Little Wings’ latest record, Black Grass, is singer-songwriter Kyle Field’s first in four years. It was born from a difficult period in Field’s life; the press release describes it as “the ground when you are face down on it in a state of debilitation, depression, submission, humility.”

Black Grass is the exploration of universal themes of isolation, self-doubt, and heartache while maintaining an air of mystery. Field refrains from detailing his experiences, instead offering conceptual explanations for use as interpretive ciphers.

It’s been quite some time since he has referred to his original notebooks, and Field has since forgotten how the album title originated. When prompted, he muses, “One of the lyrics says, ‘We’ve painted all the grass blades black,’ and it may have been that? The word ‘grass’ looks green to me even without the word green next to it. Some of the songs deal with feelings of disappointment: in others and in myself. So, if the grass is always greener on the other side, I might be standing in black grass.”

Field tends to stay away from too much commentary, however. Stating the album’s foundations outright can detract from its overall mystique. Some things are simply indescribable, their magic better sonically experienced than verbally explained. That sense of magic is present throughout the creation of Black Grass.

“When I am lucky, I realize that so much of what informs the content that I am working with directly relates to what I surround myself with, and that can create a proactive net wherein all of the people and things around me get painted into the picture,” Field explains. He cites a moment of synchronicity when he realized the album art photographer, Barrett Gentz, had the initials B.G. – which is also the acronym of Black Grass.

“Those realizations are rich,” Field continues, “and that is when I feel like I am being a good artist. All of the technical things that someone could do just don’t compare to when I can feel something magical coming through…”

Black Grass Full Album Stream

Black Grass Lyrics

SEE ALL LYRICS
(Please note: All lyrics are pulled from LP, verbatim and [sic], and may not directly correlate with album lyrics.)

1. Gold Teeth
2. How Come?
3. Mr. Natural
4. Can I Knock On This Door
5. I Grow Too
6. Come Fall
7. Stay Joking
8. Fall Skull
9. Little Bit
10. Black Grass

Symbolic Connections

Black Grass‘s trajectory was permanently shifted once Gentz gave Field a copy of Joseph Campbell’s book, The Power Of Myth.

“I read it almost straight through in a few days,” explains Field. “[Campbell] basically links all of mankind’s stories to one another, through the different religions and folklore and fables that humans pass down. It was a really important book for me at the time and helped me to come to peace with some of my ideas and accept the big picture in a different way.”

The Power Of Myth inspired Field to incorporate well-known symbols into his songs, as well as dissect each of their diverse meanings. The cover for Black Grass features a simple photograph taken by Gentz, a lopsided apple encompassing the whole of the frame. Field synthesizes the apple’s symbolic interpretations, listing that it, “relates to William Tell, Snow White, Adam and Eve, New York City, and Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature,’ when he says, ‘If this town is just an apple…'”

The most obvious references to apples fall in with the album’s Biblical references. In “Fall Skull,” Field references Adam and Eve, the serpent, and the Tree of Life, with the lyrics, “Adam and Eve and the snake and the dust life breathed…/ The snake is resting in the tree of knowledge/ The kind that you can’t get in college/ Eating from Eve’s hand.”

In “Can I Knock On This Door?” Field sings, “Asleep inside a hollow log/ Snake, rabbit, snail/ Lighter, cigarette, immune to flame.”

The snake reappears once again here, and the album abounds with references to nature. Mentions of leaves, twigs, breezes, branches, animals, and autumn are plentiful, coloring the album a brownish, nostalgic hue. A general mood persists throughout, but to make actual sense of the lyrics requires one to delve into the wide and varied world of symbolic interpretation.

Yet not all of the references on Black Grass are serious or live in the world of myth, alchemy, and ritual. Some are humorously more pedestrian. Lil’ Wayne’s mixtape, Da Drought 3, influenced Field significantly during the crafting of Black Grass.

“It’s like the excitement of a high school football game on a Friday night to me, with the lights and the impact and the people and the wilding out…” says Field. And though the words “mixtape,” “Lil’ Wayne,” and “football game” may make this influence seem shallow or ironic, it isn’t.

“My friend Adam Forkner [of White Rainbow] gave it to me two or three years ago, and most every time I listen to it, it’s magic,” Field explains. Like Black Grass, Da Drought 3 is an album full of lyrical depth.

“I am still grasping [the album’s] lyrics and metaphors,” says Field, “and I think [Lil’ Wayne] is an amazing artiste.”

“I went through a period of anxiety when I was afraid of the songs and what they exposed or what truth they held for me, and it felt almost too telling. I am really glad to have moved past that point.”
— Kyle Field, Little Wings

 

Communal Fruit

From fruition to completion, Black Grass followed a trajectory Field could never have predicted. Though the album was originally intended to be a “Pet Shop Boys-style record” utilizing only drum machines and keyboards, that idea was quickly scrapped when Field realized he had never listened to an entire album by the UK band. For the next incarnation of Black Grass, Field worked with Tim Bluhm to reintroduce organic instrumentation and revisit a more familiar method of creation.

