Smoking Marlboro Reds after his soundcheck at Brooklyn’s Northside festival on Thursday night, Mac Demarco’s attention seemed unfocused as he moved through the empty House of Vans, with the casual ambivalence of someone who didn’t really have anywhere...
Mac Demarco by Adrian Mesko
When he sat down to talk about his new album, Salad Days, with me, it became apparent that all the preconceptions I had formed about this man were wrong. Mac is an enigma. Sure, there are the dad jeans and novelty Simpsons T-shirt you'd expect, but there's something quiet about the guy that's known mostly as a loud mouthed goofball. Watch his Pepperoni Playboy documentary and you'd be forgiven for thinking that Mac doesn't take anything seriously; the half an hour romp is filled mostly with jokes and facetious explanations. When I question this, Mac tells me, in the way only way Mac DeMarco can, "I like to have a lot of fun. If I wasn't having fun I would probably hang myself," revealing another one of his gifts: making distasteful jokes seem completely innocuous.
"I think my personality is one that's maybe a little more tongue in cheek. There are some people who are very sombre and very serious all the time, that's just not the way I am. When I'm writing songs I'm in more of an isolated place and I kind of get crazier thoughts. It's the only outlet I have to express myself and my emotions or my feelings so I guess I use that in that way. But day to day I'm just having a good time."
I like to have a lot of fun. If I wasn't having fun I would probably hang myself.
Mac's perspective is a unique one; it's as though he sees the inherent ridiculousness of life, and yet doesn't diminish the importance of it, especially when it comes to the sacred spaces of love, friendship and art. He is steadfast in his philosophies, and tries not to let the way people see him affect his own perspective; "people have these weird assumptions about you and it sort of drives you crazy. That kind of stuff can really affect what you're making."
When I ask him about his influences, he comes to attention, his back straightening, eyes sparkling. "I grew up loving the Beatles and loving that sort of music so a lot of my music stems from 60s pop stuff. Even 70s stuff, I love Neil Young and John Lennon's solo albums. There's that, and I really like yacht rock, like the Doobie Brothers and Christopher Cross. Something about that is so cheesy and so enjoyable. So it's just an amalgamation of a lot of weird stuff. I try to rip it all off but I'm not the best musician so through trying to rip it off I come out with something weird and new that's my own."
"I've got two rules. My first rule: don't write about anything I don't know about and the second rule: don't tell anyone what to do. So all I've got left is to write about my own life." Mac DeMarco's work on Salad Days slides easily between idle contemplation and soul exposing sentiment. But with rising popularity also comes the dilemma of whether or not such brazen introspection will continue, and whether or not Mac will keep serving up his personal life as entertainment; "it always depends. Sometimes I feel like I just want to write a pop song for the sake of it being a pop song. Other times I have something I need to get out and I'll do that. It really just depends on my head space. Having something where I can express my personal stuff is important to me, so I'm going to keep doing it."
I've got two rules. My first rule: don't write about anything I don't know about and the second rule: don't tell anyone what to do.
"The whole idea of writing pop lyrics is if you can make them vague enough and ambiguous enough they can mean one thing to me but then someone else can come along and it means something totally different to them." Strangely enough, Mac DeMarco himself is something of a pop lyric: easily interpreted by his audience to fit a wide array of personas. He's a romantic, a joker, a hipster, a dreamer, a scumbag, a lost boy, a heartthrob: whatever you make him in your own mind. But to Mac DeMarco, he's Mac DeMarco, and not only does he seem unphased by outsider expectations, he's uninterested in fulfilling them, having much simpler goals for himself.
"I would like to be happy. I think that should be most peoples' goal. For me a big part of touring and playing shows is meeting people and being able to connect with these people. I think if you get to the point where you're playing U2 sized stadiums and shit then that's totally gone, so I'd like to keep it on a level... where it's not super huge spots. Be able to hang out with the kids. We go on tours and often we'll stay at kids houses we meet at the show. We make friends. I'd like to be able to keep doing that my whole life."
As an adjunct to our talk, I ask Mac about his Simpsons T-shirt, and his favorite character on the show, "I like Grandpa the best. Or Moe. Just losers, you know? I love them."
Text Kat George
Photography Adrian Mesko