Mac DeMarco talks flying, moms, moving to California & more in BV interview
Mac DeMarco’s new album This Old Dog is out, and Mac is currently on tour. (He played Boston Calling over Memorial Day Weekend and will be at NYC’s Governors Ball on Sunday, June 4.) We got our friend, Mikey Rishwain, who books M for Montreal, to chat with Mac on a variety of subjects. The two are old pals, and share an unexpurgated sense of humor, so this is not your average interview. Take it away, Mikey…
Reykjavik, 2013. Mac and I walk into a bar. I’m at the counter waiting for drinks when a guy next to me asks “are you with Mac Demarco? Let me buy your drinks, it would be my pleasure.” As I’m handing Mac his drink, I curiously ask him “dude, it’s your first time in Iceland? You’re like a magnet. Either these people are drooling over you or it’s a reaction to molly ingestion. Is this happening everywhere you go now?” He raised his eyebrows in slight concern and noded yes. It looked like he was accepting the fact that life as he knew it, was over.
Fast forward a couple years and Mac Demarco’s on top of the world. It wasn’t too difficult. All he had to do was simply be himself and keep it real. His gapped teeth, sense of humor and music captured the hearts of millions of Urban Outfitters and some might even favor him as state-of-the-art or poster-boy of this so-called post-indie-rock-n-roll era. Mac released his fifth LP, This Old Dog, earlier this month, all while making the world go round by touring to a sold out venue near you. His DIY recording ethics haven’t changed, though he did relocate to California in the middle of producing this record, which might actually be the birth of Mac’s sunny side and summer sounding thrills?
I sat down with Mac Daddy and blabbed about his recent move to California, his new album, fear of flying and bowel movements. All this over a complimentary body massage in the city that kick started his career, Montreal. At one point or another, Mac, Grimes, Arcade Fire, Unicorns, Wolf Parade and GYBE have all lived within a one-mile radius from each other. You may be asking yourself, what the fuck do they put in them Montreal bagels eh? Or maybe it’s the poutine sauce? Whatever it is, it helped bolster Mac on the map and he’s not looking back. Ladies and gentlemen, the return of the Mac. Our interview follows…
Your actual name owns more letters than the entire alphabet. For the record, spell your name and give us your job description.
McBriare Samuel Lanyon Mac Demarco. Job description? Rock n’ Roller baby.
Has anyone ever confused your artist name for an Italian rapper?
I actually thought using the name Mac Demarco might make people think i’m an Italian house DJ but no, never got the rapper treatment.
Has anyone ever offered you a massage during an interview? May I?
No one’s ever given me a massage during an interview. Be my guest and thanks for offering.
[editor’s reminder: Mac and Mikey are old friends!…]
You recently got interviewed over some gnarly spicy hot-wings. How was your poop session afterwards? Got any pics?
No pics but my shit was awful the next day. I also felt really dizzy driving home, it was crazy. It was actually very very spicy. That guy doesn’t care though, he’s some kind of alien or something. He does this twice a month and never seems to be effected at all, I don’t get it. My poop was really really biley, little driblets, but fiery hot ones you know what I’m talking about?
Have you written songs while sitting on the john?
I’ll play the guitar on the can here and there. We used to have a guitar hanging in the bathroom in New York, which is kind of gross when you think about it, because of all the different particles and dump bits that are collecting on that thing. I rather focus on exiting the excrements.
You’re here playing two shows in Montreal back to back (photos in the gallery above). Are you doing this often on this tour or is this some sort of homecoming special?
We’re playing back to back here and also in Toronto. I think tonight’s venue is one of the biggest in Montreal aside from the Bell Centre. It would be weird to play the Bell Centre so it’s better doing 2 jumbo shows here b2b.
Nirvana played Montreal twice in their lifetime, one being next door to where you’re playing tonight. They sold less than 100 tickets. You can practically sell out a 3000 capacity show here in just one single bowel movement’s worth of time. I’m not comparing you to Nirvana but it’s just pretty nutty that they never got to play Montreal at your level. Lot’s of magic was spawned in result of you living in here, even though you had many shitty jobs. How would you sum up your years living here?
