Interview: Field Medic

Field Medic has saved his most honest album yet for his first proper full-length release on Run for Cover Records. The once prolific Bandcamp artist contends that the “only good song is an honest one” and on ‘fade into the dawn’ Kevin Patrick – the IRL name of Field Medic – channels his experiences of depression, anxiety and insecurity.

The central narrative though is Patrick’s ongoing struggle with alcohol dependency. Patrick made the album while touring all-year round after quitting his day job; and he decided to quit drinking, only to return to it halfway through a particularly gruelling set of shows. ‘fade into the dawn’ charts his successes and failures in quitting alcohol; on ‘Tournament Horseshoe’ he sings ‘she’s the only one to help me put the bottle down’ only for that resistance to break on ‘the bottle’s my lover, she’s my friend’ when his lover leaves him after his addiction causes him to go missing: “I’m looking past her so she’s cutting me loose.”

Field Medic is as honest as ever in the interview below, disclosing what his relationship with alcohol is like right now, what it’s like to release personal songs about people you love into the world, and how songwriting is a kind of catharsis for him.

So your first proper-full length on a revered record label, was this always the intention or did it kind of just happen?

When I was in a band for several years before I started doing Field Medic, our goal was always getting signed to a label. By the time I started this project, I was tired of sending out heaps of cold emails to tons of labels & never getting any response, so I started my own tape label out of my house in San Francisco called “Sunroom Recordz & Salon”. I bought a tape duplicator & began producing my own cassettes & also making tapes for my roommates who were on the “label”. With that being said, when I first came into contact with Run For Cover through a series of very lucky coincidences, I was thrilled to work with them & it’s been a really great experience. 

This will likely get a bigger audience than your previous work. How do you feel about that? Did that have any influence or effect on you whilst recording it?

To be honest, it took me a long time to stop being so precious about my old music when I was in the process of making this record. I would think; “If only it was 2014 & PEGASUSTHOTZ was dropping for the first time on RFC!” or something along those lines. Not really because of the music so much as I was a bit younger & optimistic & energetic back then. I was in such a different place when I was making this album, it took me a long time to appreciate the songs for what they are. They were all recorded somewhere very quickly between SF & LA anytime I wasn’t on tour, so I never had a chance to put them together & build them into one little family of songs. It’s been so long since I recorded them now though, that i’m precious about them & that time period, & getting spooked out by the songs I’ve been recording for my next album right now (haha). 

Your songs are unflinchingly honest. Do you ever worry about the affect they may have on loved ones? 

My songs have always been that way, & I used to be concerned my family & friends would get worried or hurt or something depending on the song, but no one really seems to pay attention. I learned early on that loved ones generally listen quite passively & maybe they hear it differently because they know me as a person in the real world. I’ve always believed the only good song is an honest one. 

Is this the most honest set of songs you’ve ever released? If so, why are you able to bare the amount of honesty you’re doing now compared to before?

I put out an EP called “fuck you grim reaper” a few years ago that’s kind of honest in the same way… That was around the time I started saying things more outright in my songs. I was inspired by Sun Kil Moon’s “Benji” in that sense. I love how in those songs the stories are told so bluntly. I used to think my old songs were honest, but I realize now they were so veiled in poetry & metaphor that no one could make sense of them if they tried, even though they were still coming from the same honest place. 

Do you let people know if something to do with them is going to be in a song or do you just put it out there and see what happens?

I definitely never tell… I never know if it’s going to be in a song until the song comes to me… Which could be in that exact moment or weeks later when something unrelated reminds me of it. Then I’ll usually keep the songs secret until they’re released. So by that time it’s up to them to find out. 

I related massively to ‘used 2 be a romantic.’ I go to around 60 gigs a year and I’ve got in my fair share of arguments with ‘fuckers’ speaking over people’s sets. Why did you want to put the experience of touring into a song? 

I wanted to put it in a song because tour life is so different than I imagined it would be before it became a reality for me. It also naturally wound up as a song because I tend to write about exactly what’s happening to me at that period in my life, & when that song was written I was on tour for a month & a half. Tour is a really amazing experience & I always look back on it fondly, but at times it can be so difficult to stay sane & feel physically good enough to put on a good show & talk to tons of strangers every night in between such long drives. The drives are what really get me. 

Did you worry that people would be like ‘stop moaning you get to travel round the world doing what you love’?

I never really worried about that, but I suppose they would be valid in saying so if they wanted to. I look at songwriting though as a safe place to talk about things that can exist outside of the *real* world. So i’d say to them; “I was feeling that way… So I spit it out. Now I feel a bit better. I know doing this is a dream come true & I’m so lucky, but… Why don’t you stand in front of six hundred people talking over you, armed with only an acoustic guitar & tell me it doesn’t at least make you a little bummed” haha. 

Alcohol plays quite a toxic role in the music industry. Promoters often presume artists want it in their rider and occasionally try to use alcohol as a form of payment. Your very honest about your ongoing troubles with drinking. Does music need to be more honest about the role drinking plays? How?

I’m not sure… I can only really speak for myself, but as great as it is to have free alcohol around all the time, it can be really hard to not drink when you’re trying not to. This is certainly a very difficult profession to try & be sober in. 

If you don’t mind me asking, what’s your relationship like with alcohol at the minute? In the press release that accompanies the album it says you quit but then went back to it after a gruelling set of shows.

Yeah, I was on a good run being sober through the first half of a tour, then I had a really rough show in Orlando, FL midway through & after my set I said ‘fuck it’ & started drinking. It lasted like that for the rest of the tour. “used 2 be a romantic” was written 2 days after that Florida show. After that tour I managed to quit drinking for three & a half months, which I was really proud of. I wound up drinking again in New York after having a panic attack… & now i’m sort of back to my old ways. 

‘Songs r worthless now’ must be up there with the most depressing songs I’ve heard, probably because of how true it is. Where did that come from?

I wrote that song around that awful time when there seemed to be a natural disaster or mass shooting every other day. After a week or so of that it just came out… The song itself is also aware of the fact that the it can’t change anything. Love won’t protect us….

The last line on the album is ‘I can’t help but feel I’m broken.’ Does writing lines like these help you get rid of the thought and feel better?

Absolutely… A lot of my songs are talking about things I find really difficult to talk to people about in regular conversations. So whatever I write tends to feel cathartic to sing in a song. It’s almost as if I’ve had that conversation if I write it into a song. My favorite lyric of all time is Nick Drake’s: “If songs were lines in a conversation, the situation would be fine.”

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