Meeting Mac DeMarco

Canadian slack-rocker Mac DeMarco possesses a genuine authenticity unseen in many of the heroes of indie rock today. His affable nature and easygoing attitude transfer seamlessly into his song writing, creating wistful jangle pop that will surely be played at every barbecue this summer. Live, his performance becomes a different beast entirely, pushing the limits of what is acceptable stage banter and breathing an unexpected amount of energy into his songs. At just 23 years old, he has some very real accolades under his belt too, with his previous album 2 earning ‘Best New Music’ on Pitchfork. On the eve of the release of his excellent third album Salad Days, Mac is resting in the quiet before a storm. An ever-increasing fan base and consistent critical acclaim of his latest LP will see him shortly hitting the road for what will surely be a long stint of tours and festivals. It’ll be testing, but he’s is certainly up for the challenge. We called Mac at his New York apartment and studio to get an insight into his creative process and talk about life on the road.

Congrats on Salad Days – how have you found people’s reactions to it so far?

Well, I showed it to everyone around me a long time ago while I recorded it so I felt comfortable with it for a while, so it’s interesting to get it in the public eye. I’ve read a couple of reviews and people seem to be cool with it which is exciting, I guess. It’s always funny making something and then sitting with it for so long and then you get told if it’s any good or not – it’s kinda ridiculous. I finished recording in November.

You recorded the whole thing yourself. How did you find that process?

In some ways it’s a little limiting because I’m not a super good musician, but in some ways it’s more creative because I can try really stupid things and things that I might be ashamed to do in front of other people. I don’t have to worry about them – I’ve got complete control.

Are you looking forward to heading back out on tour?

We just played a few shows in South America which was pretty crazy – flying around to all these exotic places – but I’m pretty excited to get back in my van and drive around the States and just being in one country for a month. That’ll be nice; we haven’t done that in a long time. I prefer that to the fly in, fly out type of shows. We can tour the UK and then go through the tunnel and do Europe all in the van which is a treat.

Do you like playing the UK?

Oh yeah. A lot of the time we’ll play in France or Italy and it’s more of a polite crowd – they’ll wait for you then clap afterwards and there’s not much dancing around. The kids in the UK are fucking nuts, which is cool.

Let’s talk gear. Are you still using the same guitar as ever?

Yeah, I don’t actually know what it’s called but I’m still using it.

It has your signature sound.

Yeah, I guess. I’ve tried other guitars and always come back to that one.

When you set out to record Salad Days did you have a vision of how it would sound or did it happen organically?

It kind of just happened… I mean, when I’m on tour I can’t really write ‘cos it kinda stresses me out. It’s never like ‘let’s try this idea on the next album’ – there’s always stuff but until I actually sit down, it’s just all these tiny bits of inspiration that kind of get moulded into one thought from before. When I sat down I was like ‘well, let’s see what happens’.

What were those influences?

When I was recording I was listening to a lot of The Kinks, Elton John and Yellow Magic Orchestra. I try not to listen to too much stuff when I record otherwise I kind of just lift ideas. There have been a couple of instances where I’ve found myself just ripping stuff off. [laughs] I try my best though.

Are there any other bands you like at the moment?

Yellow Magic Orchestra is my big tip – I’ve been listening to all the offshoots and Ryuichi Sakamoto stuff or Takahashi. Akiko Yano, she’s done some pretty good albums. It’s weird; I’ve really got into synthesizer kind of stuff lately.

There are synthesizers on a few tracks on Salad Days too.

Yeah, that was the beginning – now I’ll just listen to a shitty disco song and be like ‘ooh! That synth patch! Mmmm tasty’ and before I would’ve thought that was so stupid. It’s interesting because I’ve never really delved into this kind of thing before.

It’s a whole new world, sonically. It can be less limited than guitars.

Exactly, though it isn’t really limiting in the stuff I do. The other thing is I don’t really know how to play keyboards well, but I can play guitar. If I try writing a song on a keyboard, it’s not with proper chords and stuff and people are like ‘what the fuck are you doing’ but I go ‘ooh I like the way that sounds’. It’s a lot of experimentation which makes it more fun for me.

Let’s talk about Tyler, the Creator. What’s going on with you two?

Yeah, we did a little skit for his show.

Any chance of a musical collaboration?

Umm, there may be. I’m not sure yet though, we’ll see. It would be weird, though, but could be interesting.

The album is coming out at a good time in the run up to festival season. Have you got any UK festival plans?

I don’t know, actually – I haven’t looked at the schedule. I think we’re playing a couple in the UK but I’m not sure if any of that’s announced though. There’s been some word going round about a couple of things. We’ve played the Great Escape in Brighton but other than that, no big shows in the UK, so it’ll be cool to check it out.

Finally, tell us about the new album’s title. Are you looking back on the salad days or hanging on to them?

Yeah – it’s that. It’s me reminding myself to enjoy it while I got it because I’m pretty sure I’m not that old. I feel like I’m old but I’m not. It’s a reminder and advice for myself.

Yeah, the change is pretty radical for you with increasing exposure.

Exactly. It’s like, don’t get jaded so quick – just go ahead or else you’ll drive yourself crazy.

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Salad Days is out Apil 1st via Captured Tracks and iTunes.

Words by Henry Evans Harding