It’s easy to lump Mac DeMarco into the modern slacker rock canon – especially now that the garage-y surf rock, suburban vibes of the ‘90s have been appropriated by the likes of Best Coast and Wavves – but that’d be reductive of us. Disregard the satirical glam of debut album Rock and Roll Night Club and his continually ‘90s MTV cartoon stage antics (he could very well be a Daria character), sophomore 2 was a sincere record that explored more than just a dry love song dedicated to his favourite cigarette. There’s a level of maturity presented even when he disguised it as stunted growth, such as the domestic substance abuse tale told on ‘Freaking out the Neighbourhood’. Not one to miss the chance to pick the psyche of such a character, JUICE speaks to the 23 year old Canuck on his association with slacker culture, the next best thing after Viceroy, and more.
What are up to? Still, to paraphrase you, sitting home in your underwear all day every day?
I’m touring a lot right now, sort of in-between tours right now, coming to your side of the world pretty soon. Sort of working on a record, hanging out. Don’t really have any time for just undies nowadays.
Speaking of which, despite that quote we paraphrased, do you identify with the term you’re frequently labelled as; ‘slacker rock’? We know that the term that you came up for your music was ‘jizz jazz’…
No, I don’t really identify with it, it feels like we’ve been on the road for a full year, and I don’t ever have time for anything. Maybe the music seems slack, but my life sure doesn’t.
Despite how often the word comes out in articles written about you, your music, even in its simplicity, doesn’t sound like the work of a slacker. There’s thought put into it. Would you say there’s something akin to slacker aesthetics?
I think slacker rock is a term that’s been spinning around the internet that gets used when people don’t really know what they’re talking about and can’t think of something to relate the music to immediately.
We know you don’t identify with it, but we think there’s something to it. Slacker culture was such a product of the early ‘90s generation, probably kickstarted by the Linklater movie of the same name. Recently we’ve seen kind of a renaissance of it by way of bands such as yourself, Wavves, Best Coast, and all. Is there something deeper to it, or suburban malaise has never left us to begin with?
I didn’t grow up in suburbs, it’s funny everyone thinks my album is suburban. It’s about substance abuse within families and my trying to understand different aspects of my life. I think the term slacker just gets popped onto any music that’s more or less simple. I try to keep my stuff simple so that people can take whatever they want from it, or make it their own.
‘Ode to Viceroy’ sounds like a struggle to quit smoking. How’s that going for you? Also, are you still opting for budget ciggies now that you have more moolah?
‘Ode to Viceroy’ is written as a love song to my favourite brand. I was smoking a different brand during the recording of 2 that I’d bought a couple cartons of, then once I was finished I had to write a song as sort of an apology for cheating on my usual choice. Viceroy cigarettes are really crappy so it’s sort of tongue in cheek, and smoking’s really bad for you so I thought the whole thing together just was funny. I’m not living in Canada anymore so I can’t have viceroys except when I’m back up there. I would still be smoking them if I could, I tend to like real shitty smokes better than fancy ones.
You won’t find Viceroy everywhere, what are your other go-to favourite cigarettes?
Marlboro Red. It’s easy, they’re all over the place, so I can get them wherever we’re on tour.
Before 2, life was very different for you and your bandmates – from working in constructions and doing McDonalds shifts to touring the world and playing to crazy amount of fans. It seems like you don’t have much time to slack anymore. Has this change of lifestyle affect how you make music or see the world?
Well, I make music very differently, I don’t have time to just mess around anymore really, and I can’t write on the road at all, so that’s changed completely. Being so many places so quickly is strange too, you meet so many people on a strictly handshake basis. I know tonnes and tonnes of people very briefly. There’s always time on tour when you meet someone you really connect with right off the bat though, that’s what makes it sort of worth it. Some things about this new lifestyle have made me really cynical, but I try not to show it, as long as fans are excited to see us I’m excited to play for them.
We saw some clips of you guys performing before, and we admired the jokey attitude – lotsa bands take themselves too seriously. Has there been an instance when the opposite, the crowd behaving too humourless to your antics, happened though?
There are a lot of times when the crowd absolutely hates what we’re doing on stage, but that’s sort of the reason we started doing that stuff. We wanted to bother people, get a rise out of people. It’s cool to see kids connect to it too. I just want everyone to relax, stop taking themselves so seriously and try and have a good time.
How bizarre was it to open for Phoenix? They don’t seem anything like you guys!
It was weird. The venues were bigger than we had ever played before and the crowd usually had no idea who we were. It was an interesting experience though, and it was really great hanging out with the guys in the band, they’re all really, really great people.
How did the shift from the bizarre, maybe satirical rock’n’roll stuff of Rock and Roll Night Club to 2 happen?
I’d say that my music before Rock and Roll Night Club sounded more like 2, so the shift was more to Rock and Roll Night Club and then to somewhere back to what I had been more used to in the past. When Rock and Roll Night Club came out that was the first a bigger audience was introduced to my music, and they all thought I was a cross dressing weirdo. I was cool with them perceiving me that way for a while, but I thought I should probably let everyone know more or less how I really am.
You mentioned moms think you sound like Jimmy Buffett. Were there more insane comparisons you’d like to share with us? And if you were to be compared to someone, who’d you prefer it to be?
Yeah, I got Jimmy Buffet a lot on the second album, other than that I’d just get other indie rock comparisons like Kurt Vile, or Real Estate. Not that I really sound like either of those bands, or at least I don’t think I do, but it’s just guitar pop I guess. I don’t really think I’d like to be compared to anyone really. Which is insane, because my influences really bleed through a lot of the time, but I’m hoping as time goes on I’ll develop my own brand or sound.
Finally, what can we expect from you and the band this December in KL?
A whole bunch of poopy ca ca. Fun sexy rock flavours.
Mac DeMarco is set to play at Upfront on Monday 9 December ’13 at The Bee, Publika.