Little Bird is one of those local bands that’s always strayed from conventional subgenres. The group is an indie band that improvises on chord structures found in jazz. It’s R&B that flirts with psychedelic hooks and crescendos. Or, maybe the band is neo-soul with a soft rock edge.
At this point, it’s no surprise Little Bird decided to add another unpredictable element, science fiction, to the stew with its upcoming trilogy of EPs, Proxima.
“I had been thinking about a project that dealt with this, and for some reason ‘Proxima’ just spoke to me in a way,” said keyboardist Noah Jones. “It got me thinking about what is next, what is beyond, what’s in front of us as individuals and as a species. It all really kind of hit and clicked right when quarantine hit.”
The first part of the project, Proxima: Alpha, tells the story of an alien explorer coming to Earth and witnessing everyday life for humans.
“The perspective of the record is if you were from very far away, from Proxima Centauri, and you came to humanity and you were observing humanity — what would you think,” vocalist/guitarist Jay Hurtt said.
Most tracks on the album, which was released last week, use trippy sounds amid the mellow grooves and dizzying peaks to portray the interstellar concept in a way that’s not too heavy-handed. “GHOST” shows the band pulling out all the stops to introduce the trilogy with an ethereal journey through thoughtful lyrics. “These words, I would die for/ So, I’ll never say anything else out here,” Hurtt sings.
“All the songs, to me, talk about individual fears, desires, anxieties that all of us go through on a daily basis,” Jones said. “At the same time, it offers this outrospective analysis of the individual.”
“HI MAN” follows another psychedelic poem centered on Jones’ steady hand on keys keeping the beat. Hurtt and guitarist James Rubush create plenty of sonic textures on the six-string to keep the song appropriately atmospheric.
Between the album’s singles, the moody grooves of “SWIPE” are a better indication of what listeners will find on Proxima: Alpha than the friendly funk swing of “Mega Hot Super Babe.” The album’s hooks are easy to listen to, but the subject matter and occasional instrumental meanderings make it stand out. But, both tracks rely on the rhythm section laid down by drummer Oleg Terentiev and bassist Ben Mossman for their drive.
“PROXIMA,” the EP’s climactic electro rocker, brings a firey and fuzzy build to Alpha’s alien introduction, while hinting at the coming sequels, Beta and Gamma.
The concept, Hurtt said, forced him and Jones to pull away from the band’s past lyrics about personal experiences. “I had to adapt some of my perspectives to experiences [Jones] went through. The co-writing process broadened the perspective on topics,” he said. “Through that process, I think we got this character that we made ourselves, two minds fused into one.”
Proxima’s interludes help display the science fiction aesthetic seen in the project. “This whole entire project was definitely very detailed for us, as far as layers,” Terentiev said. “We meticulously spent a lot of time on it … We would definitely recommend for the listener to listen to [the trilogy] in order. You’ll see everything kind of ties in.”
The Proxima trilogy is also the first time the band stepped into the world of at-home recording and producing.
“Sonically, we definitely feel like Beta and Gamma are a little more mature just because of the way we decided to record this,” Rubush said. “There was a learning curve for all of us. Props to Jay and Ben, who have a lot of engineering experience.”
The first in the Proxima trilogy was written over a year ago. The original plan for the trilogy was to release each EP, then record the next, but the pandemic forced the band inside where they just kept writing and recording.
“Quarantine definitely just changed the plan,” Rubush said. “It just gave us time. There was no rush to release it anymore. We had all the time in the world to do it, make sure that everything was the way we wanted it.”