Mac DeMarco has done things a little differently this time around. Earlier this year, DeMarco packed up house, ‘This Old Dog’ demos included, and moved from Queens to LA. Once he was there, he intended to sit down and finish the new record – but things didn’t go according to plan.
Maybe it was the move, or maybe it’s because DeMarco is 3 records in – but the more he recorded “big bells and whistles and crazy productions,” the less he liked how the songs were turning out.
“A lot of the stuff on the record is just the demo version. Like, ‘This Old Dog,’ for example – I just put up a mic and sat down and kinda had an idea of what I was gonna do and that was the first time I ever played it through and that’s what’s on the record.”
So yeah it’s a bit different ‘cause I usually set out like “ok I’m gonna demo a bunch of songs now and then I’ll re-record” but this time it was more or less like “I’m just gonna play and hit record and then that comes out on the vinyl.”
Given that DeMarco released his debut record ‘2’ at the age of 21, you’d think that the new recording process reflects his growing comfort with and maturity towards songwriting, but Mac doesn’t see it that way. Wary of how much of a stickler making a grandiose 3rd album can be, Mac insisted that with ‘This Old Dog’, he simply preferred to do something he was “actually happy and comfortable with.”
“I just wanted (the songs) to be what they were – so I think to have something in its earliest incarnation it’s usually the easiest way to make something feel that way. For me, at least. So yeah, it’s kind of, when they came into some kind of form it was usually just where I left it at.”
One of Mac’s favourite songs on the record, ‘Dreams From Yesterday,’ is one that reflects his change in sound most strongly – “it’s got synths, it’s got drum machine, it’s got some little acoustic guitar – just maybe a little bit of a different song than I usually do.”
Mac noted ‘On The Level’ as another one of his favourites – “I’ve never really used a drum machine that sounded like that before.” DeMarco has made the track available on Youtube, and it’s a definite showcase of his new synth-driven direction.
Something else that Mac did differently, was to try and keep his mind on how the record would sound as its own body of work, and not how it would translate live. “Sometimes I catch myself thinking that way,” he recalled, “but this time I was just making the record.
Luckily, it hasn’t been too difficult of a transition now that Mac and his band are heading on the road for the new record. The biggest leap from record to stage was to ditch the drum machine – “We’re not really doing any drum machine stuff – a little bit, but not as much as there is on the album. It’s similar to the album but just with acoustic drums, and, you know, some of the arrangements are a little bit different. So far it’s been good, I’m happy with what we’re coming up with.”
At the time of our conversation, Mac had gotten a chance to road-test some new material at weekend 1 of Coachella and at a secret LA gig. Mac was delighted by the response – “it feels good that people enjoyed it. It’s all gravy.” Other than getting to debut some new tracks, Mac made news while he jokingly encouraged fans to illegally download the new record, which had leaked a day earlier.
It was obvious by his tone and the fact that he recommended fans obtain the album from LimeWire and Kazaa (peer-to-peer file sharing sites which shut down in 2010 and 2012 respectively), that Mac and his band were just joking. Either way, we had to ask, does he really not give a shit?
“I don’t know, I mean, the downloading thing – people do it – whatever. It doesn’t really, it doesn’t bother me. If I could put the record out the day I finished recording it I would, but the music industry doesn’t really work that way. It’s just a fact of putting out records, you know. We were joking… but it’s a real thing that happens.”
Luckily for Mac, he appears to have a pretty dedicated fan base. Mac recalled that one fan even sent him money over Venmo, and others have been commenting on his social media accounts that they love the record and will purchase it once it’s physically released. Yet, at the end of the day, DeMarco is all-too-aware that illegal downloads and leaks are just an unfortunate given for someone working in the music industry these days.
“It’s just like, people can do what they wanna do. Albums end up on YouTube anyway, eventually, as soon as they’re released. I don’t know… We’ve already shown a lot of the songs anyway so it’s like, what can you do”
“If anybody from my team read or hears this I’m gonna be like, “sorry for the pain in the ass,” but, it leaked!”
Even DeMarco’s own mother, who regularly interacts with fans online and famously MCed Laneway Festival in 2015, shared one of the leaked tracks on Facebook before it was taken down. DeMarco laughed wildly upon hearing this information. He found it equally as humorous that his on-stage joke got traction online – “It’s funny that a lot of places have picked that up.”
It’s not just his own record Mac has been working on either. It was recently announced that Mac DeMarco features on the track ‘Friend Of Lindy Morrison’ on Kirin J Callinan’s upcoming record, Bravado. Coincidently, we asked Mac how the two, who have gigged together on the odd occasion, came to be acquainted, prior to the announcement that Mac appears on the upcoming release.
