The first time I met Mac DeMarco, he was passed out behind a potted plant at a New Year’s Eve party. These days, he’s got a Wikipedia page and one of those white checks inside a blue circle beside his name on twitter. Not long ago, one of his songs was licensed for a Target ad, which is how he afforded the used Volvo station wagon he’s currently touring America in. Friday, he played a sold-out show at the Williamsburg Music Hall, where he crooned in falsetto to his girlfriend and his band covered The Beatle’s “Blackbird” and Limp Bizkit’s “Breakstuff.” And when the song “Ode to Viceroy” came on, my friend whispered in my ear, “In a couple hundred years, this is going to be one of the songs people remember from the early millennium.”
DeMarco and his shit-eating grin originally hail from Edmonton, Alberta–where the hockey team is named after the oil industry and spontaneous drunken knife fights are to blame for the majority of murders (still a paltry number compared to any major American city). After high school, he made his way to the west coast where he made a small name for himself fronting a lo-fi garage duo called Makeout Videotape. Next came Montreal. There, DeMarco recorded some songs with these weird slowed-down vocals, and put it out under his own name with a cover-photo of him applying lipstick. The EP, Rock and Roll Night Club and the catchy-as-hell single “Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans” blew up on the Internet. Brooklyn-based label Captured Tracks signed him and financed a full-length album. 2 came out in October and since then DeMarco’s been spending a lot of time on the road getting famous. I caught up with him while he was on his way to Philadelphia.
Are you looking forward to a cheesesteak?
You know, we’ve never had a cheesesteak before. I think we’ll try to this time.
I’m going to get right to the serious questions, because I am a dork.
Don’t worry about it. I’m used to it. I do these kinds of things all the time.
When you were in Makeout Videotape, did you feel cornered by the lo-fi thing?
A bit. But I also knew that’s what people were into. There were a lot of bands around then like Psychedelic Horseshit. People were really into the lo-fi thing. They liked it when you didn’t really know what you were doing, when you recorded it and it sounded really shitty. But yeah, sometimes it was more about that sound and the songs weren’t very good.
Were you worried about getting pigeon-holed by the weird slowed-down production on “Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans?”
I think people were just as much into the lipstick as how it sounded. People were like, “who’s this weirdo wearing lipstick?”
The new album seems like it’s really about the songs and the songwriting. How did you approach the production?
I guess I went into it wanting to make them clean and shiny. But I think it’s just that I got older and I got more comfortable in my songwriting and just didn’t give a shit anymore, really.
How long have you been playing with the band now?
The first show was in March, so I guess exactly a year now.
Do you think in this age with all these laptop bands, people appreciate that you’re playing live rock and roll music?
Yeah, people have a lot of crazy things these days. Light shows. All that stuff. But really the weird thing is that now, when we play, people are really into it. We’ve gotten to this point where we don’t have to prove ourselves. It used to be like, we’ve got this one chance to make people like us. But now we get a quarter of the way into the song and people are going crazy.
The other night in Williamsburg you brought your girlfriend Kiera up on stage for “Still Together.” Do you do that all the time now?
Well a lot of the time when I’m on tour she’s not around. But yeah, I guess I’ve been doing it when she’s there. She’s starting to get her own fans. People find her on Facebook and ask, “Are you KiKi?” I think she’s starting to like the attention.
Photography by Claire Milbrath