Five Easy Hot Dogs is not the name of something you watch in incognito mode, but Mac DeMarco’s latest gift to his fans; fourteen instrumental tracks that showcase his acute, matured sound.
An album with a distinct sound, Five Easy Hot Dogs was recorded over DeMarco’s travels around North America. In sequential order, the listener can experience how the ebbs and flows of the instrumentals connect to the literal and metaphorical journey that DeMarco undertook to create this record.
The journey itself contains unsurprising tales from a creative like DeMarco. “Kind of like being on tour, except there weren’t any shows, and I’d just be burning money.” Each song, impressively, was recorded and mixed in its titled city and is listed in chronological order.
“I had my guitars, a bass, a weird little drum kit with a kick drum we sawed in half in Golden Gate Park,” DeMarco said. “All the stands and cabling I’d need, a couple of mics, an old model D, and a TX7.” Using this plethora of equipment, Mac has created the perfect road trip accompaniment that echoes his signature style in an alternative sound. A sophisticated use of panning places each instrument into the stereo-image to allow each of them to cut through the mix, giving the tracks a sense of space and realism.
Each cut is intimate, and uses his own recording style, which may not be to a conventional industry standard, but – as Duke Ellington said – ‘if it sounds good, it is good’. For this reason, ‘Portland’ is one of the standout tracks, showcasing that trademark DeMarco sound.
With the album’s charm, it’s hard to believe that DeMarco didn’t have any themes or sounds in mind. Like free-form jazz, he would simply record. Each track takes on its own identity but runs effortlessly with those surrounding it. On returning to LA, DeMarco said: “I felt as though I had given up on my idea and failed to finish what I was trying to do. But that’s all dog shit.”
Following a show in the Bay Area in January of 2022, DeMarco planned to stay and record in motels, hotels, or people’s houses. He kept himself busy, and if things weren’t working out, he moved on, vowing not to return to LA until done with the record.
“Some places I stayed longer in than others, some of them I knew from the past, others not so much.” If in doubt, DeMarco would wander until he was recognised or saw a familiar face. “I met a lot of interesting people this way and had a bunch of cool experiences.”
“The nature of ripping around and recording and travelling in this manner doesn’t lend well to sitting around and planning, or thinking about what I was setting out to do. Luckily the collection of recordings from this period all shake hands, and they have a present musical identity as a whole.”
DeMarco’s excursion began in California, taking him around North America before concluding with a short stay in Utah, where he’d booked a cabin. DeMarco said: “It probably could have slept about 20 people, but instead, it was me withdrawing from nicotine with a bunch of taxidermy animals all over the place. No other humans for probably 50 miles in any direction. Horrible idea. I lasted one night and went back to Los Angeles the next day.”
“This record sounds like what rolling around like that feels like.” Released on Mac’s Record Label, Five Easy Hot Dogs’ mystique engages on a visceral level. With its soothing set of cinematic liner notes, DeMarco’s given his fans something different, something they will be inspired by.
photo credit: Kiera McNally