Mac DeMarco | Wild Thing

One of the many fascinating things about Canadian musician, multi-instrumentalist, and renowned joker, Mac DeMarco, is the dichotomy between his crooned, swoon-worthy catalogue, and his oddly raw and rude public persona. Take, for instance, how his softly strummed songs about true love contrast with live show stories of DeMarco swinging from the rafters, finger betwixt his butt cheeks. Gregory Adams spoke with him on behalf of ION, while trying to make his two personas collide and say something filthy.

Salad Days—the B.C. born artist's third solo release after retiring his Makeout Videotape moniker—was teaser-released on YouTube earlier this year, along with a racy gag track where he sings about getting "a little bit of pussy" atop an airport-lounge-jazz styled arrangement. This is paired with grainy visuals of a naked guy with an acoustic guitar grafted to his crotch. DeMarco's Instagram, meanwhile, is loaded with lewdness via pictures of the gap-toothed goofball posing with dick graffiti, or videos of him nearly emptying his stomach during a fetid burping session. It's true, everyone loves a wild man, but the lo-fi popsmith admits that his warts-and-all approach to social media may be giving people a lop-sided opinion of who he is.  

"It's weird having people make assumptions about you," DeMarco reports over the line from his New York home, with the drowsy croak of a sleepless night at home. "They act like they've met you before, when they really haven't. It's a new part of my life that I'm learning about. The thing is, it's my fault completely, but it's strange. It's taken some getting used to."

The songwriter ponders this plight on "Passing Out Pieces", the first single off Salad Days. In it, a smooth-singing DeMarco discusses the emotional toll that revealing too much of himself has taken; "Can't claim to care, never been reluctant to share/Passing out pieces of me, don’t you know nothing comes free?" Like many of the tracks in his songbook, it plays effortlessly breezy, but here the warped cassette-conjuring guitar textures of past work are outshined by a swell of old school analogue synths.    

"You get kind of bored playing guitar all of the time," DeMarco explains of the slight change in sonics toward the keyboard. He notes his interest in playing keyboards was inspired by Yellow Magic Orchestra, Japanese synth-pop, and an FM-dial-indebted epiphany in which he realized just how damn good Elton John's "Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road" is. "I'm not necessarily good at it—I don't know what the f*ck I'm doing—but it freshens things up a little."

Salad Days took shape following an extended tour cycle for 2012's one-two punch of Rock and Roll Night Club and follow-up LP 2. Following a move from Montreal to New York, where he currently splits a living space with a number of other musicians, DeMarco once again rigged up a home-studio to create its 11-songs. Coming off his longest touring schedule yet, it was only natural that the weariness of his road-time inspired much of the album. "I really only write about myself, and all I was really doing was touring," he explains. "I was kind of burnt out when I was writing it, and maybe I was feeling a little jaded about things."

Despite this admission, Salad Days still shares much with 2. Trickling down from one record to the next is the heart-fluttering musical patchwork of hypnagogic, Dimetapp-thick guitar tones, casual Friday bass bounce, and DeMarco's effortlessly exhaled baritone vocals. But while the earlier LP found the songwriter doe-eyed and hopeful on "Dreamin'" or "My Kind of Woman", the relationships put on show throughout Salad Days seem strained. 

"Let Her Go", a cheerful, jangling post-punk mambo–has the musician ready to cut loose from a “couples” situation, and refuting the idea that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Before "Goodbye Weekend" has him splitting to be a “bad, bad boy”, he chastises his darling for trying to change his ways. The crestfallen "Let My Baby Stay", however, flips his role from lone wolf to a love-stricken pup. Fearful of losing his one and only, DeMarco delivers his lines atop the song's acoustic strums and gentle, hammock-swinging rhythms with muted desperation as he pleads to keep things together ("I was made to love her, been working at it/Half of my life, I’ve been an addict").

"The songs are dealing with things I'm maybe having trouble with, [it's] pretty personal. Even for me to listen back alone, it was a bit strange and a bit uncomforting," DeMarco posits of Salad Days' often-lonely subject matter. "It's me trying to get these things out of my system, as opposed to just writing a 'blah-blah' kind of pop song."

Though he tours with a three-piece backing band, DeMarco chose once again to lay down the tracks of Salad Days on his own. Left to his own devices, the singer-songwriter worked out his personal issues through song, and channelled the head-clearing tactics of the Freemasons on his revelatory, inward-gazing "Chamber of Reflection."

He explains: "If you look it up, a Chamber of Reflection is this weird room that Freemasons go into before they become masons. It's a lonely meditation period where they have to reflect on everything in their life that has happened so far, come to terms with it, and  then leave it there. And when they get up, they're all good! They're fresh and clean and ready to hash it out with the rest of the masons. Essentially, recording this album, in this tiny box of a room I have, was like that."

While the title track on Salad Days has DeMarco poking fun at himself about being exhausted by a busy schedule, emerging from his self-imposed exile has got the guy feeling rejuvenated. With an eagerly anticipated album, a North American tour, an upcoming B-sides and rarities 7-inch series, and a team-up with rapper Tyler the Creator on the Adult Swim sketch comedy show, Loiter Squad, all on the horizon, DeMarco is clearly glad to be back on the go. The salad days, it turns out, have yet to come.

"Sometimes you've got to stop and count your blessings, and stop acting like a little shit," he says.  "I don't have to work a job, I'm making pretty good money—more than I ever thought I'd make off music. Complaining, like,  'Ah, man, it feels like a job. It's supposed to be my hobby, my one true love'? Fuck that shit! Who cares? It's what I always wanted, so now that I'm here I can't complain about it." Well said.

Salad Days is now available on iTunes.

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