Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
I get the impression that Mac DeMarco is in a hurry, or he doesn't like doing interviews. I certainly didn't anticipate that he would be calling me earlier than our scheduled time, either. But when the 25-year-old does call me, he is perky, determined, and a little pissed off – in the present situation, he's almost at odds with a character that the world has welcomed and love over the past three years. I am Mac's raging punchbag.
"I was waiting for some guy in Belgium to call me, but he's missed his window now, so fuck him. I just decided to call you." I'm aware that he hasn't been awake for very long, and Mac has a full day of interviews ahead of him. For now, though, Mac vents for a little longer and I hear him light up a cigarette to compliment the frequent sips of coffee I hear him take.
We're talking about 'Another One', a forthcoming collection of songs, trying to detangle what the eight-song collection (billed as a "mini-LP") is in "traditional" terms. Mac concedes that he doesn't understand most of what "the industry" says or does – and that, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter to him.
I'm surprised when Mac tells me that he recorded 'Another One' in April 2015, just after returning from an Australian tour. It seems right to applaud him for his prolificacy and pace: "When I have time off from touring, I try to record as much as I can," he says. "If I had recorded a full-length, then it would have taken until next year for it to come out, and that's too long for me. It's nice that I'm getting something out this year."
The centerpiece of 'Another One' is A Heart Like Hers. Mac's voice echoes with ache and longing, with a newfound and welcome register to his vocals unheard of before now. Chamber of Reflection from his last album 'Salad Days' hinted at this maturity, but the way he channels his vocals on A Heart Like Hers shows how he adapts to a song's needs. It's a devastating track that I put to Mac, who admits he didn't know what he thought when he made it. He's sceptical about playing it live, but admits that it will be fun to see the reactions. I sense that he's a little nervous about people hearing the track.
Before the release of 'Salad Days' you said that you were exhausted going into the sessions. What kind of mind frame were you in going into 'Another One'?
Mac DeMarco: "I felt different than before 'Salad Days'. I think 'Salad Days' is my grumpy album. But at the same time, the whole idea of that album was to go into it feeling like that and come out thinking, 'Oh yeah, I remember why I do this!' With 'Another One', I wanted to write some love songs. I've learnt to count my blessings a little bit better compared to before. I have no real complaints about what I do. Yeah, I get a little tired, but big woof – it's my fault that I booked all those shows. I'm just generally a pretty happy guy these days."
At the end of 'Another One', you give out the details of your home address with an invitation to come around for coffee. Don't you think that will be a little dangerous?
Mac DeMarco: "Nah, I don't think so. I guess I'll find out. I think the kids that listen to my music – at least, the ones who make themselves apparent to me – are nothing I need to be worried about. I trust them, and I like them. Maybe someone will send me a letter bomb, but hopefully not. I don't know why anyone would have a reason to do that. I think if anybody takes the time to train all the way out here, they deserve a cup of coffee."
"Maybe someone will send me a letter bomb, but hopefully not." – Mac DeMarco
The new release is probably a fulfillment of the direction you hear on Chamber of Reflection from 'Salad Days'. You're working with different narrative voices and viewpoints in some of the new songs. Do you think you're working in a more mature or sophisticated sphere now?
Mac DeMarco: "I don't know about mature or sophisticated. I've grown up a little bit, and my songs have grown up too. I think for me writing lyrics, changes and progressions are what is interesting to me right now. Maybe it's not as goofy as the stuff I've written in the past."
I hear a lot of similarities to Paul McCartney solo work on 'Another One'. The introspective numbers are similar to his first 'McCartney' album.
Mac DeMarco: "Oh yeah? Yeah, I like that album, and I like Paul a lot, so thank you."
People seem to categorise you as a slacker, which seems unfair given the amount of tours and records you've completed in the past three years.
Mac DeMarco: "Yeah, it's funny. They call me goofy and a slacker. The slacker thing I understand – it's just the press's way of saying 'laidback music'. It doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things."
Do you think the association may have hindered you in the past?
Mac DeMarco: "Maybe, yeah. The funny thing about labels and descriptions that you get from journalists is that they do it because the have to quantify a weird thing to them. I tell everybody my music is 'jizz jazz' because that makes absolutely no sense. The thing about it making no sense is that people don't know what it means, and they ask me, 'What does that mean?' I just tell them to listen – that's the point."
I think they are all part of a persona that people have created for you. Are you conscious of this public persona and the expectations that come with it?
Mac DeMarco: "In a way, yes. As long as I have been doing this I've been trying to keep ahold of releasing things to the public and what is part of my personal life, especially because I'm using my name. It's not that I'm putting on a big façade, pretending to be this weird person that I'm not."
It's hard talking about yourself in that way, isn't it?
Mac DeMarco: "It's strange. That's another thing I've given up. Kids take certain aspects of what I am and what I do and blow them way out of proportion. As far as I'm concerned, I just think: 'You know what? Do whatever the fuck you want. I don't care.' It's out of my hands at that point. It's the same with the songs: when you write a song and put it out, it's not yours anymore – it's everybody's."
"Kids take certain aspects of what I am and what I do and blow them way out of proportion. As far as I'm concerned, I just think 'You know what? Do whatever the fuck you want. I don't care.' It's out of my hands at that point." – Mac DeMarco
Do you have to draw a line somewhere?
Mac DeMarco: "Because I'm able to choose what and how much I put out of myself, I just put out what I feel with that's comfortable. I've always made stupid videos with my friends, so it's not a new or surprising thing to people to see me hanging out in my underwear. At the same time, people may think they have a good grasp of my day-to-day, but they're not there."
And what is your day-to-day now?
Mac DeMarco: "When I'm not on tour, I just laze around the house, go the beach, go for dinner with my girlfriend, play some music. It's not as crazy these days."
I bet that people think that it is, though.
Mac DeMarco: "That's the trick, isn't it?"
Playing up to your own mythology?
Mac DeMarco: "That's right."