At the end of September, members of the Swedish band Little Dragon visited the Double G News Network for an interview with host Nemo Hoes, a.k.a. rapper Snoop Dogg, whose Web series has featured chats with 50 Cent, Pharrell Williams and Russell Simmons.
During the episode, lead singer Yukimi Nagano and drummer Erik Bodin sat behind a table, swiveling side to side in their chairs in unison while quietly answering increasingly absurd questions. (“Finish the sentence . . .” “My favorite position is . . . ”)
They looked a little uncomfortable, unlike many of the show’s other interview subjects. When Seth Rogen was a guest, for example, he demonstrated how to smoke a joint in the shape of a cross.
If there was any question how the musicians landed on the series, Snoop’s fandom cleared it up.
“Your voice is amazing, the range that you have,” the rapper gushed to Nagano. “You’re so soulful.”
It was a reminder of the band’s eclectic popularity. Little Dragon, a band of three Swedish men — Bodin, Fredrik Källgren Wallin and Hakan Wirenstrand — fronted by the petite Nagano, seems quiet in interviews, but onstage the group is all energy. The members don wacky outfits and encourage a multicultural dance party to a sound that has variously been described as electronic, indie, altronica and soul-pop.
And somehow, a band that doesn’t fit in anywhere has been embraced everywhere.
Little Dragon, which headlines D.C.’s Echostage on Wednesday, has opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and collaborated with Big Boi; it has collaborated with Gorillaz and producer Robin Hannibal. This year, it performed at Soul’d Out Music Festival in Portland and Coachella, Bonnaroo, and the electronic dance music-heavy North Coast Music Festival in Chicago.
“We’re so inspired by different things — anything from Brian Eno to some amazing Congolese music to Kate Bush to classical to Snoop Dogg,” Nagano said over the phone recently from Los Angeles. “I think that’s one reason we have a sort of wide variety of fans who come from all kinds of corners and tastes. . . . I think maybe they recognize what we’ve been influenced by.”
For their fourth album, “Nabuma Rubberband,” which was released in May, that influence has been in the slow-jam realm, which is a departure for the group.
“I think, had it been a few years ago, we would have thought we don’t want to have too many slow songs on this record; we want to make people dance,” Nagano said. But this time was different. “It was almost allowing the unconscious to speak and not taking those songs away for whatever reason.”
Nagano was listening to music by another popular artist with a diverse fan base at the time: Janet Jackson. The daughter of an American mother and Japanese father, Nagano was exposed to many musical genres as a kid. But somehow, growing up in Gothenburg, Sweden, she did not spend a lot of time with Jackson’s music.
“Even though I knew about her and about her songs, I’d never really dug in deeper and listened to her as an artist,” Nagano said. “I felt like I just discovered her recently. She’s such a good vocalist and such a good songwriter, and she has this sensual, sexy vibe.”
You can hear the impact on Little Dragon’s recent songs, such as “Pretty Girls,” where Nagano’s stunning voice and broad range overlay a driving beat with occasional synthesizer interludes. It takes you back to “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” or “Any Time, Any Place.”
Jackson is the latest on a running list of R&B artists who have inspired Little Dragon since the band’s members started jamming together as high-schoolers in the mid-1990s. Back then it was D’Angelo and Prince. But it was a decade before the group produced an album. Its self-titled debut landed in 2007, and the melancholy, piano-heavy “Twice” was an underground hit that gained popularity after being featured in television shows and movies. (Nagano’s grandmother excitedly called to tell her that the song played during an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.”) And then the band immediately changed course with two higher-energy releases, 2009’s “Machine Dreams” and “Ritual Union” in 2011.
“You kind of go through different phases,” Nagano said. “The first album had a certain sound and then you kind of want to rebel from that and be different on the second. You just don’t want to repeat yourself.”
Looking back at the band’s history, Nagano has a hard time pinpointing a specific moment when Little Dragon transitioned from being beloved by a cult crowd to becoming a hit among a broad array of music fans. Maybe it was “Grey’s Anatomy,” which piqued the interest of pop listeners, or touring with Gorillaz and getting exposure to trip-hop fans. But she remembers one big turning point: the first time the band played at New York’s large venue Terminal 5 in 2011.
“Everyone was kind of worried about doing that show because you take that risk and you don’t want to have it half full,” Nagano recalled. “And it was just a fantastic, glorious night. It was sold out and you could feel the energy and feel the love. And that was one of those moments where you could see the steps you took to get there. And it wasn’t an overnight kind of thing.”
Now the band returns to D.C. to play its biggest local venue to date, Echostage. After years of near-constant touring (including performances locally at the State Theatre and the 9:30 Club), you have to wonder if the band will slow down now that it has found success. According to the lead singer, she and the guys have no intention of letting up.
“I could ramble on forever about the negative, terrible things about touring — how it wears you down — but there are equal amounts of fantastic things,” she said. “You do it for that hour when you’re on stage and it all falls in place. It all makes sense.”
Little Dragon performs Wednesday at Echostage, 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE. 202-503-2330. www.echostage.com. Tickets, $31.