Mac DeMarco Talks Robert De Niro, Being Italian And Eating Healthy For Oyster #117
“That’s right, daddy! I feel more Italian than ever.”
This article was originally published in Oyster Issue 117: The Unreal Issue, on sale now at the Oyster Magazine Print Shop
Mac DeMarco has taken the cold plunge into reality — not just by disarming his social media, but also by treading heavily into adult territory. For a decade, he was our young prince of whiskey-soaked, coming-of-age indie, the guy who’d give his address to fans so they could come round and have a coffee or offer to marry Trump-avoiding Americans so they could be citizens of Canada. Now, he’s a man toeing 30 who just fancies himself an earful of Sinatra and an audience who’re hushed and classy. Listening to his last record, This Old Dog, felt like stumbling upon someone’s diary — an intimate reliving of one’s real dark troubles, only quite public. This new record, Here Comes The Cowboy, Mac has said over and over tells no specific narrative. It’s not even about cowboys with hats and boots and yeehaws. In his own words: he’s taking a back seat. So, with no clear story to read into through song — besides what is maybe casual existential dread — and no Stories to tap through for local intel, what the hell has Mac Demarco been doing? We sent his old mate Martin Frawley to find out.
Martin Frawley: What’s been happening?
Mac DeMarco: I just woke up and I’m taking a shit.
What’s the time there?
It’s not that early, it’s like noon. I just slept in, that’s all.
You get a little Taco Zone last night?
No, I can’t do it anymore, it fucks me up too much.
Dude, it cooks your belly aye. Which bathroom are you in?
Yeah, I mean I still do it, but it’s not an often thing for me. I’m in the bigger bathroom. Hold on one second, I’m just washing my hands.
Have you been playing?
We played last Friday, and then on Wednesday we played at this smaller version of the Greek called the John Anson Ford Theatre and I had a very nice time. It was a strange show — it was very quiet, but that’s kinda what I like.
Do you reckon people are being quieter because of your new record?
Well, yeah. I’m trying to make them be quieter. I love it. The way we play on stage now is real fucking quiet.
Yeah, I thought that was what was up…
I like it, you know, a little respect, a little bit classy. We can rock ‘n’ roll when the time is appropriate, but I’m an older man now and it’s time to quiet down and have a classy show. Like Frank Sinatra, you know what I’m talking about?
You’re growing up, who would have thought?
Yeah! [Laughs] Jesus… yeah, baby.
So, how’s the house going?
Well, how’re you doing Marty?
I miss it there. I was in New York for two weeks and the whole time I spent wishing I wasn’t there — everyone just yells. I thought maybe I’d go to LA for a week.
Where are you now?
We’re in Birmingham, we’re playing a show tonight. We’ve been opening for Stephen Malkmus on this European run. It has been really nice — it’s just him and his tour manager, Remko, then Stewart and I. Stewart isn’t drinking, so it has been pretty mellow.
But are you?
Yeah, of course, you know me. But I’m in a much better state than I was two years ago, or even last year when I saw you.
Yeah, I’ve got a girlfriend and I’m a much happier man. I was going through a minute then, but it’s all good. So, how’s the house, how’s Kiera?
Good — she’s at Pilates right now and Yuki [Kikuchi] has been sleeping in the garage.
Have you got a garage now?
Yeah, the studio.
“I’m an older man now and it’s time to quiet down and have a classy show. Like Frank Sinatra, you know what I’m talking about?”
So you’re just going in there and waking him up — riffing in his face?
Honestly, I haven’t been playing that much music because I’ve been doing a lot of computer stuff. I built this video game for the visuals of the show. I’m going to throw the PlayStation controllers out into the crowd and the kids can control the visuals. So I’m kind of a nerd now, you know? I’m having a good time.
How are you designing it? Are you just learning yourself?
I was a nerd when I was a kid so it’s kind of like flowing back. It’s making me feel really good.
When I went on
that tour with you
in New Zealand, I
was so out of the loop. It was like stepping into a foreign country because I couldn’t understand you guys…
We saw Lockie at the bar the other night. He’s all grown up now — he’s tall.
Did it freak you out?
A little bit, but it was good to see the kid. He came up and was like, ‘Hey, it’s me, Lockie, I did shows with you.’ I was like, ‘Woah, this is crazy, dude!’
I was talking to your friend in Manchester last night and he said that kid from Stranger Things was texting you for a while and it wigged you out…
Finn? I don’t know if you know this but, back in the day, we did this Pitchfork video and it was like, ‘It’s only smellz, it’s only smellz,’ which is a reference to this pretty grotesque video on the internet. He’s a really nice kid and I would consider us homies now. But when he first started texting me a couple of years ago he was like, ‘What does that mean?’ And I was like, ‘I literally can’t — you’re too young.’ But I talk to him quite frequently still.
But you’re off the ‘gram now, so you’re probably not getting hassled too much. I can’t believe you’re off it, I’m proud of you.
Yeah, I’m out. I feel very peaceful. But it’s funny because music is released, news happens, things happen, and I just have no fucking idea. Like, no idea. And I barely had any idea before, but now I have zero idea. It’s kind of nice but at the same time it’s… you know… sometimes I miss out on the stuff I am interested in.
