Hughes' delicious catering, even taking to-go servings for later. On full stomachs and just an hour before they’d rock the Scène Piknic Électronik stage, lead singer Yukimi Nagano and her squad squeezed on to a bench to talk about their collaboration with Outkast’s Big Boi, meeting Andre 3000, working on their next album, and winning without radio.
Interview by Brad Wete (@BradWete)
Complex: I heard the collaboration with Big Boi. How did that happen?
Yukimi Nagano: His people reached out to us, and we gave him a few tracks that we had. Then we spent a day together in Atlanta in his studio, just working and vibing. One of the songs with beats that he had was the one I put vocals on. It was good!
At the listening session for his album, Big told us that he first heard Little Dragon when he was hanging out with Andre 3000. What's it like to know Andre's a fan?
It’s pretty amazing. We’re all pretty big fans of Outkast. Andre 3000 and Big Boi. I actually saw him at TriBeca Grand in New York. I’d never met him before. I think he was working on the Jimi Hendrix film. He was as cool as I thought he’d be.
You’ve collaborated with a lot of artists, like the Gorrillaz and TV on the Radio. Any other pairings we should be on the lookout for?
Not collaborations, but we’re working on our fourth album.
You guys usually space out your releases. The gap between your second and third album was two years. Can we expect your fourth one a little sooner?
We’re not setting any dates yet. Just trying to be home for a minute and try to be inspired and write a lot of stuff.
So you’re writing and creating on the road between tour stops?
There’s not much time. Festival season is hard. When you’re on tour, maybe people have time to jam out on their laptops when you have an off date here or there.
Will there a dramatic change in your sound on this next album?
We want to renew ourselves a little bit. But we’re who we are. We can’t be different people. But I think it’s always good to have the ambition to try to inspire yourself. So we’re not trying to be who we were last album. Hopefully it’ll be rawer, better, and punchier.
You guys are loved on the Internet, but don’t get much, if any, radio play. Is that frustrating? Or are you happy that you’ve built such a huge fan base without it?
That’s a bit of the hard one. I’m inspired by what’s on the radio in a certain way. You kind of analyze it like, “Okay, cool. Nicki Minaj. Rihanna. This and that.” It’s catchy. You have something. But then again, sometimes it’s not so inspiring to us. But absolutely, we’d love it if radio played our music. Wow, that’d be amazing.
At the same time, it’d be hard to hear a Nicki Minaj and David Guetta song and then hear a Little Dragon song afterwards. Hopefully, the world will wake up and it will happen, though. We’re not changing our sound for the radio.
Hopefully, we can just have that person that believes in us and has the confidence that, even though it’s not the obvious radio music, it still needs to be there. If we can find that person, great. If not, we’ll still be doing our thing.
So you’re happy with where you’re at?
We’re pretty happy with where we’re at. If you can pay your bills by being yourself, that’s amazing. But obviously, if you get a song on the radio it changes your life. We could buy an apartment and not have to pay rent and be very good and feel like the hard work we’ve put in has paid off. Of course! Who wouldn’t want that?