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Mac DeMarco: Performing just for fun

What: Mac DeMarco with Calvin Love and Meatbodies When: Today, 8 p.m. Where: Sugar Tickets: Sold-out Mac DeMarco is underwhelmed by the attention he’s been getting of late.
Mac DeMarco is as famed for his highjinx on stage and off as he is for his music, but it's the music that rewards your attention.

What: Mac DeMarco with Calvin Love and Meatbodies

When: Today, 8 p.m.

Where: Sugar

Tickets: Sold-out


Mac DeMarco is underwhelmed by the attention he’s been getting of late.

Not that the Duncan native isn’t appreciative, especially for the legion of fans he has amassed. DeMarco, 24, is certainly enjoying the fruits of his recent labours, which has enabled him to upgrade the notoriously outdated equipment on which he records. But as for the fawning buzz he seemingly can’t escape — as chronicled in Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, the New York Times, the Guardian and others — DeMarco is pretty much oblivious to it all.

“It’s insane to me that people get so excited about it,” DeMarco said in an interview with the Times Colonist. “It’s really nice. As long as that keeps happening, then it will be fun.”

Fun is a word DeMarco uses often. This year, the Brooklyn resident uploaded a grainy video of an unnamed naked man dancing with a guitar concealing his privates, with a message from DeMarco claiming it to be an advertisement for his new album, Eddie’s Dream, due for release in 2019. It was a trick, but the secret was out long before DeMarco had the chance to revel in his concept comedy. At this point in his career, few believe anything about DeMarco to be true, given the indie rock singer-songwriter’s fondness for fakery.

“That’s my main goal,” DeMarco said of his antics, which are especially evident in concert. “I’d like to have fun, and I’d like everybody coming to the show to have fun, too. It’s my No. 1 priority.”

His concert tonight in Victoria is sold out, which should come as no surprise. Performances with his bandmates, guitarist Peter Sagar, bassist Pierce McGarry and drummer Joe McMurray, are increasingly well-received — to the point where DeMarco now has a reputation constantly in need of upkeep. Stories of his on-stage actions are everywhere online, including video footage of naked DeMarco putting his drummer’s tools of the trade somewhere other than on a drumhead. The funniest part of that 2012 gig, for DeMarco, at least, is that he was butchering a karaoke rendition of U2’s Beautiful Day while doing his drumstick dance.

He clearly loves being a provocateur, but he isn’t without a conscience. After word of the notorious Montreal performance (for which DeMarco has admitted he was incredibly drunk) reached his family, he wrote the 2012 song, Freaking Out the Neighbourhood, as an apology to his mother and aunt. He doesn’t refrain from saying what he wants and doing what compels him, now that the spotlight is upon him. But DeMarco is clearly more careful these days.

Once considered a difficult interview — not because he wasn’t nice; rather, DeMarco would rarely stay serious long enough to properly answer a question — he is pleasant at present. Perhaps that is the Canadian in him peeking out from behind his toothy grin.

He was born in Duncan, and though he lived there for only a short time, he still considers it his home. “I’ve never been back to Duncan, and I don’t remember being there,” he said. “But I was there for eight months.”

DeMarco grew up in Edmonton, where he lived until after high school graduation. He spent some key years in Vancouver, which signalled the start of his musical career, under the moniker Makeout Videotape. A sampling of his discography at this period includes the 2010 album Bossa Yeye, which was recorded at his mother’s house while his girlfriend Kiera McNally was at work. Other indie recordings of his prolific Vancouver era includes albums captured in quick succession at a house on Powell Street and in a garage on Killarney Street. Some of these were released on hand-burned CD-Rs, while others came out on cassette.

DeMarco has never cared about the perceived quality of his albums. In fact, some were thrown together in such a way he can barely remember making them. He doesn’t regret a single one of his albums, however, simply because he would have been pure of mind while making them. That philosophy never changes, DeMarco said.

“The reason I like recording is that there is a certain energy that comes from its inception. When I sit down and actually work on something, I end up hating it. If I listen to a Makeout Videotape recording from a few years ago, it might sound super sketchy, but there is something there. Maybe it’s not the hottest sound, but there’s something there.”

In 2011, he began a stint in Montreal, which led him to Brooklyn, where he lives with McNally in a Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment. Makeout Videotape was his Vancouver identity; since moving east, he has performed largely under his own name. DeMarco isn’t his given name, however. He was born Vernor Winfield McBriare Smith IV, which his mother, Agnes — who runs his Facebook page and answers DeMarco’s fanmail — changed to the equally elaborate McBriare Samuel Lanyon DeMarco when he was five.

It’s fair to say DeMarco has always operated by his own rules. “If I make something, I want people to hear it — there you go,” he said of his album release schedule, which follows no discernible pattern.

“I don’t think about it, or plan much out, I guess. I have a label now, but I tell them this is how I’ve always done it and this is the way it’s going to stay.”

His latest recording, Salad Days, has earned DeMarco the best reviews of his career. It is widely considered a mature-sounding masterwork, particularly by the gilded hipsters who make up most of his audience. To them and to the music critics who praise him, DeMarco is indie rock’s layabout, lovable hero.

That myth has been perpetuated by reporters far and wide, many of whom have conducted their interviews inside DeMarco’s apartment. He’s a welcoming host, no doubt, and free of conceit. The apartment has been described by reporters in lurid detail, right down to the take-out food and underwear that litters his floor. The most interesting thing about the apartment, DeMarco said, is the cache of vintage instruments strewn about.

“My apartment kind of looks like a storage locker. That’s where [my gear] all is.”

He recorded Salad Days in that apartment, but DeMarco is happier with the Salad Days sessions than he is with anything that has come before.

“When I went to sit down and do Salad Days, I had one month and no songs. So I sat down and demoed them on a crappy tape machine in the apartment.”

With his increased visibility in the press and growing popularity, life is easier these days.

“Now that I have a little bit more money. I’ve been buying a few more treats, but I haven’t stepped up any of the core recording stuff. I haven’t bought an insane machine or anything. It’s all just the same crap.”

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