The name Mac DeMarco calls to mind, for many people, the image of an amiably scruffy, lovable, roguish type figure who always seems to be having the time of his life on stage. His third full-length studio album – released on 5th May, this year – was unfortunately leaked online some time before the official release date. Mac was, however, characteristically calm about it, telling fans to download it from “Pirate Bay, Torrents.to, Soulseek, Napster, Limewire, Kazaa. Just get it.” And, there is an undeniable subtle change to the tone of This Old Dog. Mac’s previous full-length album, Salad Days, matched Mac’s persona as a carefree young musician whose music reflected that through his youthful attitude. Now that Mac is 27, however, there seems to be a more sombre, introspective tone to his work. One of the debut singles, ‘My Old Man’, tracks Mac’s concern about becoming increasingly similar to his absent father, as his life progresses. Here is a transcript of a prerecorded interview with Mac Demarco about how his music has evolved.
Is this album more personal than your previous ones?
The album’s kind of personal, and I wasn’t, like, checking myself as I was writing it. So, you know, it’s funny to write a personal song and then remember, “Oh yeah, I’m showing this to people! I forgot…”. So maybe that’s a part of it as well.
How long have you been working on the record?
I wrote some of it right after Christmas time, maybe a little bit later, in the springtime of 2016. Then I left it throughout the summer and the fall for the most part, and finally finished it around November of 2016. So, I guess it took almost eight months, but in reality, I suppose it took around two weeks at first, and then a month later on in the year. Not really that long! But there was just a huge gap in between, which is kind of bizarre for me.
What has annoyed you on this album?
I finished the record, and it took forever to mix, get mastered, and then get the artwork together. I was just like, “Oh my god, I’m so over it! Fuck this record!” (laughs). But now I’ve had a bit of time, so I’m happy. And, I was happy with it then… I just didn’t want to listen to it for a couple of months (laughs). Now it’s been a couple months, and I’m fine with it.
Do you play your music to your girlfriend (Keira McNally) before it’s released?
I usually play her stuff that I work on, yeah. Now I have a little room to do it in, but before I just used to do it in a bedroom that we shared, so whether she liked it or not she was hearing what I was doing. But yeah, I try and show her. And then I’ll say: “Do you even like it?”, and she’ll go “Mmm-hmm!” (laughs).
Do your songs change when you play them live?
Well, I think that’s the thing – we learn them a certain way at first, and then, just through playing them so often and doing shows and touring all the time, they change. My band puts in their own touches and stuff, so yeah, it comes together that way.
So, the burning question. Do you have an “old dog”?
No, but it’s the title track. I always name my albums after one of the title tracks so ‘This Old Dog’. It’s a nice name for an album I think, it’s weird, yeah. I’m into it. This Old Dog.
Who designed the album cover?
Me. Yeah, can you tell? It’s just scribbles (laughs). Somebody said that I ripped off Keith Haring (artist) or something, and I was like, “shut the f**k up” (laughs). But yeah, we were running out of time, so I just decided: “there you go!”. But, I do like it. I like to draw. I used to draw on all my album covers back in the day, so it’s just a little throwback for Maccy Boy, you know. Old-school style.
What did you do when you finally stopped working on the album?
We just kept touring, and I had a lot of time off in the summer, so that’s when we moved. Up until now, I’ve probably had around four or five months just doing a little bit of stuff here and there, but mostly just working on the record. And now it’s finally done, it’s like “Ok, let’s
get back on tour. Here we go!”.
So, you just moved to Los Angeles from New York. What’s the new house like?
It’s a little house. It’s blue, yeah, it’s got all my sh*t in it. It’s not a mansion or anything like that; it’s just a nice little house in an old Mexican neighbourhood. Yeah, it’s cute, I love it.
What’s the difference between working in LA and NYC?
I have more of a setup out there (in Los Angeles). There’s a dedicated zone to make music in, so I have all my things set up and ready to go. I think I end up getting in there a little bit more and playing around. I did a lot in New York too, though! I kind of just try and play because it makes me happy. The set up in LA is great – I’m having a real studio put together at the house.
What do you like most about living in Los Angeles?
Well, we don’t live that close to the beach. I like the food, there’s a lot of good food in LA. A lot of good Mexican food!
How do you find touring?
Oh, you know, even though the band’s changed a little bit over the years, I just keep having my good friends play with me. We’re just travelling, experiencing stuff and hanging out, so it’s always good! There does come a time when we’re all exhausted – like “oh my god, I can’t believe we have to get on this plane right now!” – and sometimes shows don’t go as well as other ones, but for the most part, it’s pretty hard to complain about. We’re pretty lucky. It’s crazy that we get to do this with each other. It’s really, really cool!
Obviously, you’re playing two sold-out shows at the 02 in Brixton in the next couple of days. What’s your opinion on drinking before the gig?
I normally do it to try to help myself wake up (laughs). I definitely wake up, and then some!
What really made you get into music?
Nowadays with the Internet, you can just put yourself out there and you’re set to go. Back in the day, even in the days pre-YouTube, when I first got into music, you had to download one song at a time. I actually learnt a lot of contemporary music through video games and movies, that kind of mediums. Through my friends, too! Yeah, now it’s just the internet. But I always find one band and dig as deep as I can, and then they branch off to other stuff. Like discovering The Beatles and finding out who they played with and who was talking about them back in the day. Then you just end up with this wealth of music. It’s the same with Paul Simon or whoever else.
And, finally, at the end of one of your songs, ‘My House By the Water’, you gave out your address in New York for people to stop by if they wanted to. How many people actually came?
We had some young people and some really old people. Just all kinds of people! It was really cool. Sometimes it became a little bit annoying (laughs), but for the most part, it was pretty good. Most of the people that were showing up were just very nice, polite and curious people.
So it was never really a problem. But, the thing is, we moved out, and the people that we were living there with stayed there. I think it’s cooled down a bit, but people still come sometimes. But they were well aware. If they ever leave, then it will be strange, but for now, they’re down with it. I think a lot of people realise that I don’t actually live in New York anymore.