Field Medic Breaks Down His New “Full-Time Freestyle” Project “Floral Prince” Track by Track
Kevin Patrick Sullivan talks us through his new LP, out today via Run for Cover.
For some of us, it was a pleasant surprise to hear a few weeks back that Kevin Patrick Sullivan had a new Field Medic album he planned to release today, while for others the news was a long time coming—the clues were everywhere if you were following his recent slew of singles, live streams, and social media activity. Either way, the unveiling of Floral Prince was worth the year-and-a-half wait following last year’s sophomore collection of songs, fade into the dawn.
In fact, several of the songs on Floral Prince were repurposed from the fitd recordings sessions, or were written shortly thereafter. A record that was initially comprised of what Sullivan refers to “hits” or “bangers” were replaced with these more improvised numbers (or what he calls “full-time freestyles”), giving the project a ramshackle charm shared by its predecessors.
With the record streaming today, we asked Sullivan to detail the project at large, as well as to contextualize each of its eleven tracks. Listen to (and purchase) Floral Prince below, and read on for Kevin’s commentary.
The original track list for Floral Prince was much different than what it became. There were a lot of other songs I thought were good that I was “saving” for the album. I leaked a lot of the songs that would eventually wind up on the record because although I enjoyed them, a handful of them were made in the fulltime freestyle mindset: Write the song quick, record it right away. This style of writing and recording lends itself to more off-the-cuff lyrics and recordings that communicate their point much clearer to my ears. It’s also fun.
Though the songs born from this method aren’t always “hits,” they feel much more important to me, closer to how I really feel. When I sent in the initial “completed” album to Run for Cover, they seemed somewhat underwhelmed…so I did some self-reflection and critical analysis on some of the “bangers” I had saved for the album. Eventually I realized those songs I was saving were less focused and effective than some of the freestyles I had been creating and subsequently leaking. I think it’s because I really was enjoying the process of writing and recording the freestyles, whereas the “hits” I was attempting to create were being approached as more of a chore—informed by pressure internally as well as outside sources.
I’m happy with what it became. Even though these songs were written over many years, through different seasons of my life, they all share a common theme of quiet, nagging-yet-somehow-defiant insecurity. To hear them all grouped together reminds me that I’ve always felt more or less the same, and have had the same obsessive tendencies all along which time and again have led to self-destructive behavior. Maybe typing this sentence is helping me realize that. Maybe this is catharsis.
This album wouldn’t be possible without Derek Ted who helped me every step of the way. Be it recording, mixing, or just helping me not freak out.
This song was originally recorded for fade into the dawn, but I recorded the main vocal and guitar live with one SM58 placed haphazardly. Derek (engineer) and I were struggling to get a mix with a clear vocal because of the mic placement at the time. We decided to pull the session back up a year later and finally figured out how to make it sound nice.
2. “i want you so bad it hurts”
This was also originally from the sessions around fade into the dawn, recorded the same day as “i was wrong.” This was recorded live in a room with the drums and bass. Someone told me the song was too horny, which I didn’t agree with; I thought it was sweet and sad. However because of that critique I kept it off the last record. All songs have their day, though.
3. “i will not mourn who i was that has gone away”
This was the first full scale song I wrote after several months of freestyling mini songs like “it’s so lonely being sober.” I like both types of song, but this one I took my time with—it even has a bridge. I had blown out my voice screaming trying to record a metalcore song the night before, but the following day I knew I needed to record this. I tracked it with one mic live to cassette. It took around twenty takes to find the right energy and pacing for the song, which is uncommon for me as I generally don’t have the patience for more than three takes. I leaked it on YouTube and my mom found it, called me, and told me it made her cry so I decided it was good enough for the album.
4. “bundle of hyacinths”
Lili from Beach Bunny and I were talking about making a collaborative EP of love songs, so we each spent a week writing a song a day on the subject of love and longing. This was the first one I wrote for that. The EP didn’t pan out, but I liked this song, so I took it to the studio in the garage and tracked it one night to quarter-inch tape.
Even though this is one of the most energetic and fun-sounding songs on the record, it’s one of the darkest thematically for me. It’s actually kind of hard to talk about. It’s about feeling like something’s wrong, or something’s changed, but no one will listen to or believe you. It gets to the point where so many people have said, “You’re OK, it’s all in your head” that you begin to wonder if you yourself have lost it. It’s an isolating feeling. It’s about obsessive thinking and dysmorphia.
6. “it’s so lonely being sober”
This one is pretty literal. I’d been riding around on my bike every night to fill the time that I’d usually be drinking. I went for a slightly longer ride and wrote this in my head about events that had transpired in relation to my sobriety in the week prior. When I got home I recorded it as a voice memo on my phone in one take. I leaked it on YouTube and people seemed to relate, so I decided to put it on the album.
7. “better way”
This was a song I would sing to myself alone in the dark sometimes many years ago. It’s really simple musically and lyrically, but has a quality I find comforting. I hadn’t thought about it in years until I was playing it on a break in the session with Al [Menne of Great Grandpa, a.k.a. pickleboy] when we were recording “johnny and june.” They asked me; “What song is that?” I’d been listening to almost exclusively Jónsi at the time, so I took some ambient inspiration from him to build sonic textures around the guitar and voice.
8. “talkin johnny and june (your arms around me)”
The first verses referencing Johnny and June I wrote years ago after watching Walk the Line. I was struggling with pills myself at the time and thought it was sweet how in the movie, June Carter stuck it out with Johnny while he was using and during withdrawal. I’d been a Cash fan prior to learning his story, so the idea of making a song about him seemed like fun. The chorus I wrote when all of California was on fire and in the midst of all the school shootings happening one after another. The first second verse I wanted to harken back to olden times and reference one of my favorite big-band songs, “Bluebirds in the Moonlight,” and the second second verse I wrote because I love impressionism and Monet paintings.
The song is about yearning for a classic love. One from the old days—perhaps one that only exists in one’s imagination, or in stories. The full song was sitting for a long time because I knew I needed the perfect duet partner. That’s how Al came into the equation, as we’d be friends for years and I knew they had the right voice for the song, but we didn’t get a chance to sing it together until a few months ago when we made the recording. We recorded it live in one take to cassette with one mic. The performance was also filmed for the second episode of the Field Medic show.
9. “older now (it hurts)”
I remember writing the first lyrics of this song backstage at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco when I was having a really bad skin day. I looked like shit, and the lighting backstage wasn’t helping at all. This song is a reflection on getting older, and how my body has become less resilient to the years of abuse I subjected it to. Being bummed my jeans don’t fit, being sad I ruined good relationships. Complexion wrecked right before I have to take the stage. It hurts.
10. “before your body goes”
I wrote this song in 2013. Similar to “better way,” it was a song I’d sing to myself for comfort sometimes. I’ve always really liked it, but never thought to record it. We gave this song the Jónsi treatment with some chimes and sad piano. We recorded this the same night as “better way,” back to back.
I wrote this around the time fade into the dawn came out. I had been to a museum that had an exhibit about mountain lions. They would tranquilize them in order to change the batteries in their GPS collars. I was in a really bad place with alcohol at the time, and struggling to get a good night’s rest. I’d always wake up hungover with a racing heart at dawn and not be able to get back to sleep. I would frequently get so depressed that I’d daydream about being shot with a tranquilizer dart. I spent all my time having catastrophic fantasies about any and everything while drinking myself into a stupor, which led me into a deep and horrible depression. The only positivity I felt I had to add to anyone’s life at this time period was giving advice to friends about what not to do. It’s easy to talk about how to be once you’ve lost all your abilities…