Mac DeMarco on Salad Days, Jizz Jazz and Tyler the Creator

We catch up with Mac Demarco, the easygoing author of one of the year's best albums.
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We catch up with Mac Demarco, the easygoing author of one of the year's best albums.
Mac DeMarco


byBRENDAN FRANK

I am sitting at the designated meeting spot, and Mac DeMarco shows up characteristically askew. Commenting that the subbass of Skrillex's Osheaga set “is going to give me diarrhea”, he suggests we walk and talk. I’m all too happy to oblige.

It’s been a big year for Mac, but the success of Salad Days almost seems like an afterthought to him. He’s earned a horde of new fans, been shortlisted for the Polaris Prize – an award given to an Canadian album based on artistic merit – with the likes of Arcade Fire, Drake and Owen Pallett, and learned a lot from the cycle of his debut LP, 2. More than anything though, he finally seems to be settling into a groove.

While his live shows have gained notoriety for grotesquerie, Mac himself is a perfectly normal, affable, somewhat foul-mouthed 24 year old. He’s already found footing on his ideal career path, and he’s further ahead than most his age in that regard, but you wouldn’t know it unless you asked. He’s almost disarmingly easygoing, a characteristic he shares with his music, which is consistently charming without ever seeming like it’s trying all that hard.

PMA: Well I guess first things first, very nice album. And congrats on being the Polaris nom for Salad Days. That’s some pretty elite company.

Mac: Thanks a lot, man. And yeah, the Polaris thing is kind of cute I guess. [puts on a baby voice] Here’s some money for you.

PMA: So you’ve said numerous times that your headspace while recording Salad Days was “I’m tired, I’ve been on the road for 18 months, let’s smash this one out”. Why did you feel the need to make another album so quickly? Why not take a bit of a break?

Mac: Well as much as complain about touring, I love touring. This is my life, and this is what I’ve always wanted to do. I think when I was writing Salad Days I got in this slump of being like “Fuck man, this shit sucks”. But the process of making Salad Days and thinking about exactly was going on in my life and reflecting on all of that fucked up shit made me relearn the reason that I wanted to do it in the first place. So now I’m like “Fuck yeah, let’s tour! We gotta get out here and play shows!”

PMA: For all that turmoil, you’re looking pretty zen on the cover. Where was that photo taken?

Mac: My friend Coley took it in my backyard.

At this point, we find a seat far enough away that we don’t have to raise our voices. Mac says he’ll be right back, and petitions the group nearest us for a lighter. Successful, he lights a cigarette takes a deep drag, hacks, sits back down, and we resume.

PMA: So you currently reside in Brooklyn. Before you were in Montreal for a bit, and then you’re originally from Western Canada. What would you consider a hometown show?

Mac: I don't know, there are a lot of them nowadays. I guess Edmonton. It’s always interesting there because my whole family comes out and you don’t get that anywhere else.

PMA: Are you cool with them seeing you live given your reputation?

Mac: Yeah definitely. I mean it’s a little weird, obviously, but they’re all very pleased with what I do.

PMA: So you played every instrument on Salad Days, is there one instrument in particular that you like to start out with when you’re writing?

Mac: I’m a guitar player, pretty much. Lately I’ve been trying things out on the keyboards more, but I’m not very good. I’ve been playing guitar for the better part of my life, so when I sit down with that I usually have an idea of where or where not to go. With keyboard it’s like “Umm, well maybe right here will sound good?” Usually it doesn’t work, but sometimes it does.

PMA: Are you writing on the road then?

Mac: A little bit. I never used to have the time, but now we have a tour manager and a guy who drives, so I get more of an opportunity to play around. The way I write songs in my room, I’m fully alone. But then in the van I don’t want to be the jackass in the back seat singing softly and strumming. My band would just be like “Shut the fuck up!” It’d just be annoying. But you can plug headphones into the keyboard so it’s much less obnoxious.

PMA: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to your 19-year-old self?

Mac: I’d say lay off the cheeseburgers, buddy. I used to be nice and fit back then, it catches up with you quickly.

He strokes his fledgling beer gut affectionately.

PMA: I’m a fan of the term jizz jazz, just because it seems to make light of all these tags people are trying to put on this sound or that now. Was that sort of your mentality behind coining that?

Mac: Yeah, at first it was just a funny thing to call my home studio. But once people starting calling me slacker wave or blue-fuck-vapour-shit, I was just like “Yeah, it’s jizz jazz!” and journalists ask me what the fuck it is and I’m like “well what the fuck are you talking about?” It’s just my journalism trick, I guess.

PMA: Is the title of “Blue Boy” related to that at all?

Mac: No, not really. I don’t even know why I called it that.

PMA: Is jizz jazz the type of music you want to keep on making? Are you happy with where you are artistically?

Mac: Yeah. I mean I’d like to try out some new things, but I think I’ll be writing pop songs for the rest of my life, hopefully.

PMA: I know you’re a bit of a lone wolf in the studio, but would you ever want to collaborate with anyone?

Mac: Maybe someday if I find the right person. I’d have to be really comfortable with them. I don’t even really jam with people. I mean I guess I practice with my band once a year or so. It’s actually funny, tonight we have a new guitarist in the lineup and we’ve never practiced with him yet, so that should be interesting.

PMA: How’d your friendship with Tyler, the Creator start?

Mac: He started hitting me up on Twitter and I thought it was weird that a rapper was into my stuff. Then you research him a little bit and Tyler is actually really into indie rock. It’s flattering, I guess. Interesting guy, because he’s kind of got the same reputation I do where everyone thinks we’re crazy. And he is crazy. But when you think about it it’s like, he has a record label, he has a successful music career, he has a clothing line, he has a TV show, and he’s 23.

PMA: You have to be smart to be that crazy and that successful.

Mac: Yeah, he’s like a fucking genius or something. It’s fucked up.

PMA: You guys have definitely both earned your reputations. You were a bit of class clown in high school, I take it?

Mac: Through most of school, yeah, but not by the end. I just got so fed up because I went to high school with a lot of jock, hockey player types. They really thought I was a … well the term they really seemed to love was “faggot”. I got a little tired of even trying to deal with that.

PMA: Did any of that help you find your niche with music?

Mac: Well one thing’s for sure, it made me realize what and who I didn’t want to be. But being exiled is part of that.

PMA: It’s good to cross things off the list.

Mac: Exactly.

PMA: Drink of choice?

Mac: I pretty much only drink water and really shitty beer. And whisky. Don’t mix it though, drink it straight. It puts hair on your chest.

PMA: Favourite album you’ve heard this year?

Mac: Probably Caramel by Conan Moccasin. He’s from New Zealand, he’s amazing.

[Editor: Chrome Sparks also told us that Conan Moccasin's music ranks among his favorite of the year. You should check it out.]