Yeah that’s cool, I’m very grateful for my gracious success here. Those were my years of destitution. I didn’t live here that long but I worked in grocery stores, had no money, my girlfriend supported me, that was great. Then things started rolling. You hooked me up with some shows, did some other bigger shows, then got signed to a record label while living here. Things were happening. It’s kind of like the genesis of my career and something that I’ll never forget.
Lately, I’ve been telling people that some of the best bands in Montreal are expats from your hometown of Edmonton, Alberta. What’s so shitty about Edmonton that makes so many move to Montreal and sound so good?
I don’t know, there’s a thing with Edmonton where everybody leaves at a certain point, be it for school or lot of musicians move to bigger cities. It depends, the scene has an ebb and flow kind of thing. It’s good, it’s bad, it’s good again, every couple years you know. Luckily when I was a teenager, it was okay. There was a lot of bands so I got to play a lot of shows and got to meet a lot of cool people but then they all left, so I was like, I guess I’m gonna leave too. There’s something enticing about leaving the town you grew up in, ya just naturally wanna check something else out.
Wayne’s World, FUBAR, Michael J. Fox, Trailer Park Boys, Lorne Michaels and yourself are Canadian and all have quirky similarities. Did you grow up on any of them or do you think it’s a typical Canadian thing?
Canadians are funny and everyone seems to think this. I don’t know what it is. But yeah, I 100% grew up on Wayne’s World and FUBAR. Jim Carey’s Canadian too eh. There’s a whole lot of funny up here, I don’t know what it is, it’s a very specific thing. I feel like it’s almost kindred with people from let’s say, I know a lot of New Zealanders that are on the same level of funniness. It’s in our blood, we’re lucky. Something’s definitely going on. I didn’t know Lorne Michaels was Canadian though.
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You’ve been known to record your albums from your bedrooms and bathrooms. What was the recording process on this last record?
I did half of this record at a room I had in Far Rockaway, Queens, NY and then moved over to Los Angeles midway and jammed in a guestroom in my house. So it’s the 1st time I actually recorded somewhere else other than Kiera and I’s actual bedroom, though we still have a guest bed in this room.
Did you start smoking the weed or did relocating to California have any sort of impact on your songwriting? I ask cause you’re newer stuff’s getting dreamier, looser. Shall we expect more Cali vibes in future recordings?
Well this record is half NY and half L.A but yeah you can maybe expect some Jimmy Buffet shit in the future. Weed, nah, haven’t started, it’s way stronger out there ya know. Maybe that’s good for anxiety cities. But I’ve never been a weed guy, contrary to popular belief. Everyone thinks I’m a stoner.
Would you ever consider writing a hip hop or country album in the future?
Maybe if I start smoking weed (laughs) you never know. I could maybe write hip hop tracks but I don’t think I’d be able to rap very well. Country? I don’t think I could do that either.
Aside from the pollution, are you breathing easier in L.A vs NY? More space? Less fans come up & talk to you versus walking the streets of NY?
It’s funny cause in NY, I lived super far away from the city, so when I walked around my neighborhood, nobody gave a shit about me, I loved that neighborhood. But now, living in L.A, I do have a lot more comparable amount of space, but I now live in Echo Park which is little more hip and I haven’t done that in years but I like trying new things. A lot more juice bars that’s for sure. I like California. I’m getting used to the whole no seasons thing which is a bit strange. It’s really great, there’s not much to complain about. But those whining like “but there’s no winter” give me a break. It’s different and a good change of pace for me.
Briefly describe a typical day in Cali for Mac.
For the last couple months, there were a lot of guys in the house rehearsing and stuff but typically, when I wake up, Kiera is already awake making me a smoothie, that’s something nice to wake up to. Then I proceed to a dump, dip my toes in the pool, play around on my instruments, repeat, shit, repeat, maybe eat dinner, watch a movie and fall asleep. Pretty peaceful.
