Mac DeMarco is up to no good. He’s riding a ten-foot tidal wave with an extra strong Viceroy cigarette dangling from his mouth and wearing barely anything but a cheeky Cheshire cat grin. The songs he wrote and recorded in his bedroom in Montreal are flying him to the UK this week, where he takes his now notorious show off of American soil for the first time.
DeMarco’s album ‘2’ is his second in under 12 months and has seen him draw critical acclaim and praise from some of the highest pillars of the indie world. Pitchfork gave the album a giddy 8.2/10 and wrote that “it oozes beautifully simple and direct sentiment." As I spoke to him on the eve of his debut shows in the UK and Europe he appeared nonchalant about the hype but deep in his voice I could hear a hint of excitement hiding away through those half stoned cheeky tones. He speaks with enthusiasm for his music and his talking voice mirrors his singing voice. “When I was writing songs for this album I was really trying to write more about me. The first record ‘Rock and Roll Night Club’ was all about cool boots and packets of cigarettes. On this record I just wanted to tell someone I loved them.”
Mac DeMarco’s hero is Jonathan Richmond and that really shows on the record. It’s an album that could easily work blasting from a record player in a dingy double room in the Hotel Albert in 1970’s New York City. It’s not of this time but in an age of big synth sounds and Apple Mac’s its refreshing and subversive to hear a 22 year old recording such simple and direct music. “I record all the instruments myself. I play to a metronome and usually start with the guitars and vocals adding the drums at a later point. That all gets recorded into a tape machine in the room where I sit now.” That’s pretty crazy though? You’re 22 and have recorded these songs in your bedroom and now they’re paying for your plane ticket round the world? “It hasn’t sunk in yet but yeah I guess it is pretty mind blowing!” It’s the age old rock n roll romance story of a dedication, passion and talent taking people to the moon and back.
It seems some of the nicotine from Mac’s extra strong Viceroy cigarettes has found itself puffed from his mouth and into the songs he writes. They’re infectious, addictive and they taste fantastic. ‘Ode to Viceroy’ is the smoker's perfect love song. It captures what it truly means to be a smoker: “Oh don’t let me see you crying, I’ll smoke you till I’m dying.”
At times on this record it's hard to tell whether DeMarco is singing about his girl or his cigarettes. He tells me over the phone taking in a deep drag “I gotta get that early morning cigarette. I love that one. A cigarette and coffee in the morning, that’s my favourite combo. And the after sex one.” He laughs. “That ain't a bad one. I smoke when I eat. People find that disgusting but I really like it.” He speaks with a slacker passion about the things he loves and it's infectious. The man and the music are almost the same thing.
Mac DeMarco is a romantic but he’s disgusting as well. He smokes when he eats and has been known to stick drumsticks up his arse as a party trick. His perfect woman is incidentally one who “is accepting of the drunk dumb ass at the party." Great art has got to be true and I believe every word of what he sings. It’s out of tune a lot of the time and the guitar playing is far from perfect but there’s undeniably a charm that pushes out of the truth and into the heart. He loves his girlfriend and he loves a cigarette and that’s what he sings about.
The purity of ‘2’ is summed up perfectly on the album's closing track ‘Still Together’, a love letter to Mac’s sleeping girlfriend Ciara. DeMarco recorded the song in one take and after the final note had been sung he walked over to his lover and gently woke her. The mic still running, it’s a moment captured that marries itself to the vulnerability of the song perfectly. 'Still Together' is all brilliantly wobbled out of tune notes and spoken melodies. It’s the side of Jonathan Richmond that he would never dare show when he was at his young songwriting peak. “It's a song that’s been kicking around for years. I tried to record it as a full band-y song but what it took in the end was one mic and Ciara sitting behind me to get the best out of it.”
Mac and his band of friends are playing shows in the UK this week. If you listen to the tales of tequila and drum sticks each show is gonna be a party you don’t wanna miss. “Get enough drink in me and I'll do pretty much anything” DeMarco says, half joking and half serious. What’s the thing you’re most looking forward to seeing in London? “My Uncle Mick. He’s a lucky guy. He worked in the World Trade Centre but didn’t go ‘that day’ and then moved to London and narrowly missed the bombings over there. It’ll be nice to catch up with him.”
Uncle Mick isn’t the only lucky guy in the DeMarco family. Mac is living the dream of every slacker 22 year old around. He’s gotta an understanding beautiful girlfriend, he’s playing guitar and singing around the world every night and memories of working the night shift in the local supermarket are growing more distant by the day. Mac DeMarco is a lucky guy but the songwriting ‘2’ shows he’s a got the talent to back it up.
Mac is playing shows in the UK next week. Tour dates are below:
19 November - London, Birthdays
20 November - Manchester, Deaf Institute w/DIIV
21 November - Bristol, Start the Bus
22 November - Brighton, Green Door Store
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