“I met Kirin through Connan Mockasin and his crew because Kirin was opening for them in New York one year and I went to go see them play… So yeah, they introduced me and I saw him around a lot more over the next couple of years and now – actually, he’s on the way to my house right now, I think, so… we’re homies.”
Another little project the pair worked together on was a hilarious mockumentary-style promotional video for Callinan called ‘Off The Record.’ It’s not the first-time DeMarco has dabbled in the realm of comedy, having appeared on Adult Swim programs The Eric Andre Show and Loiter Squad, as well as performing at Tenacious D’s annual comedy event Festival Supreme. A quick look through any of DeMarco’s social media will reveal that he has a very particular sense of humour, so we asked him where that comes from.
“I’ve got a lot of funny friends. It’s funny though because people think “oh, Mac DeMarco, that guy’s kinda funny,” but if you stack me up against most people I hang out with, I’m not very funny at all, you know. And if I try to be funny it usually doesn’t come off as very funny at all, either. It’s not something I really yearn for or attempt. It’s just what I’m used to, I guess.”
One of the more obscure comedy projects he’s been involved in was his role in one of the comedy group 2 Wet Crew’s YouTube videos, ‘River Crack’. 2 Wet Crew compromises of LA comedians Doug Lussenhop (AKA DJ Douggpound), Mikey Kampmann, and Jay Weingarten. Lussenhop is most well-known for his editing work on comedy duo Tim & Eric’s various programs, most famously Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, as well as The Eric Andre Show and Portlandia. DeMarco revealed how he came to know 2 Wet Crew and be involved with their work.
“We met DJ Douggpound a couple of years ago, I think the first time we played FYF Fest in LA. He used to help out Tim & Eric with their show and was on the show and my bassist Pierce (McGarry) was a big fan – we’re all big fans. We just met him at a bar one night and Pierce was living in LA at the time and he became friends with him. Mikey and Jay are also in 2 Wet Crew and are friends with Doug so we’re all just friends now. So we just hang out and they asked if I wanted to be in one and I went “yeah, why not? Sure.””
(McGarry no longer appears to be performing with the band – a reddit thread dedicated to Mac DeMarco fans reveals that he wished to focus on his video work, but that the two still remain friends).
Assuming he would’ve come to know Lussenhop through his appearance on The Eric Andre Show, DeMarco revealed the dream-scenario that living in LA is – “Yeah all those guys – they’re all homies. Everybody lives in a couple of different neighbourhoods in LA. You see people around and everyone’s really friendly. It’s cool.”
Either way, we sure are glad he agreed to be in the 2 Wet Crew video– check out the bizarre short below.
DeMarco also appeared at Festival Supreme, the music and comedy festival created by musical comedy geniuses’ Tenacious D, that takes place annually in LA. It was a lucky coincidence that Will Forte happened to share the bill with DeMarco and his band.
“We were on Conan (O’Brien)’s show and Will was on there. My guitarist is a really big Will Forte fan – especially MacGruber, he loves MacGruber. But we were kinda too nervous to talk to him cause it’s weird being on TV. It’s nerve-wracking,” DeMarco recalled with a melodramatic shudder, “they keep it cold in there, we were terrified. It’s like, the real deal, you know.”
“So yeah, we didn’t say “what’s up” to him so we were like “next time (at Festival Supreme). There’s no way he cannot notice fifteen of his character walking around the festival.” And we met him, he’s a really sweet guy as well. Really, really nice and we had a nice time with him. He was a little bit like “oh, you guys all dressed up like MacGruber, that’s really weird.”
DeMarco recalled the moment with a *perfect* Will Forte impression.
The first track that DeMarco released an official video for was another one of Mac‘s favourites and the album title track, ‘This Old Dog’. “It’s just one of my picks off it I guess cause that one just feels like “there it is!” It came out in maybe half an hour and it’s like “ah, there we go””, Mac enthused, “It has a certain thing for me.”
The clip was shot in LA – and if you’ve been there before, especially in the Hollywood area, you’ll know that seeing a couple of guys running around wearing dog masks isn’t that unusual. Still, we asked if Mac got any memorable reactions from the public.
“Yeah, a few, definitely. We walked passed this gang of kids and they were all like “what the fuck is going on over there?” But, for the most part – China Town in LA around that time of day is when all the stores close so it was kinda on purpose. In LA it’s weird you have to get permits and shit to shoot a lot of places. So we just went to somewhere we knew nobody would really be around. And it worked out fine, it looks pretty good.”
To wrap things up, we asked if Mac‘s excited to get back on the road. “Definitely excited to get back out there,” he replied eagerly, “especially because we’ve got lots of new stuff to play now so it’ll be fresh and exciting again. I’m really glad that we get to go out again.”
We’re glad, too – and are on the edge of our seats waiting for DeMarco to come back to Australian shores.
‘This Old Dog’ is out May 5th via Captured Tracks / Remote Control.