Five Easy Hot Dogs

Five Easy Hot Dogs

After COVID hit, Mac DeMarco began to feel as though making music had become just like any other job, something to be compartmentalized or kept separate from who he really is—you write a song, you record it, you release it, you tour, you start again. “But my life, what I do on a day-to-day basis, is as much the art as a record coming out,” he tells Apple Music. “I wanted to make it that again. I wanted to feel enveloped by the whole thing. I wanted to dispel the divide between my personal life and my public life, for my art, and just make it all one big glob. So, I just went.” He means that quite literally. On January 15, 2022, after a show in San Francisco, DeMarco jumped into his 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser and—with a minimalist recording setup packed away in the back—embarked on a three-month, cross-continental road trip completely alone. The plan was to drop in on family and old friends, and to write and record anywhere he stopped, be it a seedy roadside motel, backyard rental, or childhood bedroom. The only rule was that he wouldn’t come home to Los Angeles until he’d finished what’s become Five Easy Hot Dogs, an LP of instrumental music that doubles as a kind of travelogue, each song sequenced in the order that he wrote and recorded it and labeled by its place of origin. “I think that maybe what it’ll show people a little bit is that, even though I’m not singing on it, you can still tell that it’s my stuff because it has a very strong personality to it,” he says. “This trip reminded me that I love to travel, that I love to meet people, that I love to have experiences. It rejuvenated my interest in a lot of things. It was an adventure.” Here, DeMarco takes us along for the ride, recalling the sights and sounds of his trip, from Northern California to Western Canada to New York by way of Chicago. Gualala, California “On the first day, I left San Francisco, and I just drove the coast for a couple hours. No destination in the GPS. I knew I was going north, but that was pretty much it. Gualala is a little town on the [Highway] 1. I only stayed there for one night, at a weird little motel called the Seacliff. I brought all of my gear in from the car and was like, ‘Whoa. All right.’ Where I recorded there in the motel, I had these two windows that looked directly out onto the ocean there, and it was a beautiful place. I’ve been a lot of places in the world, but that part of the country is, to me, just a very beautiful chunk of earth, with the redwoods and the cliffs. There was a lot of weather, and I think that a lot of this record ended up sounding like that first portion I recorded, up the western side of the States into Canada—rainy.” Crescent City, California “Crescent City kind of marks the point where California gets a little bit sketchier. It’s still beautiful, you’re still on the coast, but there’s a big prison in Crescent City. I stayed in—I guess, for lack of a better term—in a hooker hotel. Kind of gross, kind of shitty. Still exciting, but a little bleak—and I’m kind of worried that someone might break into my car tonight. It was that kind of vibe. That’s one of my favorite songs on the whole thing. It’s a feeling I can get every couple albums, on a song or two: sad but bittersweet, maybe a little hopeful, maybe a bit of edge, but not too much.” Portland, Oregon “I went to Portland thinking, ‘I’ve been there a million times. I got a lot of friends there. I’ve had good times in Portland.’ And then I got there and pretty quickly realized I don’t really know anybody here anymore, and I don’t really know what to do. It was nice to be in a big city after just being on the coast alone for a couple days, but I pulled in expecting human interaction. And I spent three days there, but I got none of that. Didn’t see any homies. Went to some restaurants and talked to some people, but it was just a bit bleak. But that first night in Portland is where I set up my studio in this little back house I rented there. It’s the first time I had the drums up and more of a fully realized setup. It was exciting, and it was cool to see the full potential there.” Victoria, British Columbia, Canada “Victoria was interesting. I left Portland in a hurry, got a COVID test, and went and caught a ferry up near Seattle, at this place called Port Angeles. I got up there with the intention to surprise some old friends that I hadn’t seen in a really long time. And when I got there, I realized they were all out of town for the weekend. So, it was kind of the same thing where I was kind of like, ‘Well, fuck—pardon my French—what do I do?’ I was frustrated, so I decided, fuck it, I was just going to stay in a nice place. In Canada, we have these Fairmont hotels, and that’s where I booked a room. The Queen went there for tea in the ’50s or something—it’s that kind of energy, like you’re staying in a big, funny old castle. I decided I would wait for my friends there, and because it was a hotel, I had a bit more of a stripped-down recording setup. I just walked around Victoria and met kids on the street or found things to do. But it was a bit strange to be there for a couple days with no purpose.” Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada “I used to live in Vancouver—I moved there when I was 18 and lived there probably around until I was about 20. I love it, for the climate and the way the air is fresh. But it felt like a walk down memory lane the whole time, so it was a funny feeling being back. I even drove by the house that I recorded one of my first records in. I think those three songs, at least maybe the second and third, have that kind of wistful energy about them. I had this apartment for a minute. It was kind of weird; it was pretty big and reverb-y and made out of concrete. I did the first track there. But then I had this little back house really close to where I used to live there, and that’s where the other two songs were made.” Edmonton, Alberta, Canada “The Edmonton songs I recorded in my bedroom from high school, which I think had, arguably, the best drum sound that I got on the record. It just reminded me of being in high school because I would play something and then my mom would be like, ‘Sounds good, sweetheart.’ I don’t go back very often anymore, and I hadn’t seen some of my family in a long time—there have been a couple deaths since I’ve been back, and there was a lot of stuff to go over. So, it was a lot, but it was good. Usually, when I would go back to an old city, I’d call up the old friends, go to the bar, get hammered, have a good time, whatever. But instead, I bought my brother ice skates and went ice skating. I found myself reaching out to friends that I hadn’t seen since elementary school. And I think maybe those two songs are kind of more of the two more chipper ones on the record. In Edmonton, there was a little bit of heavy stuff, but it was kind of like, ‘I’m back.’ That’s how those sound to me.” Chicago, Illinois “Leaving Edmonton, it was kind of like, ‘OK, my trip begins again.’ It took me a while to get to Chicago and getting there was pretty gnarly. I hit some really, really bad snowstorms and stayed in Fargo for a night. But once I was there, Chicago was great. I went to a Bulls game, saw some old pals, had another little back house. I liked the recordings I got there—I got good results. I have friends in Chicago who were very hospitable, and I’m always happy to see them, but it was a nice time to be out there. The first song with the drums—it just felt like I hadn’t really touched that flavor very much yet. It’s kind of angular, but also kind of melodic and just a little bit funkier than most of the other stuff on the record.” Rockaway, New York “I was in New York the longest out of anywhere on the trip. Before I got there, I went to Connecticut to record for a little while, but not for this project. And then I got there. I stayed in Rockaway for a little while, ended up getting that recording, and then I moved over to Brooklyn after that. This artist, Akiko Yano, she’s like a hero of mine. I brought my stuff over to hers, and we did some songs together, which I don’t know what’ll happen with that. And then I was in other studios, doing a lot of stuff that was secondary to Five Easy Hot Dogs. It kind of felt like taking my head out of that space is maybe what I needed to finish this record. I’d lived in New York for a long time, in Far Rockaway. A friend was letting me stay at his house there, and I was going to my old house, too, because my old roommates are still there. Rockaway in the winter is a pretty raw little zone. It’s funny to go back to New York, and that’s the part of New York I go back to. Not very many people have that experience. It’s very peculiar.”


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