Basement's Spotlight has found its ninth underground artist to bring to you; introducing Mac DeMarco.
Rolling out of Edmonton, Alberta in Canada, DeMarco has landed in the centre of current day indie rock. Look to anywhere on the internet and you’ll find a number of articles naming the 28-year-old musician as the Prince of indie rock, and for good reason. Mac is a particularly interesting person with an enigmatic yet lovable personality, making his fanbase very secure. He’s become established as a light-hearted joker, reassured by his goofy sense of humour and personable demeanour but DeMarco has a soft and reclusive side to it all, as proved to his audience through his last album. His interest in music peaked in high school, where he played in a couple bands. He learnt to play guitar, picking the skill up quite easily. Drums, bass guitar and percussion accompany playing guitar in his instrumental arsenal. This diversity in talent and music knowledge has allowed him to write all elements of his music himself, allowing complete control over his sound. He has recorded much of his work alone in his apartment studio, where during an interview documentary with Pitchfork he describes an area of this space as The Poetry Zone, leading on to say:
“Being a musician is half being a poet, as far as I’m concerned.”
Prior to going solo, he was in a band called “Makeout Videotape” between the years 2009 – 2012. It was a garage rock band with elements of what would become his signature sound values. While working on this project, Makeout Videotape released four EPs and one studio album. On the 9th of January in 2012, DeMarco was signed to his current label Captured Tracks, this was the start of his solo journey.
Influential artists to DeMarco include The Beatles, The Beach Boys, R. Stevie Moore and Jonathon Richman. These can be seen through his own work, as he utilises flat drums, plenty of vibrato effected guitar rhythms and lulled lyrics that all work together to create a laid-back atmosphere. His sound, as described by the man himself is “Jizz Jazz.” Others associate his sound with the genre of “lo-fi,” by using vintage recording material to give it an intentional older, lower quality aesthetic of sound. As you would expect, you can hear throughout the progression of his releases on how his sound has developed and created their own messages.
He has released three albums, one mini LP and one EP. His first EP, “Rock and Roll Nightclub” was his first solo release with his label Captured Tracks in March 2012. The EP featured 12 tracks, all recorded in the apartment in Montreal he was living in at the time a year prior. Many people are uncertain of the overall theme of the album and some think it surrounds a joke that nobody other than DeMarco knows about. In either case, the resulting songs are glam rock inspired, melded with his signature buzzy, lull vocals, echoing twangy guitar relaxed pace.
His next creation was “2” released later that year in October. Recorded also in 2012 in the same apartment, the album holds 11 tracks that cover topics of suburban life, family and love. The production quality is cleaner in this album and strays from the previous release’s nuances of glam rock. Introducing a new vocal style, the track “Still Together” has moments of falsetto singing on the only acoustic track on the record. The songs “My Kind of Woman” and “Freaking out the Neighbourhood” are both from this album and feature in our playlist here at Basement.
Skip forward to April 2014 and this was when DeMarco released his arguably most successful album, Salad Days. He worked on this album in his Brooklyn Apartment, after a year and a half of touring and then coming home completely worn out. He’d voiced worry about feeling as though he couldn’t see his next goal ahead of him. This time spent between the end of touring and writing Salad Days become time to unwind and decompress, which meant changing his sound up again. In an interview with Exclaim! He said:
“I wanted to transition without changing the vibe too much.”
What this meant was subtle changes in presentation of instruments, effects, clarity and less ambiguous lyrics not about anything. This resulted in an album with some melancholic lyrical subjects masked by more prominent guitar pieces and synths with a contrasting happy tone. The risk of change paid off, with Salad Days being one of the most well-known Mac DeMarco albums you’ll find around the internet, reached #11 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums, and sold 10,000 copies in the first week of release.
Nearly a year later, DeMarco released a mini-LP titled “Another One” in August 2015. This was recorded in his house in Queens, New York. The whole writing and recording process only took three weeks for DeMarco to complete. The atmosphere of this record is softer and has a more significant presence of keyboard and synths throughout. Out of the 8 tracks on the album, half of them were featured as top singles, as they were released staggered prior to the album being available to build hype. As a bonus, DeMarco had a recording at the end of the final track “My House By The Water” where he gives out the address to his home in Queens and encourages the listener to come by for a coffee. The album had been leaked earlier than the official release date and over the two weeks following that, there had been 30 strangers come and go to visit DeMarco. This recording clip is a perfect example of the sort of whimsical antics DeMarco has become known for and had an interesting outlook to all the visitors he received, which after the album was officially released he reckons would have been up to a thousand people. In an interview with John Jurgensen from The Wall Street Journal, he shared his views on the visitors:
“The way I rationalize it, to have the address you’ll have to listen to the album to the very end. Second, to even consider coming to my house, you have to be a kind of a superfan. And thirdly, it’s in such a weird part of New York that if they actually get there, they deserve a cup of coffee.”
2017 saw the release of a long-anticipated release from DeMarco, as fans had been waiting for more. This Old Dog was released on May 5th but had also been leaked a month prior. Since the escapades of the “My House By The Water” incident, DeMarco moved houses, from Queens to a new home in Los Angeles. The 13 tracks on this album were all demo recorded during his moving period to LA. You may have noticed a common theme between all of his works, they’re often written in a small amount of time while cooped up in a house somewhere, and that’s where this album differs. The initial intention was to quickly finish and release the new tracks once settled in LA but after the moving process, the songs sat untouched for a while before he continued to alter them before finally releasing the album. The theme of this album is the most personal and touching by far, focusing a lot on his family, life and mostly-absent father. These topics are written in a suffciently ambiguous style so they don’t come across too serious or personal to the listener, which was DeMarco’s aim. The guitar in these songs was also less altered with effects and more acoustic sounding, contributing to the different tone of the album. The tracks “This Old Dog” and “My Old Man” were the first singles from the album to be released, though a personal favourite of mine is “On the Level” as DeMarco describes it as “…kind of a sister song to [Salad Days song] Chamber of Reflection.”
As for current music in the works for 2018, in April DeMarco released an instrumental collaboration with Melanie Faye titled “Eternally 12.” Then in May, DeMarco released two songs “She’s my Baby” and “Fuck the Toronto Raptors” under a new band named Met Gala. This band is comprised of DeMarco, Peter Sagar and Alec Meen who are both in DeMarco’s backing band, along with Colin Caulfield. These two tracks don’t follow DeMarco’s typical indie rock sound and are instead two jokey lyrical songs mostly an autotuned voice repeating the same phrase but with the rhythm of a smooth R&B song. As far as any serious solo work goes, DeMarco is always up and writing, he told NME:
“I’m always writing and recording little things all over the place – nothing cohesive like a project or anything but yeah it’s my hobby.”
Since starting out, he’s had a successful touring history, going on a tour between nearly every album release as well as appearing at festival performances. Recent notable appearances include at NZ Laneway in January 2018, Field Day Festival at London in June 2018 and is on the line up for Pitchfork Paris musical festival in November 2018.
You can keep up to date with his antics and updates at his website or check out his social platforms for all the little extras.