“We recorded different versions of some of the songs, and over the next year, the material went through every state imaginable to me,” Field explains. The rigorous recording and editing process soon became exhausting for him. “[The record] was hanging over my head in some way like a black cloud that I couldn’t get rid of; it was very heavy and deep. It was so hard to tie it all together, and at some point, I didn’t know what to do, so I just dropped it for maybe six months.”

Luckily, Field’s friend Alexi Glickman emerged to reinvigorate him and aid him with finishing the record. “[Black Grass] was like a shaky house to me — one in which I had experienced an earthquake, and I wasn’t sure I could go back because I was scared,” Field recalls. “[Glickman] helped me put wood over metal, so to speak — to warm up the songs that were all electronic instruments because I was in over my head and couldn’t make sense of anything.”

Black Grass finally came to complete fruition with additional assistance from Paul Oldham, who mastered the album, and Brett Simundson, who, according to Field, “helped change the overall gluing of the album by running it through his gadgetry and warming the sound in a way that wouldn’t have occurred to me.”

“It was a stone soup situation, and everyone put in their worth,” Field expresses thankfully. “We all sort of live in the same neighborhood [in San Francisco], and it’s nice to feel like you live in a place that’s rich in resources where something can go from start to finish without really leaving our zip code.”

The general interconnectedness of life and human beings, as inferred from The Power Of Myth, has helped turn Black Grass from an outlet mired in tragedy to a wellspring of positive lessons.

“[I’ve learned] I can trust others’ opinions and let people get involved and not try to take over and control the whole thing. I think it has built some new gears into these important friendships and that we have made something we are all proud of,” Field explains.

“Also, that something can be brought back to life,” he continues. “I went through a period of anxiety when I was afraid of the songs and what they exposed or what truth they held for me, and it felt almost too telling. I am really glad to have moved past that point and am just thankful that I was surrounded by the right people who gave so generously of their time and energy.”

When you see a Little Wings performance these days, Field’s on-stage banter is more reflective of that of a stand-up comedian than of a wallowing grump. He may still be singing about life’s pains, but he is a changed man. Black Grass served its purpose as a cathartic tool, but through it all, Field has managed to keep his secrets close to him.

“I am always trying to put it in a nutshell, and a fancy mixed one at that…” Field says. “I try to strike the balance between what feels important for me to say and what I think people are capable of understanding.”

And it is this fundamental quality – a mixture of myth and reality – that makes Black Grass the compelling, complex listen it is.


Black Grass Lyrics

1. Gold Teeth

Gold teeth by candlelight poured some wine
We clipped a wick and we both went blind
All of the hands have long quit clapping
And though we undid all our wrapping
It seems so long how have we managed
To make it back from all the damage?
The greatest green giant ever seen
Now that this Earth has all gone green

Up in smoke you dope and holler
I ask a stranger for a doller
The leaves will change but that don’t matter
For when they fall the wind will scatter
Autumn’s red rooster came to stay
And pecked it’s hole as the summer’s say
Though the cock fight soon was busted
By winter flakes that Snow White dusted
We saw some peckers do their darndest
To reap the flesh of foul mouthed harvest
If scuby can co-exist why can’t we?
As he floats by chill as can be

We start wars that we can’t finish
We criticize our neighbor’s blemish
Nike Christ peace sign Mercedes
Pergatory Heaven Hades
A couple people gathered round the apple tree
The serpent was a pusher rather naturally
All of the fig leaves that he sold us
Would make us pretty so he told us
Dad was so mad his thunder clapping
He closed the park and sent us packing
It seems so long how have we managed
To make it back from all the damage?

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2. How Come?

Let’s raise a family warmly now growing
Which waits a while in the mean time we’re knowing
All that I see all that is a part of me
Turns into the past eventually
Could is good should is beaked and feeding
Some things drift again and nothing new survives repeating
Yours and mine hope is a beacon
So we watch a while go by and all the light is leaking
What would it take to make it right?
We’ve blurred the colors of our face
When you’re a dark and empty night
How come I let you in my place?
What would a little bit still mean?
We’ve painted all the grass blades black
When I’m a cloud/claw like I have been
How come you always take me back?

Let’s think it through again, see it in some meaning
How to sweeten up the sight that we’ve been busy beating
All that I can all that part about the plan
Take it back and try to understand
Should is tough likely to call out the bluff
Clipping at the peak and all the noise is just as much
My cold crown I’ve been busy freezing
So we watch a while go by and all the light is leaking
While we wait a while goes on and all the light is leaking

What would a little bit still mean?
We’ blurred the colors of our face
When I’m a claw like I have been
How come you let me in your place?
What would it take to make it right?
We’ve painted all the grass blades black
When you’re a dark and empty night
How come I always take you back?

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3. Mr. Natural

I don’t really know if I ever get to see you again
The branchy things above are breaking in the cold and falling in
Old Mr. Natural made of grass did he burn?
A smokey old scarecrow who would never learn
All of his stuff gets pecked by the birds
A hollow head is all he heard

He invited me to his cardboard chalet
A better time could not be had he’d say
Though he’d mussed up so many other times
He had to ask me anyway

I don’t really know if I’m ever going to see you again
The branches up above are breaking in the cold and falling in
Cover the place when you spread yourself on the ground

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4. Can I Knock On This Door?

