Although there isn’t anything as bald as the spoken invitation at the end of his previous release Another One (in which he gave out his New York home address and encouraged fans to pop over for a mug of joe) there is one small identifier. “There’s no secret message per se,” he says, “But there is just a little voice recording I have of my dad… it’s a little sweet treat.”
Beautiful single My Old Man seems full of filial resignation, right down to its chorus hook: “Oh no, looks like I’m seeing more of my old man in me,” DeMarco sings, with the melody dropping as resolutely as shrugged shoulders falling back into place. But DeMarco says there’s no deliberate symbolism. “It was a funny thing with that song,” he says. “I had the drum machine running, and those little toms are doing the ‘do-do-do’, and that [tonic note] was the only one that I could tune those toms to be at. So I just started playing, and I just kind of sang, and the lyrics probably came in five minutes. I think that’s why I kept it though: it was like ‘Eh, that just popped out, so why not?’”
Most of what he does isn’t planned, he says, and that goes beyond musical decisions too. The album contains several romantic tracks (one’s even titled One More Love Song, almost as if he’s apologising for the repeated theme); DeMarco attests he never meant for his relationship with girlfriend Kiera McNally to become so public, or for listeners to consider every tender lyric as a rumination on their union. “She’s a big part of my life, and I write about my life,” he explains. “It’s this persona that I’ve created for myself, but it’s not like I premeditate anything.” He reflects it back again, with: “It’s not up to me what people gravitate to, either. But they seem to like her, and she doesn’t seem to mind.”
This Old Dog’s instrumentation follows the elastic, adventitious style of the Canadian native’s previous works, with briny guitars that wash or pluck their way across benevolent chord changes, more preset organ-like beats (as on Dreams From Yesterday and My Old Man), as well as the familiar sideslip of gentle, wonky keys. “When you’re working with an electronic instrument, it’s electricity,” DeMarco says, and barks out a monotone noise to describe the static. “Anything you can do to make the sound a bit more alive is better, to me. Woozy, out of tune. It sounds better to me.”
The spoken “sweet treat” appears at the end of penultimate track Moonlight On The Water, which clocks in at several minutes longer than the album’s other cuts with a long jam in its belly. But during this tour – many shows of which will incorporate DeMarco’s bud and Melbourne’s own odd darling Kirin J Callinan – the musician says there’ll be room to manoeuvre. “We’ll jack around a little bit,” he smiles. “We’ll have some fun with it.”
This Old Dog is out now on vinyl and CD via Remote Control.