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Upfront: Mac DeMarco

"Cigarettes are killing me"

Words by Mia Besorio

Although Mac DeMarco’s artist proposition is relatable, he isn’t a “normie” by any means. He is both an optimist and an addict; his vices publicly known to be cigarettes and crowd surfing. Despite his often juvenile antics, Mac DeMarco insists there is more to him than his personal brand. His new album This Old Dog is a salute to his growing maturity, wherein he trades some of his usual gimmicks for an overall sense of purpose.

Your new album This Old Dog is stripped back and quite different to what you’ve done previously on Salad Days. How does the album depict where you are as an artist and as a person?

A lot of the songs weren’t written to be put on an album; I kind of just wrote them. I like making albums. This time there was a natural progression away from how it usually goes. I was like “Fuck! Third album, time to reach the big audience. Make it fancier, make it crazy” but I wasn’t really interested in doing that. The stripped back thing was purposeful. I had a lot of options this time, but I wanted to do something that felt real to me.

What is it about you that makes you “real”? I think you seem quite relatable; like someone I could be friends with.

I think it’s because I’m not some tall, dark, dashing, sexy rockstar. I talk to fans, I make a fool of myself. I guess I’m not taking things too seriously, which is good in some instances and bad in others. I can be pretty frank if the time calls for it. Also, I’m not a fucking shredder or virtuoso. So kids see this guy who is like one of their friends, who can’t really play instruments that well, but seems to be doing something. They see that “I can do that” thing in me for some reason, which is cool.

I’ve quit smoking and started smoking again, it’s a vicious cycle. What’s the deal with you smoking so many cigarettes?

The whole cigarette thing has been played out a lot with photos and everything else. But the songs I wrote about [smoking] were not essentially like “God bless you!”, it’s me confronting an addiction I have – in a playful way. But I don’t like [cigarettes] they make me feel like shit when I wake up in the morning up until I have another one. Cigarettes are killing me. They make me feel like crap all the time. But that’s addiction. Maybe I’ll quit someday. It’s scary when you see kids like “Cigarettes, cigarettes!”. I’m like “No, no, no, make your own choice”. As the fans have gotten younger it’s become a bit more terrifying. But truly – make your own choice, it’s your own life. Don’t look at me!

I saw you play in Melbourne on your last tour and when you were crowd surfing people were ripping off your socks and groping you. Apparently at Meredith you crowd surfed from the stage to the sound desk, which is a really long distance across a lot of people. I couldn’t fathom doing it.

It’s a spectacle thing and now it’s kind of built into the show. I’m pretty good at leaving the stuff on stage that I don’t want stolen, like my shoes and my watch. Sometimes my shirts get ripped, sometimes they’ll grab my socks off or I’ll get groped. I don’t know why I do it and I don’t know why I still do it. The other thing is, I don’t really take care of myself. I’ve gotten a lot heavier since we started playing and the fans have gotten a lot younger. So to the first couple of rows of 16-year-old kids: I’m sorry.

Do you ever get scared of falling?

I’ve fallen a million times doing it. The only thing I get worried about is when people rush to where I’m jumping to and I get sucked to the bottom and land on top of a bunch of kids who are on the floor. It’s kind of a crazy zone down there. You’re kind of out of the concert for a second in a body pit. Kids are like “Let me help you” which is dangerous because kids can get hurt that way. The thing you’ve got to keep in mind is that I give them fair warning. I’m like “Here I come, I’m coming now”. It’s probably not the best thing to keep doing, so we’ll see if I keep doing it.

Do you trust your fans?

Of course, I’m not scared of these people. When I put my address on the end of my album, some people were like “Why would you put your address on your album? Someone’s gonna rob you or kill you”. No they’re not, why would they do that? It’s an unspoken appreciation. People have better things to do than come visit somebody to fuck them up or steal something from them. Why would somebody do that? I appreciate these people a lot, they’re paying my rent. I get to live an easy life because these people think my music is okay.

I know you have an ongoing friendship with Kirin J. Callinan. I’m quite interested in how that came about. What is it about him that you connect with both artistically and on a personal level?

Kirin was opening for Connan Mockasin on a tour in the States. I had heard of him before that and met him once before very briefly, but I didn’t really know his music. When I first saw his show was I like “Oh my fucking God. What the fuck is this?” in the best way possible. He was amazing. Then I got into his music not knowing him very well, just knowing him as this gothic, industrial, scary figure. His first album Embracism is really scary. It’s really terrifying. Then you juxtapose it with this strange looking, weird character – he’s one of a kind. Since then I’ve got to know him really well and he’s a very sweet person. He is all that he fronts, but at the same time is very down to earth and a real dude. He’s just fucking hilarious, a good musician, who gets himself into all kinds of weird situations personally and musically. It’s entertaining to have the guy around.

Have you listened to his new album?

Many times! That album is insane.

Because you tour the world so often, do you find you still get the chance to travel for leisure?

Honestly, I have never really done that. The extent of my travel has always been touring. If I go somewhere without a show to play or some kind of purpose I just feel like “What the fuck am I doing here?”. I don’t really believe in vacation I guess. I get my vacation at home because I’m gone so much.

Can we expect you back in Australia anytime soon?

In your summer we will be back. I can’t say for what yet, but you’ll be seeing a lot of me so it’ll be pretty nice.

Would you ever move here? I think you’d like it, it’s pretty chill.

Yeah I wouldn’t be opposed to it. It would be hard to get my stuff over there, but I do love Australia.

Follow Mac DeMarco:
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This Old Dog by Mac DeMarco is available now via Remote Control Records. 

‘Upfront’ is a series of interviews with interesting people. Read more here.

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