THE END IS NEAR: If you’re at all familiar with Little Wings’s music, you already get the appeal. To know Kyle Field is to love him and his quirky, sparse, and often prolific approach to songwriting. A longtime staple of the California folk scene, Field’s Little Wings project has caught the ear of plenty of bigger-named notables; Feist, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, and Devendra Banhart have all sung his praises. But speaking to Field in anticipation of his upcoming headlining gig at SOhO, his dreams of non-grandeur are at the forefront of his mind.
“I like the quality and the mentality that’s there before a band gains worldwide super-status, like R.E.M. pre-1988,” he said. “In a sense, I’m constantly trying to preserve that phase for the life of my band, this idea that we’re not trying to grow any bigger than we are.”
An avid painter, surfer, and newly minted actor (he recently starred in a short film that comes out later this year), Field is the quintessential creative spirit; his music is a beautifully restrained exercise in the singer/songwriter format. If we’re talking comparables, Little Wings aligns itself with the work of contemporaries like Bill Callahan and Damien Jurado; it’s nuanced, detailed, and lush, but the songs are built with plenty of room to breathe. While he works primarily in the short-album format, Field’s latest as Little Wings, LAST, is anything but succinct. A 16-track double album on which Field plays every instrument, LAST is contemplative, grandiose, and at least a little bit conceptual in its making.
“I started thinking about what the last record would be like,” he explained. “As far as the tone, it felt like I was sharing maybe more than I had in the past, like if it was your last chance to show and tell, there would be this color and that color that you hadn’t shared before.”
In 2012, at the height of the Mayan calendar clamor, Field started writing with the idea of the apocalypse in mind. And listening to LAST, this album feels a bit darker, a bit more haunting, and a bit showier than past Little Wings records, which Field chalks up at least in part to the music he was consuming at the time. “I was listening to a lot of rap, and I think there’s something about that music that can soundtrack your confidence,” he said. As such, the record brims with plenty of big, dramatic moments and doomsday imagery.
“I started thinking about what humanity needed to see, like the sun setting on the horizon,” Field recalled. “There’s this sad element to the whole thing, but it was also my version of an intense situation. This was the last record, so no holds barred. We’re all going to perish because the earth is ending, so it’s time to contemplate those realities. How deep is the sea? How wide is the ocean?”
So now, with the end of the world behind us, we’re left to wonder: Is this the end of Little Wings? While Field won’t say one way or the other, my intuition tells me Wednesday’s show won’t be the last we see of him. “[The record] is a little bit like those historical reenactments,” he laughed. “It gave me more options, maybe to reinvent or change my name, or just to touch on the end of something.” Well, then, here’s to new beginnings.
Little Wings plays SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Wednesday, March 19, at 8 p.m. with Toy Shop Ghost, little big here, and Sparrow’s Gate. For info, call (805) 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com.