Yeah, I did a big grandiose exit from Facebook and I was like, ‘Everyone, make sure you hit me up!’ And, just, no one text me. I felt like such a loner for two months…
That’s good, though. That’s the initial feeling — you get off that crap and it’s like, ‘Oh my god, I have no friends.’ But, no, you do! Now you just don’t have all of these strange people… you don’t look into all of the lives of these people that you went to high school with two times a day. Why were you doing that anyway? You haven’t seen these people in ten fucking years. What’s the point? It’s crazy.
Yeah, being on Instagram is like siphoning other people’s bullshit. It’s so tiring.
It’s sensory overload.
So what about music? What have you been listening to?
Right now, the Rat Pack. Frank Sinatra, my god. I’m in love with him. Don Rickles — have you ever heard about Don Rickles? You look this guy up. He was one of Frank’s best friends, he was the inventor of insult comedy… the only guy that was able to get away with reaming on Frank without the mob beating him up.
Yeah, poking at him, giving him shit, it’s amazing. I love bossa nova — I’ve always loved it, but I’ve just gotten a little further than my previous knowledge. Just classy stuff.
Is that the Italian coming out in you?
I mean maybe, but here’s the thing with the Italian thing: the last couple of years, everyone’s trying to find their thing. I don’t really have anything to latch onto — I’m Canadian. I am 25% Italian, so I tried to latch onto that, but that’s kind of a pitiful amount. I’m not really that Italian, I’m just Canadian. But then I found this out, I’ll tell you what — who do you think, Marty, is the most Italian person you can think of?
I mean, Tony Soprano?
A little bit older than that… older reference. Who’s the prototype for Tony Soprano?
I’d say, like, The Godfather?
OK, get this: how Italian would you say Robert De Niro is?
Well, that’s an underestimate, I thought you were going to say 100%. But, this is my justification. He’s 25%. That’s right, daddy! I feel more Italian than ever.
“Have you ever heard about Don Rickles? You look this guy up. He was one of Frank’s best friends, he was the inventor of insult comedy… the only guy that was able to get away with reaming on Frank without the mob beating him up.”
Well, Demarco is Italian. Is it your mum’s side or your dad’s side?
It’s my mum’s side, from my Grandpa, but he was gone before I was even born, so I never really got a taste of the motherland.
Everyone tells me I’ll feel at home when I play in Ireland. Do you feel at home when you play in Italy?
Um… no. I think I’m more Italian-American. I like eating at ‘red sauce’ restaurants. I think the thing about Ireland is that, even if you’re not Irish at all, you’ll just feel at home because everyone is wasted and really happy.
Stewart is so uninterested in food while we’re on tour and it’s been driving me insane. It’s the one good thing to think about all day, you know, what are we going to eat for dinner?
It’s the one good thing about being alive, it’s amazing.
I feel like you eat pretty well?
I don’t like sweets, but I eat garbage a lot. Take a good look at me, you can see the layers of burrito and chilli cheese dogs.
You’re just looking healthy.
Exactly, my wallet looks healthy.
Stewart and I wanted to ask what your favourite new item of clothing is…
I’ll tell you what, I ordered these two shirts — we were just talking about my Italian grandpa, well I found these pictures of him and I blew them up on two white shirts. It’s him, looking good, hair’s combed back and he’s wearing a tux with a little bowtie. I’m anticipating their arrival at the crib, and more likely than not, that’ll be my new favourite piece.
That’s what we’ll get to see on your next tour?
Unless they fit like shit, we’ll see.
You never got to meet him?
He was gone before I was born — cancer, they lopped his arm off. But I’ll tell you this: he was the first bionic sax player. They built him this machine that he stuck his lump into and he could get around on these diodes, and it would trigger the notes on the saxophone. Look it up on YouTube: Hank Demarco. I never met the guy, but the look on his face — he hadn’t been able to play for a few years and then they give him this socket for his nub and those first couple of notes… son of a bitch, he’s excited! It’s like being born again.
“I think it’s going to be tough, but it’s going to be euphoric.”
So cute. I’ve seen a thing recently where this guy is colour blind and they give him a pair of glasses and then he can see colours. That stuff’s too emotional for me…
Imagine that, though. It’s not like the motherfucker didn’t have eyeballs. Imagine that, ‘Here sir, we got you some new eyeballs.’ That’s some Blade Runner shit.
I saw a dog the other day and it made me sad. Knowing I had to part with the dog made me sad.
What was wrong with the dog?
It was so beautiful that it made me feel emotional. It made me feel happy, but then I had to leave it…
But that’s the line you’ve got to toe. Every time you see a dog and its back legs are broken and it’s got the wheels, and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, poor thing.’ But at the same time, imagine how jacked up that dog is. Before it was like, ‘Goddamn, I can’t even walk around.’ Like, ‘I’m dragging these lifeless legs around. But, somebody got me these fucking wheels and now… I am born again.’ Like, that’s fucking amazing. Bionics dude, that’s so tight.
I’m just worried — I think I’m getting older and I know I’m going to have a kid, or I’d like to, and I don’t know how I’m going to be able to deal with it. It scares me…
It’s going to be tight. I’ll tell you something about that too. I was talking to my friend Benny last night, he has two kids and we were talking about it in relation to touring and being a musician. He was like, ‘It’s really stressful, knowing that there are these two people that are my complete responsibility.’ Then he was like, ‘But, I’ll tell you this: everything, like life, just makes complete sense now.’ Like, ‘I did it, I did exactly what I was supposed to do in this thing — boom, that’s it, that’s all, I win.’ So I think it’s going to be tough, but it’s going to be euphoric.
interview MARTIN FRAWLEY
photography SERGIY BARCHUK