Is Mac DeMarco Growing Up?
Last fall, the singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco crouched backstage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, in Colorado, chain-smoking Marlboro Reds. He’d taken the red-eye from Los Angeles after attending the funeral of a friend, the rapper Mac Miller, who’d overdosed days earlier. “I met him on tour in South America,” DeMarco said. “I didn’t really know his music. I don’t think he really knew my music, either. But we jelled.” He went on, “He called me, like, three times a day. It was easy. I don’t encounter friendships like that often.” He looked around. “I can’t keep doing shows the way we’re doing shows,” he said. “If I keep drinking a bottle of Jameson every day, to get loose, I’ll be fucking dead, too.”
Winter came, then spring. DeMarco emerged with a bunch of new songs—“slow, sparse, and repetitive,” he called them, on a recent day in New York. He was in town to promote his new album, “Here Comes the Cowboy,” with a performance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” He has lived in L.A. since 2016, but for three years before that he lived in New York. He recorded his second record, “Salad Days,” in a windowless Bushwick warehouse, “shit-rammed with my stuff.” He moved to Far Rockaway next, and he had his landlord play trumpet onstage with him in Central Park. And he made a record, “Another One”; in one of its songs, he invited fans over for coffee and provided his home address. (“It never got that weird,” he said.)
Before the “Tonight Show” taping, his guitarist wandered the sixth floor of 30 Rockefeller Center without shoes. DeMarco napped in the woodsy-themed Adirondack Room. “Very cute,” he said, upon waking.
It was the day before his twenty-ninth birthday. He had a two-day-old hangover from “some rum in Virginia Beach,” but he felt it had less to do with quantity and more to do with age. “I still party,” he said, “but I don’t drink at home anymore. I rarely go to bars.” He went on, “What’s to complain about? I got to sleep in a bed last night.” He wore a blue sweatshirt that said “MASONIC HOME TEAM,” rolled-up jeans, stained yellow skate shoes, and a dark-blue baseball cap bearing a yin-yang symbol and the word “SWIMMING,” the title of Miller’s final album.
He talked about cars. “Everyone around me is starting to be, like, ‘Mac, you need to buy a car, because yours is fucked and it has been broken for six months and you’re an adult.’ I’m, like, ‘Yeah. I’ll get around to it.’ ” He has two Volvo 240 station wagons. “They’re cool, but I need a reliable car,” he said. “Maybe I should buy something that’s not as old as I am. But I’m cheap. I’ve never had a car that was worth more than three grand. I don’t like the way new cars look. They’re weird.”
DeMarco grew up in Canada. Recently, he’s been listening almost exclusively to the Beatles, Japanese video-game soundtracks, and Michael McDonald, the former front man for the Doobie Brothers. “He says nice things about me and my band all the time,” DeMarco said of McDonald, who is a pal. “I took him to my favorite pho restaurant in L.A.—kind of a dump, but great. He was, like, ‘Man, bone broth! My wife says it’s really good for you.’ ” DeMarco has thought about what a collaboration with McDonald would be like. “Michael is crazy talented,” DeMarco said. “I don’t really know what I can bring to the table. A four-chord progression and some basic lyrics?”
DeMarco calls his lo-fi, yacht-rocky sound “jizz jazz,” and he has been known to perform in his tighty-whities. A few years ago, he sold out a show at Radio City Music Hall, across the street from Fallon’s studio. Shortly before that performance, it dawned on him how vast the stage is. “My friend Matt, who I lived with in Far Rockaway, does tapestries,” he recalled. “I was, like, ‘You want to help me fill this stage?’ ” Matt brought in fake human, dog, and dinosaur skeletons; shabby living-room furniture; and a Bunn-O-Matic coffee machine. For a backdrop, he hung banners printed with what DeMarco called “chewed-up wrestling dolls.”
The “Tonight Show” taping began, and DeMarco did one of the new slow, sparse, repetitive songs, about growing up. “It’s always about growing up,” he said afterward.
He was happy to be back in New York. “I heard someone say once that Manhattan has a special energy,” he said, “because it’s built on deep, subterranean, purple, crystal bedrock. You don’t get that pep in other boroughs.” ♦