I was with you in Iceland 2013 when you first met and ate breakfast with Damian Abraham and his family. Have you had any similar random encounters just as Fucked Up while living in LA?
(laughs) Well I met Sandy from Fucked Up.
Right but I’m talking about celebrities or someone left field. Anything on that level?
Nothing too crazy. I did have Vietnamese Pho with Michael Mcdonald of the Doobie Brothers couple weeks ago. That was cool.
Have you caught up with this fast pace of life? Everything more under control now that you’re more experienced?
A lot of things have not remained as absolutely insane but um, I think I have a different idea of going on tour now, maybe that I’m older and probably a lot less healthier than I was back then but, I’m still playing shows, having a good time, still growing, things are chill, things are good.
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How many hours a day are you vegan?
Are you asking me how many hours of sleep I get? (laughs) Not a lot.
Many are questioning you about your daddy issues hence the lyrics on your last album but since mother’s day is in the air, how many times a week do you call her & do you plan on getting her anything for Mother’s Day?
I try to keep in touch with her as much as I can. Long calls, but not that often. She texts me a lot. She likes to text me using Siri. As for a Mother’s day gift, now that you brought it to my mind’s eye, I might have to get her something pimp this year, something extravagant.
Your song “Passing Out Pieces” off your album Salad Days quotes “what mom don’t know has taken its toll on me.” Is that about her having no idea what kind of lifestyle you were leading? Did that make you feel guilty in some way?
It’s a kind of metaphor. I drank a shit loads and partied a lot. It was crazy, but on the other side of the coin, she went on tour with us and she partied and got drunk with us. When I wrote that song, I was at the peak of like “OMG what the fuck is happening to my life” but as of now, it’s been a few years and I’m more used to doing this and I have a stricter set of ways, but I understand it now and I don’t fuck around as much anymore.
You’re a lover not a bragger. But you got anything worth bragging about? Or say something you bought after your first big checks? I know you once purchased a pinball machine.
Hmmmm. I left that pinball machine in front of my old house which is crazy because they’re worth lots of money. Aside from that, I just like buying music gear. Oh and I bought that house in L.A so that’s cool. It was really exciting at first but now it’s getting a little annoying. I don’t have to do the lawn because it’s got that L.A dirt instead. Oh yeah, so I own this cream colored Volvo 240 Wagon and my friend Dan was selling an identical one so I bought that and now I have matching wagons. Kinda funny cause they’re both really shitty.
Couple more random questions that I’ve been wanting to ask you for years. Is it true you’re afraid of flying? Is this some sort of Buddy Holly fear or what?
I hate flying. Doesn’t matter how long the flight is, I hate it. Also the fact that I’m addicted to smoking cigs so that’s a problem. I get terrified up there when it gets bumpy and shit but it comes and goes. It’s weird, cause the more I fly, the more I get scared. The lack of control, in a fucking tube, feet swelling up, it’s just not good for humans to be that high. It’s just a pain in the ass.
I saw you play in Hamburg couple years ago. You were having loads of fun on stage, smoking cigs and smashing instruments. But your sold-out crowd looked so unimpressed or they looked half asleep. Is that a German thing?
Germany’s weird for us. Berlin is okay but pretty much everywhere else in Germany, the audience is pretty much hmmm. Maybe guitar music doesn’t do that well in Germany these days. Our European tours are great and I love Germany but we’ll sometimes be the only rock band playing with a bunch of electronic acts. I’ve had people from there come up to me and compliment my pants but tell me they don’t understand my music. Very strange.
Do you have a fave Metal Band?
I’m more into Top 40 metal bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slayer but Black Sabbath is probably my favorite metal band.
After the interview, Mac insisted on calling my mother to wish her well after recent heart surgery and wished her happy Mother’s Day. One thing’s for sure, under Mac’s dirty baseball cap is still that sweet, genuine and classy Canadian soul that will never fade and will only keep us in good company for a lifetime to come. – Mikey
Photos from some of Mac’s recent shows, including Boston Calling, the above-referenced Montreal gigs, and Chicago, are in the gallery above, and below: