“Home” is a difficult concept for indie goofball Mac DeMarco.
“I always live about three years in one place, and then move on,” the guitar-wielding singer says on the line from the Santa Cruz leg of his tour. “I like the places that I settle, but when people say things like, ‘Oh, you’ve ditched us.’ I never really understand that mindset.”
Born on Vancouver Island, Mac swiftly relocated to Edmonton with the DeMarco family when he was just three months old. Keen to rekindle his B.C. connection after graduating high school, DeMarco headed back to the coast to take root in Vancouver. The city became the cradle of the singer’s signature sound. Practicing with then-band Makeout Videotape in his Killarney house, DeMarco’s first set of recordings launched him out of the southwest Vancouver neighbourhood.
Now splitting his time between New York City and the back seat of a tour-bus, this Friday (May 27) sees DeMarco jamming his self-described “jizz jazz” on a local stage once again.
“I still feel like a Vancouver native, in a way,” DeMarco says. “I mean, I only lived there for a couple years, but I still have a lot of family near the city and I love going back. And there are definitely some restaurants I think about a lot. Vancouver’s a cool place—I’ve lived in quite a few cities now, and it’s the only spot I’ve ever missed. Heading back is a very different experience, but I like it.”
Often inking Vancouver onto his tour schedule for its sell-out venues—not just, as he jokes, to get some good tacos—DeMarco’s performance history reveals how far his star has already risen. Graduating from the Vogue theatre to the Biltmore, and then maxing out the Commodore, this week sees DeMarco finally arrive at Stanley Park grandstand the Malkin Bowl—and he’s well on course to pack the huge amphitheatre to capacity.
“We’re on the road so much I don’t really get a chance to think about what we’ve achieved. But now that you ask—it’s just crazy. I don’t really try to set goals or expectations or anything—it’s more like ‘hey, do you want to play a show?’ and I’m like ‘yeah, that would be great!’ One thing happens, another thing happens, all of a sudden the concerts are getting bigger, you’ve signed to a record label, you’re touring on different continents. I’m not really sure how it all worked out for us.
“I remember playing [Vancouver’s DIY underground festival] Music Waste so many years ago,” DeMarco continues. “When I moved to the city, it was a total ambition to perform there, and we did—to about 30 people. I’ve never actually been to the Malkin Bowl before, but I know it’s an outdoor theatre. And I know more people will probably come to it than the Music Waste show,” he says with a laugh.
Those early DeMarco concerts cemented his status as a wild live performer. Famous for that time he stuck two drumsticks up his ass onstage, DeMarco’s radical shenanigans earned him reams of column inches that threatened to overshadow his natural charisma and musical talent.
“We’ve calmed down a lot since then. We’re sober when we play, at least. But believe me, we’ve got some treats planned for the Malkin Bowl,” DeMarco promises. “We’re not going to tell you what they are though, because the shock value will be gone. When people say I’m famous for my live antics, they basically just mean ‘yeah, that guy’s gonna stick some stuff up his ass again’. I don’t sodomise myself anymore, but I do crowdsurf all the time. It depends on the vibe, you know. But we definitely have a few curveballs in store. You’ll see. We’re excited to be back in Vancouver—let’s put it that way.”
Parking the tour-bus in Lotusland offers a bit of respite for DeMarco. The singer recently took the bold step of narrating his home address to the world at the end of his EP, with an open invitation to drop by anytime for coffee. (For the record, it’s 6802 Bayfield Ave, Arverne, New York). Understandably, DeMarco sees droves of fans knocking at his door.
“I’ve had a lot of people come—and people still turn up all the time,” DeMarco recalls. “Probably about 800 kids so far have made the trip. The song’s been out for a while, and people are obviously still welcome to come if they want. But I’m not there a lot because I’m out on tour, which is sometimes a good thing. But it’s been cool—I’ve met a lot of great people.
“Nobody’s been too weird, at least,” he continues. “A couple of people have been really shy or really awkward, but no-one’s been super crazy. Some kids come over and want to play me their songs. Which can go either way—sometimes it’s good, sometimes I’m thinking ‘hoo hooo, you should work on that one a little bit buddy!’ People bring me presents too—one kid brought me a tobacco plant once. I get a lot of mail now, which is taking up a whole corner of my room. It’s nice to have a connection with the people that essentially pay for my entire existence. But I’m probably not going to live in New York for too much longer, which might be a good thing.”
So we’re back to the tricky problem of DeMarco’s “home”.
“It’s almost time for me to move on. I mean, I think my home home is where my mom and my grandma and all those people live, and they're in Edmonton still. I think if I had to pick one place that I would call my 'home', it would probably be there. But I’m always in motion. I’m pushing forwards.
“To be honest,” DeMarco says with a sigh, “I just can’t sit still.”
Mac DeMarco plays Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl on Friday (May 27). Limited tickets are still available here.