“The longer music exists, the more people hear it, so it is interesting to write a song 10 years ago and meet someone at a show that just heard it last week for the first time,” Little Wings’ Kyle Field tells me. Last week, as I searched for the archived sounds of Little Wings, I represented that someone who was hearing Field’s songs for the first time. In its more than dozen-year-long run, Little Wings have made eleven albums, including two from 2011, Made it Rain and Black Grass, but the project’s history is wrought with starts and stops. Sometimes albums come back-to-back; other times there are years between releases. This unsteady recording rate may not be the industry standard, but Field seems to appreciate the lag time, perhaps due to the timelessness of his sound. On Little Wings records, the guitar and vocals whisper, yet the songs are a powerful force to be reckoned with. Clean folk influences can easily be heard, but they take a backseat to Field’s unique style and voice.
There is an enduring quality that runs throughout Little Wings’ catalog, which is filled with gently plucked guitars and poetic lyricism. But the way Field approaches his music making is very much tied to a certain time and place. He cites the bands of the past, where little information was available about the actual people behind the music, as the root of his elusive persona. “I think I may be attached to a golden age of romantic mystery,” he tells me. “[I like] that there can still be that exciting feeling that something is still underground or rare.” Taking a tip from those bands he idolized as a kid, Field wants to stay, as he puts it, “in that ‘pre-success’ realm forever.”
Like music of an earlier era, the best way to experience Little Wings is in person. It’s there that Field’s vocal subtleties and minute sonic flourishes shine through. The live show also offers a sneak peek into Field’s reclusive little world. “I enjoy communicating private thoughts to an audience,” he explains. “I imagine that it can feel intimate or exposed, that I am sharing something with the audience that they can relate to and experience. I think something about [the live show] is always changing and another part never will.” In step with that sentiment, Field considers his songs to be constantly in progress. In the live setting, he’ll often rework and experiment with the structures and tones of his recorded tracks. “A song lives forever. It can be reworked, played differently; one may change the lyrics,” he explained.
The power of his songs and the cohesion of Field’s music, in albums from the very beginning of his musical career to ones just released, show a remarkable awareness of his own message. With each smooth pluck of his acoustic guitar stings, Field tells you something about himself that even he might not have known before he wrote it. The only way to hear these discoveries, and surely the best way to experience Fields’ so-called “beach pebble (instead of surf rock)” is in the flesh. See for yourself this Friday, July 20, when Little Wings return to the Biko Co-op Garage in Isla Vista.
Little Wings play the Biko Co-op Garage (6612 Sueno Rd.) on Friday, July 20, at 8 p.m. with openers Tara Jane O’Neil, Bouquet, and Hesse. The show is all ages with a suggested $5 donation. Visit sbdiy.org for info.