Everybody loves Mac DeMarco
In a vast sea of limbs and smartphones, the red Vans on Mac DeMarco’s feet are pointing vertically towards the sky.
He’s in the midst of one of his now-famous crowd-surfing marathons, and he’s been dropped on his head yet again. After an awkwardly long struggle, the crowd eventually lift him back up, and he re-emerges gloriously with his arms spread out, a fan’s blue trucker cap planted on his head and a cigarette miraculously still clenched between his teeth.
He’s stranded out in the crowd for so long that Andrew Charles White – the band’s shirtless, surfer-blonde guitarist – has abandoned his sloppy soloing and spoof-rockstar poses, and is now tossing his instrument back-and-forth across the stage with the group’s bass player, Pierce McGarry. Eventually, their estranged frontman climbs back on the stage – which is littered with bras – and does a celebratory leap in the air while the audience roars with approval. This is Mac DeMarco, ladies and gentlemen. King of the dudes.
Since releasing his breakthrough sophomore album 2 three years ago, the Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based artist has found himself on a constant upward trajectory almost by accident, and the bubble doesn’t look like it’s going to burst any time soon. Through his goofy stage antics, bizarre self-made online videos and crude toilet humour, Mac DeMarco has become a down-to-earth, self-deprecating icon in an era when the concept of a highly-strung rockstar feels tired and cheesy. With his carefree slacker persona, he’s become a hero to jaded 20-somethings who are decked out in faded American sportswear that will forever smell like the charity shop it was discovered in.
Earlier that afternoon, I’d sat down with the 25-year-old in the backstage area of London’s Field Day. His hair – which has sprung into a sort of untamed afro – looks so dry it might flare up immediately if it touched an exposed flame, and he has the complexion of a man who’s not consumed a green vegetable in weeks. But there’s a glint in his eye and an effortless charm to him. When I ask him what he makes of all the Beatlemania, his response is humble. “It’s really strange, because I’ve always been in music scenes in different cities where I’m trying to fit in with, like, the cooler older band, or like, trying to impress the guy at the record store,” he says. “But now there’s all these 16-year-olds like [screeches] ‘Maaaaaaac!’”
While some of the songs from Mac’s most recent LP Salad Days have grown into low-key festival anthems, it’s not like his breezy melodies demand critical acclaim, and it feels a little strange to see so much hype surround such an easy-going artist. “I think it’s kind of at the point where, because me and my bandmates have kinda weird, goofy personas and we make weird videos and shit, like a lot of kids get into that maybe even more than they get into the music,” he admits. “I’m sure there’s kids who say they’re fans of me who’ve probably never listened to one of my albums. But it’s cool,” he shrugs, “you can’t really complain about something like that.” And is Mac DeMarco a good role model for those kids, I ask half-jokingly? “I mean, I’m publicly drunk all the time and I chain smoke all the time, so between those two things, it’s probably a little bit sketchy,” he says. “But other than that, what I put out there is that you should do what you wanna do and that you should do what makes you happy. Hopefully it’s working.”
Around a week later, I follow up our conversation on the phone, as our time at Field Day got curtailed due to his hectic schedule. “That day was kinda crazy,” he recalls. “I was trying to sort stuff out afterwards, but I ended up taking a buttload of pictures with people. I was trying to buy cigarettes from the normal area of the festival,” he says, chuckling. This time, we discuss Another One, the mini-album which Mac will release in early August via his long-term label Captured Tracks. Musically, the record is pretty much business as usual, although that signature guitar sound is wobblier than ever, with Mac applying so much tremolo it’s as if his strings are melting in the heat. Ever the unlikely romantic, this time Mac is particularly lovestruck, with songs ranging from the forlorn No Other Heart to I’ve Been Waiting For Her – which glimmers with potential as a euphoric set-closer.
“It’s a little bit of a concept in a way,” he tells me. “It’s all love songs and it’s kind of the whole spectrum of like: ‘I’m in love! I’m not in love! I wish I was in love … Oh, if only I could love!’,” he says, switching his voice like an overzealous actor in a one-man play. “It’s kinda like the whole nine yards. It’s about my life, but I think people should reflect [the songs] on their life, and enjoy it that way.”
Mac will tour extensively around the release of Another One. And due to overwhelming demand, it’s been announced that he’ll play a second date at London’s 3000-capacity Roundhouse venue. While few people are getting rich quick from the music business these days, this is a level of popularity which presumably generates a decent amount of cash. But according to Mac, he’s yet to acquire expensive taste. “I’m never going to tour in a tour bus, there’s no fucking way,” he insists. “I don’t buy new clothes, I don’t buy fancy food, I probably pay the cheapest rent I could get in New York. My mentality – and it’s not even a conscious effort, it’s just the way I am – is that I’m not going to change just because I’ve got money in the bank.”
But the bigger budget has allowed Mac and his band to live a more sustainable lifestyle on the road. Although they often still stay with friends while touring the States, these days the band will book a hotel when they’re in less familiar territory. It’s a contrast to the early days, when Mac would sometimes resort to asking a crowd if someone could put them up from the stage. “We’ve had strange, strange experiences,” he recalls. “Like staying in gated communities with drug dealer kids who live with their moms and like weird frat houses and just disgusting fuckin’ dank-ass places. The worst is when you get to a place and my band all go and find the comfiest bed and pass out, and I’m obviously the one awake answering questions with these kids all night. But I dunno, I still enjoy it. That’s part of the reason why I tour so much, because I really like meeting people.”
It’s around this point during the phone call, where our conversation takes a surreal turn before reaching an abrupt end. “Oh my god, a turtle is walking down my street!” he shouts. “It’s crazy … What the fuck? I’m gonna go save it, it’s in the middle of the road. Gotta go, but uuuh, nice talking to ya.” He hangs up.
A quick Google search informs me that at least five species of turtle are listed as ‘Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern’ under the New York State’s Native Reptile and Amphibian Laws, and so the effort to rescue his shelled friend is a noble one. But even if he is just fucking with me, he’s at least handed me the perfect ending to this article. As per usual, Mac DeMarco knows when it’s his time to deliver the goods.