Hold on tight to garbage you love: The Blackbird Spyplane Interview with Mac DeMarco
The young GOAT of melody on his great new album, cool trash, life-fixing pants, and the world premiere of "Garbage Funk"!!
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Mac DeMarco — he’s a young “GOAT of melody” who’s been running musical circles around the competition since he put out his first album of funny, off-kilter guitar pop in 2012, kicking off a Spyplane Certified Run of Zero Wack Albums (S.C.R.O.Z.W.A.)
This Friday, Mac will run yet another musical circle around these fools without even opening his d*mn mouth: His new album, Five Easy Hot Dogs, is an excellent set of instrumentals recorded during a 4-month road trip. Things kick off with two lovely tracks made in Gualala, CA, up on the Sonoma Coast — that’s beautiful, wind-battered, redwood-gothic Denis Johnson country, R.I.P. the king!!
Even more impressive than any of that, though? Mac is radically kindvibed — this is the guy who famously gave out his home address back when he was living in the Rockaways, inviting fans over for coffee — and he wears cool clothes. I’ve wanted Mac to come through the sletter since we launched, so I was stoked to chop it up with him the other day about cursed-dope tobacco merch; befriending strangers; Jack Nicholson’s sexy Lakers swag; and more.
AND!! We are honored to debut the full version of “Garbage Funk,” a never-before-released DeMarco demo that fans have been anticipating feverishly since he first teased it in 2019 — a Spyplane World-Exclusive Funk Event.
Blackbird Spyplane: You made the new album during a North American road trip, where you packed a mobile-recording-rig into yr car and figured s**t out on the fly. You’ve said part of the appeal of the trip was “forgoing any sort of normalcy or comfort and making my entire life, for a segment of time, completely insane.” How’d it go?
Mac DeMarco: “Yeah, so the idea was, I had all this s**t in my car, I started to drive, and I’d pull up at a hotel or rental house or a friend’s house or whatever, and load the s**t in. But I was excited to be in the cities, too, so I’d be like, ‘I need to record something right now so I don’t feel guilty for not doing it today, then I’m gonna go out and see homies or have an experience in the city.’ There were places I didn’t know anyone, but something I love is that I can go to pretty much any moderately sized city and walk around, and eventually someone will say, ‘Hey Mac!’ And I’ll say, ‘Hey, what are we doing?’ and see where it goes.
“The whole trip was this piece I was working on — my whole life became the work. There were the songs, but I also shot video and did audio journals, stuff I was thinking I might put out, too, but eventually decided to keep for myself. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I didn’t know what I was trying to record, and by the end of it, I was, like, I don’t know what the f**k I did for the last few months. But listening back, I was, like, ‘Oh this is cool. I think people will enjoy it.’ And if they don’t, it doesn’t really matter!”
Blackbird Spyplane: The title plays off the movie Five Easy Pieces, where Jack Nicholson goes on a road trip through some of the same places. What’s the hot dogs about?
Mac DeMarco: “It’s a joke we had: We saw Jack walk out of a Lakers game one time, and my friend Scott went, ‘Huh, looks a little more like five easy hot dogs.’ So that was the genesis.”
Blackbird Spyplane: So you’re saying Jack was looking —
Mac DeMarco: “He was looking a little — no, don’t get me wrong, I love Jack. I think Jack is the sexiest man alive. Today. And of course when he was younger. I didn’t say it, Scott said it!”
Blackbird Spyplane: The fact you’d just walk around a city till someone recognized you, then see where that led, reminds me of how you gave out your address and invited your fans over for coffee. A lot of us wanna put up a cocoon, especially with all these apps that encourage us to stay home and binge shows and pay people to bring everything to us. But you have an unusual openness when it comes to encounters with strangers…
Mac DeMarco: “It’ll get you in good situations, and sometimes awkward or weird situations, but it’s great! I feel like I spent 10 years touring, seeing a city for a night or two — you bust your ass doing this s**t for so long, so with this trip I almost felt I was going to reap the benefits. Like, ‘people know who I am, let me take advantage of it.’
