Mac DeMarco: “I’m a cheap son of a bitch”

Moving from New York to buy and renovate a house in la sounds awfully grown up, doesn’t it? Mac DeMarco’s current output sees him competing with power saws to create a sound that’s uncharted territory for him.
In the few years since Mac DeMarco’s last full-length ‘Salad Days’, he’s toured extensively, moved from New York to LA and released mini-album ‘Another One’. Now it’s time for album number three, ‘This Old Dog’, and – nursing a hangover and clutching a cup of coffee ahead of a tiny preview show at London pub Nambucca – he’s characteristically unfazed.

“There was a point, maybe around spring 2016, I wrote some new songs and then thought, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll make a new record!’ Then I was like, ‘Eh, maybe not right now’. We went back on tour for a while, and then I moved to Los Angeles. I was just making songs, and they just sat for a while, and the label was like, ‘Look, if you wanna put something out in 2017, it’ll have to be done soon’.

“I wrote 12 or 14 songs in a week and a half in the spring, and then when the deadline finally came I was like, ‘Oh shit, I’ve only got a month left!’ So then I just worked every day. It’s the same vibe I usually have, all it took was maybe a month and a half jammed in, and then I completely wasn’t thinking about it for the rest of the time.”

“Not having anything to do just drives me crazy eventually,” he explains. “I do like to relax, and a lot of being in LA for the last few months has just been taking it easy. But there’s also this fear because then I get used to doing that. I’m able to do it because I’ve been on tour for years now and I have money sitting there, but that reservoir is gonna run out at some point.”

Not that he worries too much about money – or anything else, for that matter. “I think I’m adaptable, I’m a cheap son of a bitch,” he laughs while lighting a Marlboro Red (it’s hard to get Viceroy, his favourite brand, in the UK apparently). “I don’t buy new clothes or new cars or anything. I’ve never had the opportunity to spend any money. I’ve never been in the position where I have time; we’ve always been touring.” He pauses with a grin. “I have bought a house, that was weird! And then when we got it, it was really fucked up, the renovations are still going on actually. It’s kinda funny, if they turn on a power saw when I’m recording my guitar will make this weird high pitched noise; doing vocal takes with a bandsaw going is kind of difficult too, but hey, it’s not so bad.”

Despite the move and the different environment that the new album was recorded in, Mac was keen to make sure it didn’t stray too far from his established sound. “When I put out a record, I like it to make sense. Especially with this one I’m putting out right now, I think it completes this triangle of albums. ‘Another One’ and [2012 mini-album] ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightclub’ are in there too, but there’s this triangle of full-length releases. The format on this new one is a little bit different; the sound is a little bit different, the whole vibe is a little bit different. But people can still hear it and be like, ‘Oh, this is a Mac DeMarco record’, which is important to me.”

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That’s not to say ‘This Old Dog’ is just business as usual, with Mac keen to try new things on the release. “I love synth, my appreciation of and love for synth grow day to day, and that shows on the album. I was really feeling acoustic guitar when I made this as well, I mean some of the stuff I’m making on the side is this weird drone-y synthesiser stuff, I’m just experimenting. Maybe I could go that direction, or maybe I could go another, who knows?”

As for the pressure that traditionally surrounds an artist’s third release, he shrugs. “For me, it’s not my third album; it’s like my tenth album. But I get that by all accounts it’s my third proper release, and people listen to my music now. The way I rationalise it is that I know there are kids out there who listen to me – well, not just kids, people too – and hopefully, they like it, but them liking it is not exactly the bottom line, I just enjoy doing it. I enjoyed it, sometimes it was a little frustrating, but I enjoyed it.

“I knew I didn’t want to do the same thing again, but I also didn’t want to do this big, insane…” He clears his throat and impersonates a middle-aged record exec. “‘Well are you gonna try and go Top 40 now?’ No, I’m just making some songs, so I just let them be what they wanted to be. I wasn’t even really thinking about performing them, just if an instrument sounded fun or I felt like playing it, I did.

“I always just choose one of the songs which I think encompasses the vibe of the record,” he explains, on why he chose ‘This Old Dog’ as the title-track. “In the song, I guess I’m just talking about myself; I’m not trying to say like, ‘Oh I’m so old, fuck!’ But I have seen some shit; my life’s probably a little bit weirder than some people’s lives. But it’s just a little love song. It’s one of my favourites, but I think my real favourite is the first song off of side B, ‘Dreams from Yesterday’. I like that sound. I like all the songs, though; they’re all my children. Well, they’re not my children anymore, now they’re just orphans waiting for release day.”

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