Mac DeMarco is a people's rock star. The Canadian-born singer-songwriter thrives off his particular feel-good rock 'n' roll, bringing zany mannerisms, voices and shenanigans to his live performances. With his 2014 album, "Salad Days," garnering critical acclaim to rival his indie cred, the gap-toothed rocker recently took a break from extensive touring to record an eight-track mini-LP, "Another One."
Despite DeMarco's wacky onstage antics, he remains low-key. He wrote and recorded the eight tracks by himself in his new home in Far Rockaway, Queens. And while fame may be amusing to the 25-year-old, he's tried to keep a laid-back mind-set, even taking time on the last track of the album, "My House By the Water," to extend an invitation for coffee with fans.
"Another One" is a collection of relationships, broken and hopeful, embraced by DeMarco's classic twang guitars and moody synthesizers. With the mini-LP being released Friday on Captured Tracks, DeMarco spoke with The Times from his Queens "House By the Water."
Why the mini-LP? Did you have new songs you felt needed to be released or was it more of a project between touring to keep you sane?
I've been on tour for a long time. ["Salad Days"] came out pretty much a year before I sat down to write this one, so I kind of got that itch — "I got to get home. I got to make those songs." I didn't have anything ready before I sat down to do it, but I finished it up in a week and a half.
Was the process for "Another One" different from that of your previous albums, "2" or "Salad Days"?
It's pretty much the same. When I did "Salad Days," it took maybe three or four weeks, but I kind of lock myself in my house, write songs, demo them and then make final recordings. I like to do everything as one brick of time, because that flows together and the songs are like a family.
You've recorded all your albums in living spaces rather than professional studios. What is it about a bedroom that pushes you to record in these places?
I kind of learned to write songs while recording. … It's like the recording is another instrument for me to play. So for me to do it at home, I can take my time, I can be in my underwear and have 900 pots of coffee. I think if I took that to a studio, not only would it be a huge waste of money, but the guy would probably go fully insane from me having to redo takes over and over again. Aside from that, I think it adds a little bit of flavor, because you feel super comfortable in your home.
How do your songs change from bedroom recordings to live shows with the band? Are there things your band mates add to the songs in the live shows?
When I teach everybody the songs, I try and get the basics of the song down to make sure it's represented. … At the same time, my bass player is never gonna play bass the way I play bass. My drummer's never gonna play drums exactly the way I play drums and my guitarist is not gonna play guitar like I play guitar either. But that's cool to me. It's like their personalities come across in a way too, so I think it keeps it fresh for us.
"Another One" aims to capture these universal feelings of love and heartbreak rather than using specific stories. What spawned this decision to look at generalities in relationships?
Especially with "2" and "Salad Days," I was writing specifically about my family or my upbringing or my personal life. … And this album is probably the most personal album I've ever written. I wanted to write love songs. And the thing about love songs is that the context isn't really important. Maybe they mean one thing to me, but people should do whatever they want with them. It's not necessarily that important what these songs are talking about.
A lot of your albums have a pretty mellow tone, but your live performances are really animated. How do you build that contrast between mellow recordings and hectic rock 'n' roll shows?
The whole thing about playing a rock 'n' roll show is that it's rock 'n' roll. I'm not super concerned with [band mates'] musicianship. I just want people that I can feel comfortable with up there and have a good time with. And I think for all of us, part of having a good time is being ourselves and acting goofy.
It's not an art gallery. I want to involve the crowd and make sure everybody's having a good time. I'm not trying to show off. It's like, "Hey, I'm here to play you some songs. Sing along if you want. If you don't want to, that's fine. Let's party."
"Another One" features a lot of synthesizer patterns. How does replacing the guitar with keys affect your music? Or is it just another way of expressing emotion?
I've been playing guitar for a lot of my life. And I've changed the way I play a lot of times. I'm always trying to learn more and, not necessarily get better, but find things that interest me. The nice thing about playing keyboards is that I have no training. I have no idea what I'm doing. I mean I know where the notes are, I can play a chord. But I really have no technique. Within that idea is a whole world of opportunities where there's accidental creativity.
Especially with synthesizers, half of what the instrument is, is creating the sound and being able to play the sound that you've created. It really opens a lot of doors for me and a lot of different sounds and vibes.
At the end of the last track, the instrumental "My House By the Water," you give out your Queens address with an invitation for coffee. Have people taken you up on the invitation?
There are people who specifically came to my house visiting from out of the country or out of state, like, "Hey, I'm in New York, do you want to go to the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty and Mac's house?"
It was a weird decision. I don't really know what I was thinking when I did it, but at the same time, I'm enjoying it and I think it's cool to meet the people who are listening to my music.
How has your relationship with fans evolved over the years as your music has spread?
It's changed a lot. I was used to, for years, playing shows with my friends and other bands, and that was cool. But the change does come when you start selling bigger rooms. You just get used to playing to strangers every night.
But it's like there is already a connection, because I kind of let it all hang out. I think they feel like they know me personally in a way, which is maybe fair, because I do put a lot of myself out there.
Well, obviously there is a difference between you as a songwriter and you as a person, so does that ever get annoying that people think they know you?
Sort of, but not really. I have a pretty good scope of my outside world with the fans. I try to keep it pretty cohesive with the way that I portray myself publicly and the way I actually am. … I wouldn't say it gets annoying, but it is confusing sometimes. But it's nothing to complain about.
You're playing your third consecutive FYF Fest later this month. What about the festival keeps you coming back year after year?
They have a good lineup every year. It's a fun time, a lot of my friends play. A lot of times festivals are really impersonal and the vibe is kind of weird. But [FYF Fest] has a good vibe every time. I get to see a bunch of bands I like and they invite us back every year.
Mac DeMarco at FYF Fest
Where: L.A. Memorial Sports Arena, 700 Exposition Park Drive, Los Angeles
When: Aug. 23, gates open at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $175 for two-day general admission, $109 for single-day ticket