When you ring through to Mac DeMarco’s phone, you instantly expect the wacky guy that prances about on stage or in the frames of his archived social media posts to pick up - it’s therefore a surprise when a groggy “hello” reverberates down the line.
To be fair, it is 10am in LA and Mac is a notorious studio rat renowned for working deep into the early hours at his home. “I don’t know why but I have this cartoon character thing going on,” he says of his perceived persona. “Maybe it’s because I wear the same clothes everyday or something, I don’t know!”
The fact is, you could imagine a kooky demeanour like Mac’s being doodled by Mike Judge in a sketchbook somewhere. It’s this perception that belies the private, borderline introvert that is his true self.
Whilst his on-stage antics remain as outlandish as ever, Mac’s recorded work has become a lot more reflective of his morning-self - introspective, quiet and patient - especially on 2019’s ‘Here Comes The Cowboy’. “Some people were sort of confused by it but that was the idea I think,” he pauses. “Fuck ‘em all,” he retorts with a chuckle. “I like to open the show with the title track - people are sort of like ‘what the fuck did I just buy tickets to? I need to buckle up’. It’s slow, they’re songs - god bless it.”
“I don’t really need to play ball like I used to… so I don’t. I don’t give a fuck!”
From the outside looking in, you could say the party boy personality of yesteryear has been exchanged for a mellower disposition, a notion he disagrees with. “I’m still a party boy! The only thing I’ve exchanged is my privacy a little bit,” he laughs. “I don’t really care, I mean, no offence, but I don’t care about talking to people any more. I love music, I love to play shows and all these things I get to do but I don’t really need to play ball like I used to... so I don’t. I don’t give a fuck!”
Despite the tranquil nature of ‘Here Comes The Cowboy’, Mac got caught up in a distressing loop of technical tweaking at the tail-end of the LP’s recording process, not in the spirit of seeking a sleek, glossy production style - quite the opposite, in fact - he wanted it to sound like a demo record. “That was maybe the thing - you can’t keep tweaking to get to that, you have to let it rest."
Besides exercising a more rudimentary approach to recording, it seems that Mac also pines for the humble halcyon days of early tour life where he used to crash on the floors of his fans before piling back into the Volvo to hit the next city. “If I was on stage now and was like ‘can anybody let us crash tonight?’ I’d have a whole line-up of 300 kids saying ‘PLEASE, PLEASE STAY WITH ME’. I love the kids but I can’t be staying at their houses.”
He retrieved a little taste of the old days last year when he embarked on a minivan solo tour across the states with just his guitar and girlfriend, Kiera, for company; the subject of the sweet Paul McCartney-style ballad ‘K’ that sits at the centre of his latest LP. 2019, alternatively, has seen him up stakes to arena-sized venues, a move slightly at odds with the more meditative spirit of his songwriting.
“Alexandra Palace is pretty gigantic so it’s historical. I’m excited for it, it’s gonna be great.”
Needless to say, hosting the grandiose trappings of Alexandra Palace will be a far different state of affairs compared to his first gig in the capital back in 2012. Not only was it his first live show outside the US and Canada, it was also the first time he’d left either country. “It was at Birthdays in Dalston. We pulled up, it was sold out and I was like ‘what the fuck is going on right now?’” he recalls. “My uncle was there, I was very jet-lagged - it was very strange, a very very jarring day. I had absolutely no idea what was going on, happy that it happened though.”
Having frequented London a number of times over the years, he’s become acquainted with the wonders of Brick Lane’s salt beef bagels which has become a little tradition of his; although its magic is starting to wear off a little. “I think I had them when I was sober too many times though - I was like ‘ah, I don’t know about this’. Last time we were there I probably had four so it still happens. That is my one thing. I do like that.”
Talk shifts to how his relationship with the road has changed after being almost a decade deep into the ping-ponging album-touring cycle. “I like to do it but it’s confusing,” he says. “It’s not like we’re playing to cool, weird little scenes in a city anymore, even that’s starting to go away as well. Things change, you know, new bands are doing their first tours at big venues. It’s strange, it’s weird to me. I’m confused all the time now.”
Although slightly disillusioned with his growing status and the way the scenes have shifted around him over the years, Mac seems content in simply putting on the show itself wherever and whenever it is. “If people want me to play a show, I’ll play. That place [Alexandra Palace] is pretty gigantic so it’s historical. I’m excited for it, it’s gonna be great.”
It seems in some ways Mac has made peace with unshackling his anonymity but it’s clearly a reality he’s still coming to terms with; as he asserts on the lead single from ‘Here Comes The Cowboy’, “there’s no turning back to nobody”.
‘Here Comes The Cowboy’ is out now.
Mac DeMarco plays a series of UK shows over the next week - check them out below.’
21 - London, UK - Alexandra Palace @
23 - Manchester, UK - O2 Apollo #
24 - Glasgow, UK - O2 Academy #
25 - Dublin, IRE - Vicar Street - SOLD OUT #
26 - Dublin, IRE - Vicar Street #
27 - Birmingham, UK - O2 Academy #
28 - Liverpool, UK - Bramley Moore Dock Warehous #
@ = with Orville Peck
# = with Los Bitchos
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