Field Medic 'light is gone 2'
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For ten years, Kevin Patrick Sullivan has been releasing music as Field Medic–and he’s released a lot of it. Depending on how you choose to catalog his vast and varied discography, the Los Angeles-based songwriter has released five full-lengths and more EPs and singles than can be easily counted, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. Sullivan’s latest record, light is gone 2, is something of a spiritual sequel to his 2015 debut full-length, but it also marks a sonic shift, deconstructing Field Medic as we know it in order to start an exciting new chapter.
light is gone 2 arrives less than a year after Field Medic’s 2022 album, Grow Your Hair Long If You're Wanting to See Something That You Can Change, and its creation began parallel to that release. “I started recording some of these songs at the same time as the last record,” Sullivan explains. “I was feeling a bit bored of making folk music and was listening to a lot of Trap music, and it inspired me to experiment more with digital recording and different kinds of production.” He began breaking apart his songs, keeping the hooks and diary-like lyricism but replacing the folkier elements with 808s and synths. “At the time I felt like I didn’t really have the skills to make the songs sound the way I wanted them to, so I set them aside,” Sullivan says. “But then this past year I spent more time working on my side project, paper rose haiku, and learning more about production. I started to dive back into the songs, just trying to use new sounds that I wouldn’t normally use, intentionally trying to make them not like acoustic folk songs.”
The process felt invigorating: more than just a songwriting exercise, it also opened up a whole new sonic toolbox to explore. “I think as the creator it does a service to the songs to make the experience of writing exciting again. When you're having fun doing it, it translates into the songs,” Sullivan explains. “I wanted to make choices where I didn’t have anything else in mind except for me and the things I like.” While the sound may be very different, the spirit of the recordings harkens back to Field Medic’s initial LP, light is gone. Where that album marked a turning point in Sullivan’s abilities with the four-track tape recorder, light is gone 2 is defined by his breakthrough with digital and multi-track recording. “I’ve always loved Trap music and New Wave music,” Sullivan says. “I used to try and incorporate those with keyboards and beats back in my lofi days, but now I feel like I’ve finally figured those elements out.” Another benefit of Sullivan’s foray into digital recording was the ability to enlist the help of Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie, Tegan and Sara, The Decemberists), who mixed the album remotely from Norway. “I feel like he just really worked his magic,” Sullivan says. “He’s very artistically-minded so when I would say something like ‘I just want the vocal to feel sort of underwater but not drowning,’ he would really understand that sort of language.”
The result is a Field Medic record like no other. Bathed in shimmering synths and powered by a steady drum machine pulse, light is gone 2 feels like a widescreen, 3D version of Sullivan’s work–one that manages to step wholeheartedly into electronic territory while retaining the essential rawness and humanity that makes Field Medic’s music so compelling. Opening track “they all seem so happy” pulls a bait and switch, starting with gentle fingerpicked acoustics before a rush of 808s and keyboards pivots the song into a quasi Trap ballad.
The song also introduces some of the lyrical themes of light is gone 2. “A lot of these songs are sort of reflections on trying to be a working artist,” Sullivan says. “I started trying to do this when I was 19 and I’m 32 now. There’s always something to be made—more music, a video, a flier, whatever. And I think sometimes I would almost feel like I lost myself as Kevin amongst the character that is Field Medic. A lot of this record is about the isolation and dissociation that comes from focusing all your energy on trying to ‘make it.” It can feel like a real rat race when you’re in a bad state of mind, but I think this record has really reminded me that there aren’t really any rules in music.” Songs like the buoyant indie pop of “TSION” or the swooning new wave of “iwanthis2last!” are shining examples of Sullivan’s try-anything approach, while “without you i’d have nothing (& i might even be dead)” and “mass market paperback” seamlessly blend classic Field Medic instrumentation with bubbling production flourishes and inventive use of autotune.
If there’s one thing that’s clear in all of Field Medic’s work, it’s Sullivan’s unbridled enthusiasm for creating, and throughout light is gone 2 there’s a palpable sense of joy in exploring new sounds and styles. “Releasing a lot of music is part of what makes it fun for me,” he says. “I like getting it done and getting it out. I just love to be spontaneous, maybe even a little reckless, but I think there’s a story to be told in songs and that doesn’t need to be perfect–it needs to capture a moment.” Sullivan’s prolific nature isn’t impatience, it’s instinct, and it’s a necessity for a songwriter who simply loves writing songs. “It’s the one thing I really enjoy,” he says. “It’s a daily exercise–I think that’s maybe why I don’t worry about much of anything else other than the song itself. I know I’m gonna make a song today, and then I’m gonna do it again tomorrow.”
1. they all seem so happy
3. you deserve attention
4. everything's been going so well
5. without you i'd have nothing (& i might even be dead)
6. the look on her face like a reoccurring dream
7. mass market paperback
9. empty arms