Dylan MacDonald, the face of the Canadian band Field Guide, sits down with Radio UTD’s Olivia Foster in an exclusive interview. Stream their latest release, Field Guide (Tape Redux), here.
(Interview has been edited for clarity.)
Alright, I’m Olivia Foster and I’m here with Dylan MacDonald, also known as Field Guide. How are you doing today?
I’m doing really well.
Good to hear. So, which stop on the tour is this you guys?
I think this is number … eleven or twelve.
Eleven or twelve.
Of the United States. We did 21 shows in Canada as well.
Well that’s exciting. ‘Cause, you’re from Manitoba, right?
Okay. Are the other people with you from Manitoba as well?
Yeah. We’re all from Winnipeg.
Okay, gotcha, gotcha. I’m from South Dakota, so that’s like, a little—
Okay. Just above ya.
Yeah, it’s, I don’t know. How’s the hot weather treating you? Because, it’s not treating me well.
Yeah, yeah, lovin’ it.
(laughs) Oh, I’m dying.
It’s too hot for you?
It’s too hot for me. I mean, I wore a sweater here, so—
Yeah, well. That’s on you, I guess.
Yeah, yeah, it’s definitely on me. I kinda walked into that one, but I think it’s habitual, y’know? So.
So, I’m still going to choose to blame Texas.
Okay, that makes sense. That’s fair.
Are you guys doing any other shows in Texas?
We played Austin last night.
Okay, how was that?
It was wicked. It was one of our faves.
Nice, good to hear.
So, who are you touring with? Like, what are the band member’s names?
Kris Ulrich is on bass and keys. Good friend of mine. He’s recorded a lot of my stuff—we’ve recorded it together, and he has a great project of his own. He’s got a record out called Big in the USA. And then our friend Michael Dunn on drums, who’s a wicked drummer and plays in some different bands in Winnipeg and stuff too. Happy to have these guys out with me.
And do you guys have someone opening for you tonight?
Yeah, we have our friend—our new friend—Jack Van Cleaf.
Awesome singer-songwriter from the States. And, yeah, he’s in the van with us, and we’re getting to know him.
That’s exciting. So you guys are going by van then?
That’s right, yeah.
Okay. How’s the van experience? I’m always curious.
It’s good, yeah.
I don’t know. I’m not a van person, or a “sitting in the car a lot” person, so.
I see. Well, you wouldn’t be good at this, then.
Yeah, I think I’d go seriously stir-crazy.
Yeah, yeah, that’s fair. It’s a lot of time in the van, but we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t good at it, I guess, ‘cause there’s no way around it.
Yeah no, I mean, congratulations on being good at sitting in a van, which I could not do.
Thank you so much. It is an amazing skill. (laughs)
I mean, it’s obviously working out well for you thus far, so. How many more van stops do you guys have? How many more stops on the tour?
Uh, I guess we have about seven or eight.
Okay, so more time to enjoy the van.
Yeah, totally. I actually said to Kris yesterday, I’m not really a vehicles kind of person. I’ve always just driven older, really reliable vehicles and don’t care what they look like, but I’m really starting to bond with this van. I really love it.
Aw. Does it have a name?
No. Well, actually, sorry, it does.
Oh, it does?
It’s called ‘Van Doorrison,’ because someone smashed in the back of our van in Canada and wrecked our doors.
Which have now been fixed, but. So, we’ve called it Van Doorrison.
That’s actually kind of beautiful. That’s a very artistic name. Good on you guys.
Thank you, thank you.
Do you guys listen to music when you’re driving, is something I’ve gotta know.
Sometimes. Not much, honestly. We usually do our own thing on our Airpods and stuff like that. But, y’know, once in a while, we fire up [something]. Usually when we play music, we’re looking for the worst and weirdest songs we possibly can just to pass the time.
That’s fun. Do you have some examples?
Yep. There’s a gentleman from Alberta named Ivan Daines. He’s in his mid-eighties or nineties, and he makes some really whack country music that we love to listen to.
Okay. Anything else that pops out?
A lot of bad country, actually.
I mean, bad country, in a way, is sometimes good country, so I—
In this case, it’s not.
But, I guess it is, because it’s amusing us.
Because it’s enjoyable, exactly.
Yes, yes, that’s true.
That’s the purpose of art, is enjoyable entertainment.
True. It’s definitely entertaining, that’s for sure.
That’s just it. So, in a way, they’ve succeeded more so than others.
Yeah, that’s true. That’s a good way of looking at it.
When you’re not listening to bad, like seriously bad, country music, what do you listen to?
In the van?
Yeah. Or just in general.
In the van, we’ve been listening to good old country music. I don’t know, there’s something about driving through parts of the States that have inspired that. But, I’ve been listening to Buck Meek’s new record. Listening to a Canadian band called Alvvays. They’ve been around for a while, but I just kinda got into them.
Are they the “hey, Archie” band? Is that them?
Yeah, that’s their big song.
Yeah, they’re cool.
