A couple days before the release of his great new mini-LP, Another One, Mac DeMarco is chain-smoking on a Brooklyn curb. It's a muggy summer night, and the 25-year-old is wearing a tucked-in Nirvana tee that says I Hate Myself And Want To Die on the back. We’re about half a block from the growing cluster of kids waiting outside the Williamsburg bar Baby's All Right where, in just a few hours, Mac will play a “secret” show to a couple hundred beer-drunk diehards. While the venue’s website reports the headliner is a band called Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, they also posted a gap-toothed, MAD magazine-esque illustration of the famed boy wizard that looked a lot like a certain laid-back Canadian singer-songwriter. It didn’t take long for his stans to put the pieces together.
Although just a mellow, slightly grungy scene kid living way out in the Rockaways, Mac's found an audience that far outreaches his underground roots. It’s easy to forget that he is getting really famous, especially with college kids, and especially for a dude making low-key, lovey-dovey guitar jams in an era when almost every hit seems to be festival-sized. It can be hard to reconcile that fame with his boundless "regular guy" charm, especially if you catch him in a quiet offstage moment—like when he’s nursing a hangover before a secret show, texting some friends and shooting the shit.
To be honest, it's probably that approachable, friendly-as-heck quality that explains Mac's particular sort of fame; there's this feeling that you can walk right up and be his friend. After our chat, which you can read in full below, he almost manages to slide in the venue’s front door completely unnoticed by the mess of teens and 20somethings who are all adorably dressed in the kind of cool, casual summertime garb that Mac himself might wear. But one girl spots him and screams, and then a nervous boy who's probably not yet 20 asks for a picture. Mac agrees, loops his arm around the kid, and smiles devilishly. “I’m sending this to the group chat,” the boy says after, an ear-to-ear grin plastered to his face.
What did you do last night?
MAC DEMARCO: Last night my friend Alex got into town, so I drank a bottle of tequila. I felt very bad this morning. I have a lot of people staying at my house right now. It’s like a tent city in the backyard; it’s kinda insane.
How has it been living in the Rockaways?
The Rockaways are cool. I think that when I tell people that I live in the Rockaways, they think I live closer to Fort Tilden or in the kinda hip neighborhood there. I live in the ghetto part, which I think is cooler. Nobody knows who I am. The projects are a little bit sketchy, and there’s a lot of undercover cops, but it’s cool. Very peaceful. The house itself is kinda shit. You know new, cheap renovations? Trying to look fancy but it’s not? It’s shitty, but it’s not bad. I moved in and the fall was still warm. I said, “This is nice.” And then it turned into, like, super crazy winter. It's way colder down there than the city. I would come home and take a cab from JFK to my house and be like, “Why the fuck did I move here.” It's ok now. It’s summertime. I live right on the water.
How do you fill your days?
I play music. The last couple weeks my whole band has been staying there because we've been rehearsing the new album for tour. My bass player has been trying to shoot this medieval TV show pilot. They've been shooting that a lot. It’s been, like, him and my friend Andrew running around the beach near my house in their underwear covered in dirt, with dirt in their hair and teeth and shit. It’s a strange thing to see going on. It’s kinda cool. I played the judge’s assistant in a scene.
Do you enjoy acting? I just watched the new-ish Ducktails video, which you’re great in.
Not really. I just kinda do me, I guess, which a lot of people think is like some kind of character. But it was funny doing the [medieval show] the other day because he had a script and I had to memorize this monologue. I felt like I was in drama class in junior high school or something. I took drama one year, yeah. One of my ex-girlfriend’s mom was the teacher. I don't know if I'm really cut out for it. It’s fun, if it works.
I feel like every publication wants to do a video with you, because it’s almost guaranteed to be funny.
It’s funny. I feel like bait, in a way. It’s funny being in that situation where I’m open to do things, or help people out, but to be in something just to get Youtube hits is crazy. I’ve got some crazy fans. I don't know why they like what I do, but they do, and I’m happy about it.
Do you feel like you have to always “turn it on?” Right now, for example, you seem really mellow. Maybe because you're hungover.
There’s sometimes where I do turn it on a little bit. Like, I put my address on the end of my album and I’ve been having a shitload of people come over. At first I would turn on for them a little bit, but now I’m so used to it. I’m not gonna change the way I'm feeling for some other person.
You lived in a Brooklyn DIY space before this, right?
I lived on Myrtle and Broadway at this place called the Meat Wallet. I lived there with my guitarist. They don't really do shows that much, but there's a bunch of musicians living in there. Some guys from like PC Worship started it a couple of years back, maybe like six or seven years ago. I moved here and didn't have anywhere to go. When we got that spot it was really cheap and was in a good central location for Brooklyn, I guess. It was good to be there for a while but there were no windows and it’s kinda dirty. It’s like living in a DIY spot.
Do you tend to feel connected to the DIY scenes in the places you live?
When I lived in Vancouver, I felt like part of the scene, even though I was kinda doing a little bit different music. I was involved with the No Wave, noisy, puniy scene in Vancouver. All of my friends were in those bands. I was doing this kinda pop guitar shit so they were like “Ok! Thats cool. You're not as punk as us.” Montreal was kinda disjointed in a way. The French bands never play with the English bands. The people don't really hang out that much. It didn't have a scene vibe to it it, like everybody is doing there own project and doesn't really correlate. It’s weird. Now I think it’s a little better. I think there’s a venue called the [redacted] that my friends run. Don't put the name of that in the article because they could get shut down.
Is there anything you're excited about that's happening in New York?
Before I moved here, we were already playing Webster Hall and shit. I know a lot of my friends' bands. I’ve never really been a part of the local scene. The great thing about New York is every band that I know from out of town or from festivals or from touring—they all come here.
What’s up with all the stage diving?
That shits crazy. I'm probably gonna hurt myself really bad one of these days. I don't know, its fun. It's fun for me, and it’s one of those “whoooaaa” moments for the crowd. Maybe I won't do it tonight [editor's note: he did]. We’ll see. If you get in the rock n' roll mood, you gotta rock and roll.
Has it been way harder to go out after shows and smoke or whatever, now that people recognize you all the time ?
Yeah, it’s different now. We used to stay with kids when we needed a place to crash. Now, if I asked if we could stay at someone’s house, they would ask me to smoke their bong. That’s the funniest thing. I think that something about my music makes kids think that I'm a huge stoner. In all honesty, I don't smoke weed. It’s not like I'm against it or anything I'm totally fine with people smoking. It’s not like I have never smoked either. I do sometimes. People ask me to smoke and I just tell them I don't smoke.
Do you feel more relaxed on tour or at home?
It's a funny thing. My life is all about balancing different things. Going on tour is fucking crazy. I'm drinking every night and I’m having a big party. I really enjoy it, that’s why we do it so much, but there are times—especially when we do it for a long time—that I gotta get home and record and just do that. But if I'm home and just doing nothing and recording for too long I’m like, Fuck, I want to go back. So it’s like off and on, off and on. You keep moving. It works.