Mac DeMarco’s voice is sweet and soft. Punctuated by hushed, pensive drags of his ever-present cigarette, his voice was born to make love songs. As the Edmonton-born, Vancouver-for-a-while artist sits in his smoke-laden greenroom at the first of his two sold-out shows at the Commodore Ballroom, his disheveled appearance is a rather stark contrast to the crooning, hazy songs that appear on his most recent album, Another One.
This juxtaposition should come as no surprise to those who have followed the now-25-year-old’s quick ascent from secret venue shows with his Vancouver-based band Makeout Video Tape to routinely securing spots on best-of lists (Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Spin) and booking expansive world tours. At the Commodore, the backstage is bustling with people. DeMarco, who lived in Vancouver for a period of time post-high school, retains an affection for the city. “I haven’t lived here for a long time, but I have a lot of friends here,” he says, taking another drag from his cigarette. “I miss it sometimes. It’s always nice to come back.”
During recent years of touring, DeMarco developed a shtick as old as rock n’ roll: grooming the perfect good/bad-boy image. His live performances are often noted for his onstage antics, spliced between his sincere odes to love with titles including “Treat Her Better,” “Let My Baby Stay,” and “The Way You’d Love her”. Over the years, however, DeMarco’s live shows have noticeably mellowed. He shrugs with trademark ambivalence. “I don’t make the worst decisions anymore,” he says. “But sometimes I do. It really depends.”
On Another One, DeMarco’s song writing is polished and flagrantly un-weird. Despite initial appearances, his composition takes its cue from 1960s masters (McCartney, Lennon) rather than slacker kings of yore (Stephen Malkamus, Beck), where perhaps his public persona can be historically traced to. “I wanted to write love songs,” DeMarco says of his latest release. “I think it kind of goes over the whole spectrum of love. ‘Aw man, I love you. Aw man, I hate you. Aw man, I wish I could love you—what if I did?’”
Another One, a title which, at first glance, appeals to the “lazy-faire” slacker attitude, is instead a simple nod to heartache: fearing the loss of the one you love to another. Written in between tours at his New York hideaway, the album strikes that sweet spot of being deeply personal yet wholly relatable. “This album is probably more personal for me than any of the other ones so far, but the thing about this one is I didn’t do the specific mama, papa, yada yada, yada,” he says. In records before, DeMarco was quick to reveal himself. At the end of his 2012 release, 2, he can he heard cooing to his long-time girlfriend, and his wacky, goofball videos have become a staple accoutrement to his jangly ballads. In a rather unlikely result of getting personal, Another One has allowed DeMarco to distance himself from his music. “People come up to me, asking, ‘What is it? What is it about?’ The thing about them being love songs is they don’t really need my own context to make sense,” DeMarco explains. “They can kind of make their own decision in their own way, or reflect on their own lives. So that’s the idea—it’s not really like, ‘Stay out of my business,’ but it’s sort of like that.”
Still, DeMarco has a hard time leaving himself out of it all. At the end of Another One he leaves his actual home address, inviting listeners to join him for a cup of coffee. It seems DeMarco can’t help but leave footprints—this time he has just (sort of) covered them up.