Can I knock on this door?
Hey are you here what are you here for?
A gingerbread apartment what a score
Can I knock on this skull
Hey are you there beware (what is) the autumn’s pull
A cornacopia that’s almost full
Full of what’s coming tomorrow
And characters to tame
Asleep inside a hollow log
Snake rabbit snail/lighter
Cigarette immune to flame
I called (the) family up in a dream
A movie we all know
What is so powerful that it stayed/stays the same?
The sun came back tomorrow

Can I knock on this door
Can you open it some more
I’d like to see how your house rearranged
An earthquake, big loud boom then a shake
A wave within a wave

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5. I Grow Too

Out of all the ashes
Of the past it crashes fast
Waving to you
And the flag is flipping on the pole
Black hole ripping
Like some kite soul shredding in two
or the rise of the hill humped up
And breeching in the meadow

I Grow II

Out of all the ashes of the past it crashes fast waving to you
And the gail is shredding the flag’s tail like some dark veil tearing into
When the day and it’s ray
Are cloud-hid hit the hay haleigh-a-loo
Like the crack in the glass on the window of the van I’m crawling into
Why does all the canopy seem taller now that can’t be true I grow too!
Lose sight of the life that’s sometimes right but didn’t you?
Help remind me please I just can’t place what I was trying to do
And like a flash it comes back from the distance I remember now / remember anew

Why does all the canopy seem higher now that can’t be true
And in ways I guess that I feel smaller, yeah maybe I do
Is it mirror in a mirror looking back all of them you?
And does the distance make me more or less the same and how I came looking to you?

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6. Come Fall

When the rising tide is rowdy
And the summer crowd is crowdy
I feel your leaves cover with ease
Sidewalk and seam awoke in your beam
When the fall flood is a vapor
And I put myself in paper
The ink is like blood so it feels good
Fingery branches arm and hand wood
When the light at last is dying
And the truth in me is trying
To see what I do looking me through
Focus and bring all the bells to ring true
Come fall come fall come fall come fall
Come fall end it all

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7. Stay Joking

Changes carved in other changes
Pattern forms then rearranges
I blanked out within the recess/abcess
Wore the day in several pieces
Only as the twig was snapping
Did I twitch awake from napping
Noticing a shadowed outline
There in front of the wind white capping
Late day breeze brings something stranger
Stay joking to cheat the danger
When the heat gets caught git in anger
Woah, the wind won’t die
What have you brought me here?

Pidjin morning learn to suck beer
All folded in coast is crisp
And a shoelace makes a last wish
Ditch witch a britched young lass
So say at the sick bridge pass
I showed myself to them
As they showed me such a wicked grin/grim

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8. Fall Skull

Fall skull breathes the trees rain leaves
The skies reign pleas the seashore seethes
Rustle the ground a new skulls found
I see through now eyes I now know disguise
Nesting in head and resting in bed
My life feels funny my skull’s been bled
Skull nest is wide where the dead birds do hide
On a bridge in the bay on the sea monster’s side
Before our race is run before our best is done
Oh lord here’s your sword for when the war is won
Or you’re bored a rabbit and a Capricorn
Like a skull in the leaves linked to animal characters
Adam and Eve and the snake and the dust life breathed
Gold plated skulled rabbit in the capitol
And the snake with an evil head
The snake is resting in the tree of knowledge
The kind that you can’t get in college eating from Eve’s hand
In a skull by the bay where the seagull songs play
As a seahorse by evening where the setting sun lay
And a seasong to sing of a sea feeling thing
A skull in the autumn what mercy death brings

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9. Little Bit

When will you be (with) me
When will the day make way
When will the hold let go
When will the sky open?
Just a little… bit
Only a little… bit
I tried to go fast at first
Bury the worst of things
Barrelling blind
Deaf to the truth that rings
Slowly to rise
Above the cursed stings
Only to find
Some quiet song that sings
A little… bit
Just a little… bit

When will you beam through me
When will my skull start pulling
All of the things I need
This quiet song to feed
I tried to make way and make room
Bury the gloom and go it can be tough
Though you already know
All of this stuff
It really helps to show
Just how it came
And how it can start to grow
A little… bit
Only a little… bit
When will you be with me?
When will your eyes open?
When will the day give way?
When will the sign just show
Only a little… bit

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10. Black Grass

Of the darkened past and the shadows in the grass
All that exploded like a shattered glass
Followed on foot indeed the cliff by the county line
Ran on up the road a piece making up some time
New night like a battery
New night for ye old choke soak
Feel the wind unwind
Like the end of a shredded rope
The Neptune’s net parking lot pets all know
That the sun is sinking down into the big below

Moon shining on the black grass

I got lost sometime found some fruit rotten on the vine
Dumb but still talking looking but still blind
Surprised to see it here I thought I left it all behind
Seems the seeds been planted the entire time
With a big black cloud from the valley coming over the hill
Hand perched on the dark burnt cup so careful that it spills / so special that it spills
Like a thorn in deep
Seeking something so strong that it kills
And the human being and the bird and beast on the window sill
Moon shining on the black grass

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