Mac DeMarco: Clothes-Repelling, Acid-Washed Indie Rocker

Unconstrained ex-trickster, from Edmonton via Brooklyn, reaches for song-gold and unusual drumstick placing.

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Fact Sheet

  • For fans of Pavement, The Libertines, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti.
  • His new, audience-loving mantra is ‘God bless the kids.’
  • KEY TRACKS: Salad Days/ Rock And Roll Night Club/ Chamber Of Reflection

DO A GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH for ‘Mac DeMarco’ and there are photos of him dragged up in a brunette wig – looking rather like a young Ann Widdecombe – and caught, mid-gig, with a pair of drumsticks protruding from his nude derrière.

A colourful character for sure, but his third album, Salad Days, suggests hidden depths. Combining VU riffs, acid-washed AM ’70s rock and a touch of The dB’s pop, his plaintive lyrics are at odds with his ‘Dude, Where’s My Career?’ persona. Could DeMarco be Paul Westerberg and Bob Stinson at the same time?

DeMarco – real name Vernor Winfield McBriare Smith IV – comes from a musical lineage (his grandmother is an opera singer) but his mother’s early attempts to get him into piano and singing lessons were met with irritation. “I was like ‘leave me alone, I want to play video games!’” he says. In his teens, though, Mac began creating joke bands with friends with names like Meat Cleaver, whose lyrics poked fun at people at his high school: “I was kind of a jokester guy in high school, so for me to be Serious Indie Rock Guy would have been a stretch.”

“One thing led to another and my clothes came off.”

Mac DeMarco

His post high school move from Edmonton in Canada to Vancouver, however, allowed him the anonymity to develop his sound. “Eventually I started recording my own solo stuff but it was so lo-fi that no-one could tell what I was singing,” he says, “but when I moved nobody knew me so it didn’t really matter if I wrote serious pop songs.”

Mac’s ‘jokester’ side had not gone away, though. During the tour for his first two albums, 2 and Rock And Roll Night Club (which both came out in 2012), Mac’s antics got seriously out there: during one particular drunken performance, “one thing led to another and my clothes came off, people were pouring beers on me and then a couple of drumsticks slipped into my ass,” he says, recalling the incident that has gone down in DeMarco legend. But, he says, this ‘goofball’ has been blown out of proportion. “Compared to the rock stars who have this generic, shopping mall persona I guess I’m pretty weird but I think I’m pretty normal.”

New album Salad Days sees him picking at ‘the goofball thing’. The title track sees him sing: “Act your age… always feeling tired / Smiling when required / Write another year off.” He says those lyrics were penned after two years of non-stop touring, exhaustion and “calling the crowd ‘peasants’ and shit”. He says that: “It’s easy to become an asshole on tour, especially with people treating you nice. So those lyrics were me checking up on myself. The verse is like: ‘I’m so jaded’ and the chorus is like: ‘Act your age.’”

Mac DeMarco: giving goofballs everywhere a good name.

PHOTO: Brad Elterman

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