Beyond Salad Days: Mac DeMarco On Fame, Social Media And Growing Up

Not all friendships strike up straight away. The relationship between POND and Mac DeMarco is one example. Both Mac and members of POND had played festivals together before, but the comradery didn’t really take hold until Laneway Festival 2015. It was the first leg of the seven-date tour and Mac was lounging in a Singapore hotel, killing time at the festival’s welcoming party. As he’s doing this, who walked in but POND’s Jay Watson and Shiny Joe Ryan.

Now, this is not that a remarkable of an occurrence in and of itself but for the fact they arrived with a healthy quantity of beer. Now this, Demarco asserts, demanded his attention. They had it, he wanted it, and they knew he wanted it. They’ve been friends ever since.

Ahead of his early 2020 Australian tour with the Perth outfit, we chat with Mac DeMarco about his connection with POND, his fandom of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard plus his musings on the term ‘psychedelic’, fame and running his own record label.

Music Feeds: I saw the other day that you engineered Michael Collins, Drugdealer’s new record Raw Honey…

Mac DeMarco: [Laughs] It’s not true! It is not true. No!

MF: Really?

MD: Somehow that kind of got spun up in his press release. I mean I’m really good friends with Mike, but it was this guy Shaggs [Chamberlain]. It was not me! I helped them demo a couple of things, but I did not record that record!

MF: It’s a great record…

MD: Yeah it is. But I can’t take the blame for that.

MF: You’re going on tour with POND in a few months. Can you tell me a little bit about that connection?

MD: I guess I’ve gotten to know them all pretty well. We met years ago, back when Nick was still playing in Tame Impala. But the real connection, I think, started the first time we ever did Laneway Festival. I remember I was sitting in Singapore at the hotel and I was like, “Okay. Cool. Here we are. It’s a little warm-up party.” And so, who walks in with a case of beer, knowing obviously that I would like to have some but Jay Watson and Shiny Joe. So yup, I think there was a mutual understanding even before we really knew each other. Like, “Yeah, you guys probably want to hang out!” So yeah, we’re good buddies. It’ll be great. I love those guys. It’ll be fun to rip around the country a little bit.

MF: A term some people like to use to join POND, Tame Impala and sometimes your own music is ‘psychedelic’. Do think that’s a term people can or should apply to your music?

MD: To my music? I think that the funny thing about – I don’t know what something like ‘psychedelic’ means. Like, a colourful weird thing? A fun sounding flanger? I don’t really know. I think for me though, especially when I’m making my music, it’s like I’m so in it that putting a super strange warbly effect on my guitar isn’t out of [the usual]. It seems normal to me while I’m doing it. But sometimes, say I’m out at the restaurant or something, and my song comes on. It takes me even a second to recognise that it’s mine – just because I haven’t listened to the records in years – and maybe that part, that’s kind of psychedelic I’ll tell you that.

MF: ‘Nobody’, the first single from your new album Here Comes The Cowboy has this great lyric. “There’s no turning back, to nobody.” I obsess on lyrics a little bit sometimes and on this one I was thinking that it might be a comment about fame and public personas, how everyone is kind of trapped in them once they create them. I was wondering what your take on that was?

MD: Yeah that’s kind of the gist of it but, it’s like, because I’m not a very famous person – I’m just this little indie rock fool – you know I think about the cyber age we’re living in and it’s like, think about – celebrities a whole different fucking – I’m sorry. I’m cursing.

MF: Curse away.

MD: Because [of] the whole plethora of different scales of [fame] you can be famous here and you can be famous there. It’s weird! But the other thing that kind of freaks me out is the ‘personal brand’ social media [thing] because it doesn’t even have to do with fame. Kids are tricked into believing that they portray this thing. I don’t know, the world’s crazy and I think I write about that in general.

MF: A big milestone that passed this year was that Salad Days, which was released in 2014, turned five…

MD: No shit, huh?

MF: How do you look back on that period?

