Analogue Music | Field Guide

Field Guide

By Matt Conner

Dylan MacDonald needed to work on new(er) songs before turning to new songs.

In the wake of the release of Field Guide's self-titled album (out in 2022 on Birthday Cake), Dylan MacDonald decided to live with the songs a bit more before turning a corner in a new year. Given his recent touring experiences as a solo artist opening for some bigger bands, it made sense to take the stripped-down treatments he'd applied to his songs and give them some permanence.

Field Guide (Tape Redux) is the brand new album out on March 24 from MacDonald, a fresh spin on recent tunes that shows what happens when you allow some compositions to still evolve beyond their studio state. Given our conversation, it's also a look at what an artist can learn about himself and his creations if he gives in to that process.

We recently sat down with MacDonald to hear more about his new(er) songs, the new songs awaiting all of us after this, and how this project has changed him.

Analogue: I want to ask about the idea of reimagining these songs for the Tape Redux version of your self-titled. What spurred the idea to live with these songs a bit longer in the first place?

Dylan MacDonald: I don’t remember the exact moment but I guess I’d been thinking about it over a long time—just from doing so much solo touring. Initially, I realized the solo thing made sense to go on tour opening for a lot of bands. It’s easier that way and sometimes they request it. It’s expensive, especially for us, to bring the band sometimes.

"Some of these new recordings on this Tape Redux thing were a great way to capture what the songs had grown into. Now they almost feel more like the songs than the originals."

Over the course of that time, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed doing that. Now that we’re back with the band, some of the songs are already taking different shapes and the songs aren’t the same every night or anything. There’s so much freedom to switch around the setlist or try a song in a different tempo—stuff like that. Also, so many of these songs, especially from this record, were written with a guitar and a vocal, so they really lend themselves to that.

Analogue: Do you think performing the songs in this way changed your approach as an artist?

Dylan: I think there is in a way. Personally, I’ve considered myself a person who likes being around people, but I’ve realized that I actually really do my time, just on my own. And the ability to tour opening for other bands and making friends in that way or meeting different people at shows. There’s nothing like just being on your own that makes you… you don’t have anyone to fall back on hanging out with. So it’s a lot of time alone and then you also make fast friends with people, because if you do want to be around people, you kinda have to, I guess.

Analogue: Does this alter your relationship with some of these songs?

Dylan: It definitely did. Actually today, we’re going to do a long soundcheck and work up a couple of those songs. It’s funny because we’re working up the acoustic versions and then we’ll just fill them out a bit.

Fg Tape Redux Cover 3000X3000 1 Scaled
Fg Tape Redux Cover 3000X3000 1 Scaled

I think there are two sides to it. One, it’s so special to write a song and quickly, while it’s in its infancy, record it because it’s your first instinct. In a way that can’t be beaten. But at the same time, living with those songs and playing them so much and seeing how people reacted to them and what they meant to me over time, going in after two days and recapturing them that way, it still had this real rawness and freshness. They weren’t overthought but they had existed for a long time.

So some of these new recordings on this Tape Redux thing were a great way to capture what the songs had grown into. Now they almost feel more like the songs than the originals.

Analogue: It is interesting to think that a song is typically recorded when it’s brand new in a permanent form.

Dylan: Yeah, totally, it does feel counterintuitive in a way, although there are two sides to it. I guess we’ll what people think and which versions people will relate to more over time. I guess we’ll see.

Analogue: Is there a song that serves as the best example of what we’ve been talking about or is really just more about a general feel with all of them?

Dylan: I think it’s general, but even the lead single, “In Love Now”, feels that way. I think the original version feels almost a little bit more dramatic and it comes off that way but then the new version is an example of like, ‘Oh, I still feel this feeling and it will always exist in me but it’s not as potent as it initially wise.’ I can relate to the undercurrent of that more than this really bombastic feeling that occurred when writing that song.

Analogue: Obviously I know you’re excited about this release, but having worked on the same songs for a while, are you also hungry to move on?

Dylan: I literally just finished a new album a couple of weeks ago, so the short answer is definitely yes. At the same time, I think that having done this has really breathed new life into the songs. Those versions feel like a mix. It feels like tying a bow on it and now I have this new record and we’re playing those songs live and I even have songs newer than that. But also because that Tape Redux record was made so recently, it feels better playing those ones live.

VISIT: Field Guide

*Photo: Eric Roberts