Yeah, I know some of their stuff. They’re really, really good. I had no idea they were Canadian. Okay, cool.
Yeah. Just some of the things that I’ve been listening to.
Okay, nice. I guess in terms of—now that we’re talking about just listening to music—who are some artists that inspire you and your songwriting?
At some point, a good handful of years ago, I got into a lot of indie stuff, like Palmas and Leif Vollebekk. Kind of all over the map, I guess. Really been digging Buck Meek. M. Ward is one I really like. Big Thief for sure. That kind of goes without saying, in a way. I’m trying to think what else. Recently, I’ve been really digging Tame Impala and Sylvan Esso, a little bit more electronic stuff.
That’s nice. Okay, before you were Field Guide, you were part of another band, weren’t you?
Yeah, that’s right.
Called The Modern Coast?
The Middle Coast, it’s called.
Middle Coast. Sorry. My bad.
I knew it started with an ‘m’, and—
Yeah, it’s close.
—and in my head I was like, “You’re gonna mess this up.” I did, but …
You’re all good.
Okay, thank you. So, how has your creative process changed since leaving a band and being on your own, creating solo art?
It’s changed a lot, mostly because that band we wrote pretty much everything together, and we wrote a lot. And I did write by myself for sure prior, but it wasn’t until starting Field Guide that I really dug into finding my voice as a solo writer.
And how has that process been for you?
It’s been really fun, yeah. It’s been really interesting, to just sort of lay into my own habits and follow my brain where it likes to go, and not have to compromise on anything. And it’s been really interesting.
Nice. So, I guess now I have to ask, what is your creative process like, as it stands?
It’s kind of adapted a little bit. I mean, a lot of the time, it’s like, strumming guitar, finding some kind of chords or something like that, and then a melody, and then a lyric, sort of in that order. But lately, I’ve been toying a little bit more with—I think, having listened to more Sylvan Esso and more Tame Impala and stuff—I’ve been writing and recording at the same time, so sort of recording musical ideas and having melodies and lyrics be later in the process, which has been cool. It’s been cool to switch it up like that.
Gotcha. I guess, speaking of—I keep saying “speaking of”—speaking of recording, you recently released a completely different version of your self-titled album. Not completely different, but … a re-recorded edition.
How has that been? How do you feel about the comparison between the two of them?
I’m really excited about it. Since, and even before putting out the self-titled record, I was doing a lot of opening for other bands solo, and just found a different life for the songs in that regard and kind of just wanted to document it, so yeah. I’m really happy with both. They’re totally different. Yeah, it was a fun process.
Nice. Are you working on anything now?
Yeah, I have about nine or ten songs mixed and done, but I think I’m still gonna kinda keep working a little bit, put a few more. And just kinda being on the road is sort of reminding me that we weren’t doing that for a while, and I was making records so quickly because it’s kind of all you could do during the panny times, but now I’m kind of like, “Oh, you know what, I should take my time with this, because I’m busy out on the road, and I don’t need to just immediately…” So, yeah. I got stuff in the works.
That’s exciting, that’s exciting. Anything we’re gonna hear tonight?
For sure, we’ve got some new ones on the setlist. Absolutely.
Okay, that’s exciting, yes.
Okay. Sorry, I’m just checking the time on this—
—because I know you’re quite busy.
Sorry, yeah, we’re all over the map.
You’re fine, don’t even worry about it. I know how busy this is.
Yeah, appreciate it.
Yeah. Do you guys have any stops that you’re really, really looking forward to?
Y’know, we’re looking forward to swimming in the ocean. So, San Diego, LA, and San Fran are gonna be nice for that. I’m excited to go to Denver. I’ve never been to Denver, so I think that’ll be kind of fun.
Denver’s nice. I think you guys will like Denver, I don’t know.
I can see you guys like, really meshing, just based on your guys’ vibes. I don’t know, it works, I think. I think you guys will like Denver.
Yeah, no, that’s great. So when are you guys headed back to Canada?
I think we get home about May 16th.
Okay, so, fairly soon.
Yeah, couple weeks now.
So what’s the plan for when you get back? Is it gonna be just straight working on recording and writing?
Yeah, I think picking away at some of that. Probably gonna take it easy after all the touring, and we still have some clumps of shows, festivals and a few fly-ins. But yeah, pickin’ away at a new record and relaxing.
Oh, that’s exciting. Alright, what is the most recent song that you’ve on repeat, more so than anything else?
It’s a song by Tame Impala…. It’s the first song on Slow Rush, and it’s called “One More Year.”
“One More Year,” alright. I’ve been trying to ask that at the end of stuff, because it’s always really interesting to hear what people are listening to. Especially because you have such an indie-folky sound. So, I wouldn’t have pegged Tame Impala. When you said Big Thief, can definitely hear the Big Thief.
And Leif Vollebekk sounds … I don’t know. But I’m super duper excited to hear you guys tonight. Soundcheck sounded great.
And you don’t have too much longer before everything really gets going, so.
I’m gonna let you go, but thank you so much for meeting with me.