MD: I don’t know. I still play a lot of that album live. I think that for the most part, that’s the album that most people [associate me with]. You know I’ll see somebody on the street, and they’ll be like, “YEAAAAHHHHHRRRR! SALAD DAYS!” And I’ll be like, “Yeah? Go on?” But I don’t know. Thinking back to that period of time it almost feels like – things were changing very fast. Things were crazy. We were never at home, always out there. I almost feel like I feel more like myself now than I did then. It was a little intense. It’s hard to keep a steady vision when things are going insane and you want to please everybody and do all this and do all that. But yeah, maybe I’m just older, I don’t really know. But it was a strange period in my life that’s for sure, but it was great. I’m glad that people like that record and it’s very strange that it’s five years old, that’s very strange.

MF: Something else you have cooking right now – which unlike the Drugdealer engineering credit I hope actually exists – is Mac’s Record Label…

MD: My record label?

MF: Yeah!

MD: We started this little thing and uh, yeah, right now it’s kinda just a platform for me to put my own product out. It’s not like Captured Tracks, my last label, were like, “Do this!” They were very mellow, and we got along really well. But yeah, we’re trying it out. And maybe at some point, depending on how things go, it’d be cool to help [others put their music out]. It’s not like I’m trying to be, “Alllllllllrite! I’m startin’ this label and we’re gonna take over the music industry!” It’s cool that the people we started it through believe in the music enough to be like, “Cool, we’ll help you do this.” And then that puts me in a position where say there’s somebody that I want to help out or you know put something out for. Then I’m in the position to [do that]. [I’m] just trying to pay it forward you know what I mean?

MF: Was there an independent label or an artist label that inspired you to go that way?

MD: A lot of my friends have done this route as well and I think it kind of just makes sense in a couple of different ways. I’m in a position where I’m able to do this. When Captured Tracks signed me, there was no way [I could have done this]. I could have started a tape label and probably have gotten to where I am now, but I don’t know. I’ve talked to John Dwyer form the Oh Sees and he’s got a label of his own and he’s like, “It’s great!” I’ve talked to the King Gizzard guys and they’re like, “It’s great!” I guess I’ll try it out.

MF: Do you have a favourite King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard album? They’ve put out about 15 in the past five years…

MD: Oh my God! I don’t know where to begin there. You know I had a crazy moment a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t seen them in a year, maybe a little bit more. Maybe like, very briefly but I hadn’t seen them play. So I’m playing at Fuji Rock and it was like, the full set. And I know they’ve been a little bit heavier for a little while but [their set] straight up sounds like 1991! Like Metallica or something. I was like, “WHAT THE HELL is going on?” I don’t know what the name of the record is, I’ve just heard some of the singles. But yeah, they sounded good. We share the same booking agent, so we’ve played together over the years. Good dudes.

MF: Is there an area of music you’d be interested in exploring that you haven’t yet?

MD: Yeah, there’s a lot. I think if people were able to kind of peer into what I do on my own musical schedule as opposed to being ‘Mac DeMarco’ it would be kind confusing for a lot of people. I’ve been having fun making [Here Comes The Cowboy] because it’s not congruent with the things that I listen to, some of the things I listen to, but it is almost like sometimes I got to put on The Mac Hat as opposed to kinda doing – not to say that that record didn’t come from the chest – I dunno. I’m always working on something. I put weird music out all the time under sneaky outlets and stuff. But, uh, I dunno we’ll see. The next record I think will be quite different but it’s hard to say at this point.

MF: Jumping completely back to the POND-Mac DeMarco tour, what are you going to be playing live?

MD: We’re doing a lot of the new record. It’s a lot of fun. I think the bottom line is that I have quite a few songs now. So as opposed to like, picking The Greatest Hits set, we’re just trying to play as many of them as we can play as possible. If the venue lets us play for two and a half hours? Then we will! If half the crowd leaves? Then that’s fine. But yeah, that’s just kinda where we’re at right now. And you know some songs we’ll try one way [then do them another], it’s always changing. I try not to have it too hammered down because then everybody gets a bit bored within the band. So anything goes. The same as always!

MF: Is there anything else you would like to throw out there to your fans before we close off?

MD: See ya soon, hope to see ya soon and God bless Australia.

Mac DeMarco will be bringing the party to Australian shores next summer for a tour alongside POND. New album ‘Here Comes The Cowboy’ is out now.

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