“A prime example is I met this kid Owen in the street in Victoria. I walked around and this kid said what’s up, gave me his number, and we met up later. I sat with him while he drank some tall cans by the harbor there for a while, we cruised around, this guy opened up his pinball bar for us in the middle of the night, we had a coffee, we talked about musicians — he was a nice kid. Or like, in New York, it was just about walking around and getting the vibe of someone sweeping their stoop and saying, ‘Good to see you around here, Mac.’ And me saying, ‘It’s good to be here!’”
Blackbird Spyplane: Have you always been so kind, or did you ever go through a d*ckhead period?
Mac DeMarco: “No. There were periods where I pretended to be more bad*ss than I am, chugging beers and cussing out the bouncers at shows, like, ‘Leave that kid alone, motherf**ker!’ I might be a little fluffier now — I don’t drink or smoke or anything anymore. But that probably makes me an angrier person, to be honest.
“Not to say I’m a saint. I’ve been mean plenty of times. But I’m kinda of the ilk where I’d rather sacrifice my comfort so other people aren’t uncomfortable — I’m a smoother, let’s just say that. I try to smooth things out. And I’ll tell that to my therapist and she’ll say, ‘This is your problem. You’re trying to be too smooth.’”
Blackbird Spyplane: How much do you care about clothes? You always wear pretty cool s**t that fits well, the colors are good, everything’s faded and broken-in nicely — and what I really admire is that nothing ever looks like it cost you more than like 20 bucks.
Mac DeMarco: “Oh, totally. I wear the same clothes every day like Bart Simpson. For me it’s a bit Be All End All, like, ‘Man, I found the greatest pair of jeans,’ and you think you’ve solved the puzzle — they look right and fit right and your life is fixed. But obviously all clothes fall apart. So I find something perfect and wear it till it falls apart. I’ve always loved the old Russell hoodies. Right now I’m wearing a new one — $20. It’s not quite as great as the old ones, doesn’t fit quite as nice in the arms, but for twenty bucks? I don’t have to dig in the bins, searching for an old one? Can’t beat that. With my pants, my friend Sam Salad from Meals made the pair I’m wearing right now—”
Blackbird Spyplane: Oh sick, big shout out to Sam and Meals. You aren’t talking about the double-knee jeans you wore on The Adam Friedland Show, are you?
Mac DeMarco: “No. These are similar to those, like Carhartts or painter’s pants, but they’re Sam’s creation. He actually made me a whole suit, all canvas, with these pants and a matching top, and the idea was for me to wear that and only that, but now the pants are shredded because I fell off a moped, and I sewed them back together. He just made me a second prototype, so we’re gonna get to where I don’t have to think about what I wear at all anymore.”
Blackbird Spyplane: You sent me pictures of all these curios & bric-a-brac & flea-market treasures you’ve got crammed in at your studio. Looking through it all, one thing I noticed was a few pieces of vibey tobacco-company merch, like the Viceroy cap and the Joe Camel beer coozy, near the Simpsons cups. There’s something so interesting about “good” cigarette merch, where it can be simultaneously cursed but also darkly charming. One of your earliest songs was a semi-ironic “Ode to Viceroy,” so you’ve been in a love-hate relationship with dart-blasting for a while…
Mac DeMarco: “Yeah, that sums up my career as a smoker. Because why did I smoke Marlboro Reds? Probably because it’s an American classic. With ‘Ode to Viceroy’ it was me poking fun at, like, ‘I’m writing a love song about these things giving me lung cancer with every puff.’ I don’t smoke anymore, but yeah, there’s so much cigarette s**t in here. To me it doesn’t represent the act of smoking so much as, like, a classic American value. And I’m not American, but I love America.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Joe Camel is kind of like a dark, f**ked-up, more-pimp Mickey Mouse…
Mac DeMarco: “It’s true, haha. He’s cool as f**k, you see him with the sunglasses on, a camel smoking a cigarette? It’s amazing, it’s cool, come on. That Joe Camel coozy I believe I got back when me and Kiera, my partner, were driving around on tour — I did a solo tour where we rented a minivan and ended up thrifting across the Bible Belt, buying bric-a-brac to set the stage up with. You know those flea market signs on the side of highway? You usually don’t turn off but, if you do, and you’re in the right zone? Gold mine.”
