NORTHERN COMFORT: Wild Light got over hating their home state when they realized they weren't really a Boston band.
If I asked you to name six bands from New Hampshire, you'd probably draw a blank. Understandable. The Granite State hasn't been able to carve out much of a musical identity. But there are bands being formed there. All the time. They just usually have to leave the state to make anything happen. The likes of Aerosmith and Okkervil River, who were actually birthed in our ornery neighbor to the north, tend to identify themselves more with their adopted towns, leaving behind nichier bands like Scissorfight and the Queers.
Roots-poppers Wild Light, however, embrace the Granite association. "We'd lived in Boston for two years and realized it really didn't feel like home," says multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Timothy Kyle. "It was like, 'You know what? Our band is from New Hampshire, it's not really from Boston.' "
Wild Light, who come to the Paradise Tuesday, formed as high-schoolers, playing music to pass away their many idle hours. "There's just nothing to do in New Hampshire," Kyle tells me over the phone from Austin, where the band are on the road. "But, you know, we all got very into music, and that was an escape from a very early age, a kind of fantasy way out."
It's not an uncommon story. Like many rural/suburban areas, New Hampshire cultivates the desire to leave it behind — I know, because I went to high school in the same southern New Hampshire area as the Wild Light guys, and right around the same time. "I think we all had the experience of hating New Hampshire our whole adolescence and then moving away and living in cities, and then coming back and being like, 'It's kind of sweet here!' "
These days, of course, an off-the-beaten-track home address is an asset for a young group working to rise above the slush of so many other bands. "There's no 'New Hampshire bands,' so right away you can kind of distinguish yourself a bit. It's easier to be from the suburbs and start a band now and get somewhere — the whole 'shrinking world' phenomenon."
There's something else working in Wild Light's favor. Back in high school, they were friends with a guy named Win Butler, and Kyle even played in an early incarnation of what would become the Arcade Fire. The two parted on good terms; they remain friends, and Wild Light have since opened for the Arcade Fire a few times. It's the kind of trivial thing that might threaten to overshadow a band's own accomplishments, and at first Kyle was concerned about that. "For a while we kind of tried to keep it a secret, but that was impossible, so we said, 'Ah, fuck it.' "
If I seem to be hung up on New Hampshire, it's only because the idea of place is an important part of Wild Light's brand of breezy, rootsy pop. Many songs on their debut full-length, Adult Nights (due out in March on StarTime International), are devoted to locations both general and specific. Album opener "California on My Mind" finds Kyle longing for "a lake to dive into" before resolving on a simple refrain of "Fuck today/Fuck San Francisco/Fuck California." This is followed by "New Hampshire," an ode filled with the sort of landmarks that small-towners know by heart, like "a fork in a road where a car crashed." It's an intimacy of place that Kyle says the band strive for. "At an early stage of trying to write songs, I realized, 'Man, I really like when Bob Dylan talks about, like, Clinton Street.' Just specifics painting a picture, as opposed to the '90s angst rock, saying what your emotions are."
Adult Nights was produced by Rob Schnapf, who's known for his work with the late Elliott Smith, among others. "We recorded in the same studios, we heard some outtakes that they found on some shelves. I hadn't really listened to those records that much in years, but it was like crazy thinking, 'Ten years ago, I was listening to this record every day, and now I'm in the studio where it was made with the producer who made it. That's pretty cool.' " Some of this nostalgia carries over into Adult Nights — it's energetic and restless at the same time that it's cool and comfortable. "Home," after all, can be more than just a place.
WILD LIGHT + TAPES N' TAPES + THE SUBJECTS | Paradise Rock Club, 967 Comm Ave, Boston | February 24 at 8 pm | $16.50 | 617.562.8800 or www.thedise.com