Mac DeMarco, Off His Rockaway

By
Photography Arkan Zakharov

Published August 4, 2015

MAC DEMARCO IN FAR ROCKAWAY, NEW YORK, JULY 2015. PHOTOS BY ARKAN ZAKHAROV.

Mac DeMarco’s forthcoming mini LP Another One (out this Friday, August 7, on Captured Tracks) ends with a personal invitation to his house in Far Rockaway, New York—address included. “Stop on by,” he says. “I’ll make you a cup of coffee.” This conclusion conveys the same lightheartedness that characterizes the record musically: bright guitar lines bend playfully, interwoven with warbling synth and fluid vocals. DeMarco’s subjects aren’t exactly upbeat; he sings of lost love and heartbreak, but with a buoyancy that keeps things light.

“There are a lot of bands that are very serious and cool, and that’s just not me,” he continues. “I’m a little goofy. I’m just trying to keep it comfortable for myself, and if other people feel comfortable as a result—hey, bonus, you know? I’m just doing me.” Luckily for DeMarco (and his listeners), that approach has resulted in a masterful compilation of songs.

Earlier this summer, we spoke with the Montreal-born, Queens-based musician about creating Another One in his bedroom, his life in Far Rockaway, and how he feels about the term “slacker rock.”

EMMA MUNGER: You just got back from Bonnaroo. How was that?

MAC DEMARCO: It was kind of crazy. We just finished two and half weeks of touring Europe and then flew to Tennessee for the last day of tour to play another festival hella jet-lagged, so it was kind of like “maaaan.” But it was a lot of fun. Lots of our friends were there too, which was cool.

MUNGER: Are you a fan of music festivals in general?

DEMARCO: It depends on the lineup, and usually when they’re really huge it’s kind of weird. It’s totally fun for us to play in front of a crowd that doesn’t necessarily know who we are, but festivals get pretty impersonal when they get super large.

MUNGER: What was your process for writing Another One?

DEMARCO: I planned to write it after we finished touring in Asia and Australia, but I got sick with a crazy ear infection right when we got back. I was in bed with a pressure headache for three weeks. So after I got better, I wrote eight songs just sitting around my room. I recorded them at home too, and didn’t really leave the house that much.

MUNGER: Do you prefer recording at home to in the studio?

DEMARCO: I don’t have that much experience in the studio, but I’m always really uncomfortable when I’m there. You’re on the clock and it costs a lot of money. So I figure, I’ve recorded at home since I was a teenager (but I’ve gotten a lot better at it since then—a lot of those recordings are very, very bad), and I’m able to sit here in my underwear and keep trying different things until something works. I think if I did that in a studio the engineer would be like, “What the hell is wrong with you?” I also think recording at home feels more organic, and injects some more personality into the music.

MUNGER: Most of the lyrics in Another One are about heartbreak, but musically the album is pretty upbeat. Did you create that contrast intentionally?

DEMARCO: I just felt like writing some love songs, because they’re songs that everyone can grab a chunk out of, and I’m not really good at writing sad sappy ballads. In terms of the lyrics not matching the vibe of the music, that’s also kind of the way my career has gone; everyone is a little confused about it all the time.

MUNGER: You seem like a very relaxed guy; you incorporate humor into your music, act silly when you want to, and don’t take yourself too seriously in interviews. Have you always approached your career this way?

DEMARCO: I remember when doing interviews was a new thing, and it was new that people cared what I had to say. I was more conscious about how I presented myself then. I think at this point I’m just being myself. I’m not a very complex guy; I’m not a very studious, crazy intellectual guy. I’m just a guy.

MUNGER: Your music is often referred to as “slacker rock.” How do you feel about that term?

DEMARCO: I think it’s silly. Journalists say my music is “blue wave,” or “dreamy,” or “jangly-slacker jewel,” and none of it really makes sense to me. The slacker one gets brought up the most, and it’s confusing because we tour all the time, and I find time to make albums in the middle. But I understand the sentiment. My music is kind of laid back, it doesn’t have super crispy, shiny production, and I’m not singing my heart out or whatever. But that whole idea of blogs declaring: “this is the new denomination for this sound” is ridiculous to me. I call my own music “jizz jazz” kind of in rebuttal to that. Like, if you’re going to call my music something super confusing, I might as well call it something super confusing before you get the chance to.

MUNGER: Why did you end the album with an invitation to your house?

DEMARCO: I don’t know. This place is a lot different than anywhere I’ve ever lived before. It’s out in Far Rockaway, New York, and there are no kids my age here. It’s not a hip place to live, and it can feel pretty isolating. I mean, there are people around all the time, but they’re not like, “Yo, let’s hang out,” they’re just like, “Hey, neighbor.” The whole vibe of this house is very prominent in the album for me.

MUNGER: How did you decide to move to Far Rockaway?

DEMARCO: I was living in Bushwick before, in a really crammed place, and before that I lived in Montreal. Both places are very conducive to living in a really small apartment, and I hate that—living in a shoebox, not being able to play the drums, not having space. It sucks. So I looked for a full house on Craigslist. I didn’t want to do any of that broker shit; I wanted a full lease by owner. When I searched, the only house that came up on Craigslist was the one I live in now. I’d never been to the neighborhood before, but I just called the landlord and said, “Hey, what’s up? I’m gonna sign a lease,” and he was like, “All right.” So here I am.

MUNGER: Another One’s closing track, “My House By The Water,” sounds quite different from the other songs on the LP. Why did you close the album with a more experimental sound?

DEMARCO: I just wanted to make a little instrumental track to end the album. I live right on Jamaica Bay, and I wanted to remember my house by the water, so I went down to the beach and recorded for a little while. I also like switching things up, so instead of writing verse-chorus-verse-chorus, I decided to do something weird for the end.

MUNGER: Do you have a favorite track off of the LP?

DEMARCO: I really like the title track. It feels like a nice little nugget of a song. When I finished it I was like, “That’s that, and I like that.” And there’s a song called “Just To Put Me Down,” which has a long guitar solo at the end of it. I’m excited to play that one live because it’s the same chord progression the whole time, which means we can do a Grateful Dead-style jam. That will be a treat.

MUNGER: What are you looking forward to on your upcoming world tour?

DEMARCO: I know the shows we’re playing the next couple months, but I don’t even really know what we’re doing after that. I’m excited to play Pitchfork Festival, and Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival in upstate New York or Vermont or something will be cool. I’m gonna take it as it comes. We’ll see.

ANOTHER ONE IS OUT FRIDAY, AUGUST 7 VIA CAPTURED TRACKS. FOR MORE ON MAC DEMARCO, VISIT HIS FACEBOOK.