Blackbird Spyplane: What’s up with the drawing (top left) of “Mac DeBarko?”
Mac DeMarco: “After shows, people bring me tons of s**t. So this drawing, it wasn’t made by the girl who gave it to me, but it says Dear Mac, Sorry I couldn’t make it. I’m stuck at home with donkey brains. It’s all good though. Bless, [NAME REDACTED]. Her friend who gave it to me said she was in a psych ward or something. Calling that being ‘stuck at home with donkey brains?’ I like that.”
Blackbird Spyplane: D*mn. And tell me about your collection of fake sandwiches…
Mac DeMarco: “I’ve always loved fake sandwiches, and now kids know about it and at shows they bring me more fake sandwiches. Some of mine are made with felt, like for little kids to assemble. Some are more squeeze-toy. I enjoy that. I always wanted to show off my collection, and Kiera was not about it — she was, like, ‘Enough with the f**king sandwiches, it looks like a 5 year old’s bedroom in here.’ But eventually she came around, and now she buys me fake sandwiches, too.”
Blackbird Spyplane: That’s sweet. Fake food is so appealing, I can’t say for sure why. There’s this Wim Wenders documentary Tokyo-Ga where he visits a workshop where artisans hand-paint plastic sushi and ramen for restaurant window displays, it’s very tight.
Mac DeMarco: “Yeah, when I lived in Vancouver we used to go to these Chinese malls and Japanese malls where they had stores dedicated to selling fake food for restaurants — we have fake bowls of ramen and stuff around the house.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Is there something all this stuff has in common for you? There’s a lot of kitsch, a lot of cool pop-culture junk, a lot of hand-made stuff…
Mac DeMarco: “There’s a lot of kitsch for sure. A lot of it is things kids gave me at shows. Some of it is mementos, like a cue card from when I played on Conan. It’s funny, for a long time it was like I needed the kitsch to make a space feel like my zone. It was inspiring. But now I go through cycles, sometimes I love it, some times I want to throw it all away because it’s driving me insane. But I’m horrible at throwing things out. I like the idea of archiving — for some reason it feels important to me to have this… garbage.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Speaking of which, when PBS News Hour did a segment on you a few years ago you played a snippet of a song that yr fans nicknamed “Garbage Funk.” They’re obsessed with it. There are like 9-minute loops on YouTube built from this tiny snippet you played.
Mac DeMarco: “Hahaha, yeah, I’ve let it ride out, I guess because I like having a fish on the hook, and if I reel it all the way in — I think it’s fun for people to imagine what else happens in that song. I’m not sure much else happens, actually.”
Blackbird Spyplane: King, do you wanna drop the full demo here for a Spyplane Exclusive World Premiere?
Mac DeMarco: “You know what, this one’s been going on for years, maybe it’s time to break them off. Yeah, if you wanna do it, let’s do it! I’m down. I’ll dig it up and send it over.”
AND HERE WE GO — please enjoy Mac DeMarco’s “Garbage Funk” — !!
Mac’s site is here. Five Easy Hot Dogs is great and it comes out this Friday, January 20. You can pre-order it here. The PBS News Hour clip where Mac first teased “Garbage Funk” is here.
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The Cla$$ified SpyTalk chat room is here, full of very cool people with very cool recommendations.
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The Master Jawn Index, featuring earth’s best Spyplane-approved things, is here.
play “Garbage Funk” at .75 (or even .5!!) for a curious journey
I think proust would agree with you here: There is something utterly satisfying with plastic foods and sandwiches in that they constantly confuse, each time they are beheld, and even more satisfying is to trick a friend or onlooker, and the most satisfying is the one who plucks it from its display to take a bite, not even allowing the plastic sensation to the touch discourage the act, and only once firmly in the mouth, to recognize the Trojan horse for all its plastic glory!