Released in the northern hemisphere late last year (and subsequently showing up on a number of the year’s ‘best of’ lists) the second album from Canada’s Mac DeMarco – simply entitled 2 – has finally seen its official release in Australia. On the phone from his current lodgings in New York, DeMarco casts his mind back to the home recording sessions that birthed the record.
“At the time I had a little cramped apartment in Montreal. I had a handful of mics, a tape machine and some drums, and a guitar and a bass. It was a real simple set-up; only eight tracks and, yeah, it worked out alright,” he says coyly.
2 has a dry and organic sound – its idiosyncratic production is a consequence of DeMarco’s admitted preference for relatively older, more conventional studio equipment. “I like working with tape and I like having a mixer where I can actually feel the knobs. Eight tracks is, I feel, a good amount. When I’m on a computer, all of a sudden the graphic EQs look like huge crazy mountainscapes that sound super weird and I have 50 tracks and I’m like, ‘What the hell am I doing?’” he laughs.
Indulging his multi-instrumentalist propensity, DeMarco recorded the album without the assistance of his well-established live band. He explains why he values complete sovereignty in the studio. “I enjoy it and it makes things a lot easier for me. I don’t like having to wait around on people. If I’m doing it wrong myself, then I’ll just fix it. It’s like a zen, weird experience for me … Plus, when you put down a fat bass track, and you played it, you’re like, ‘Oh yeah baby!’”
The album doesn’t correspond directly with much else in indie rock at present, encompassing intricate guitar playing, slow-burning grooves and vocal musings that range from devout paeans praising cigarettes to sentimental ballads for DeMarco’s girlfriend. His songwritingis fairly distinct from the bands commonly invoked as similar (Real Estate and Ariel Pink, for instance), but he maintains he wasn’t conscious of deliberately diverging from contemporary trends.
“I didn’t think about it so much. I don’t really pay attention to new music at all, unless [it’s by] friends of mine. I got really into The Band and Steely Dan and a lot of early ’70s production and songwriting. I think that’s what I was trying to rip off, and it just turns out that maybe not too many [artists] are trying to make a really dry ’70s-style album right now.”
Australian audiences can become further acquainted with DeMarco’s singular oeuvre when he comes to the country in December. DeMarco and his three onstage companions have upheld a steady intercontinental touring schedule since before the record’s US release last October, and he promises they’ve been making the most of the revelry that regularly beckons. “What makes it worth it is if you can have fun at all the shows. When you feel like your whole body’s falling apart because you’ve been drinking a 12-pack of beer every night for two months, you’re like, ‘OK – maybe this week I’m going to be a little more mellow,’ and then after that week you go right back into party zone.”
Despite his commitment to good times, DeMarco admits life on the road isn’t always about the big nights and even bigger hangovers. “I think I’ve gotten a lot more mature grasp on the idea of touring. It’s not all about partying; also I’m trying to do some kind of art form. It gets a little bit trying when after the show the kids are like, ‘Yo man, let’s drink 50 beers!’ It’s kind of like, ‘Oh, I did this last night and the night before and the night before – but OK, sure.’”
BY AUGUSTUS WELBY