Best Of The Decade: Mac DeMarco

Editor’s Note: Shining a light on the more prominent artists of the passing decade; we’ll be taking a look at the artists who made a monumental impact on the 2010s and landed several albums in our 200 Best Albums Of The 2010s list in a series of pieces through the end of 2019. What’s exciting about this look at Mac Demarco is that we’re getting the view from some of the major players in his career affiliated with his label, Captured Tracks through the 2010s. Intro/Outro by Mike Sniper, Founder of Captured Tracks, Rian Fossett, now Creative Director at Matador, Katie Garcia, now Director of A&R at Secretly Group, and Pamela Garavano-Coolbaugh current Label Manager at Captured Tracks. Mac’s Best of the Decade is undoubtedly my favorite because of these incredibly personal looks at Mac’s three albums that made our Community’s list.

Mac DeMarco‘s impact on the 2010s is kind of multi-layered.

Mac DeMarco‘s impact on the 2010s is kind of multi-layered. When I first heard his Bandcamp stuff – some music was under Mac DeMarco, some music was under Makeout Videotape – and we decided to sign him, I’d encouraged him to go by his own name and no longer give the project a “band name.” Of course, now that happens all the time, but this was in an era where there were so many one-person projects that had a band name, many of whom were on our label. With Mac, I could tell there was something about his personality and charm that sort of screamed that, sort of like Harry Nilsson. It also sort of created the weird Cult of Personality that happened, for better or worse, with his success. It was him, under his real name, recording and performing, out there for all to see. Musically, of course, Mac was a real breath of fresh air at the time. Songwriting over sound, though the sounds he used were deep and earthy. It’s taken for granted that Mac helped re-establish the idea of the indie singer-songwriter. After Rock and Roll Night Club – which brings us to the three LPs Mac has on this list – I figured, “Hey, this EP is doing pretty well. I think the next record if it’s good, can sell 5,000 or more. It’ll be the one after where we hit 10-15k.” Then I heard it….

2

(2012)

By Rian Fossett (Former Captured Tracks Project Manager, Current Creative Director at Matador Records)

The first time I met Mac was a very early morning in the old Captured Tracks office on West St in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I had to creep quietly to my desk to not wake up the full band, their girlfriends and a couple other friends from Montreal sleeping on the floor all around me. Mac and Kiera had the only comfortable spot in the room, cuddling on the couch. Once everyone woke up, I instantly felt like I’d already known Mac and his world (that apparently he traveled with) for much longer. At Mac’s first New York show, he opened up for Nite Jewel at Bowery Ballroom. There were maybe 25 people in the audience. The set he played was not far from a show I saw him play at Primavera this past summer. He was fully in a zone the second he stepped on stage. I remember not seeing anyone without a smile. I don’t remember what I was expecting from the demos I’d heard at the time, but every new song live was vivacious and catchy in a way that I felt instantly connected to the music. When we were delivered 2, listening to the record felt like hanging out with him that first time, being in that world. It’s Mac’s distilled essence, a true original from the very beginning. 

Salad Days

(2014)

By Katie Garcia (Former Captured Tracks Label Manager, Current Director of A&R at Secretly Group and Owner of Bayonet Records)

Two years after 2 came out, Mac worked on Salad Days. I remember him working on it pretty quickly considering the insane amount of touring he was doing at the time. I’ve always been so impressed with his output. We heard the record and knew that it would cement him as part of indie canon. Weirdly, the two things I remember most about Salad Days is having to beg Mike to press more copies of the initial pressing because I knew it was going to be fucking huge and the second thing was warning Mac to not give out his address at the end of the record. Let the records (both literally and figuratively) show that I was very right. Kids started showing up at Mac’s house in Rockaway on a daily basis. Sometimes, he’d offer them coffee as promised, but other times he’d be “out of town.” His old address has been since edited off the record, though he turned around and did it again on the Another One mini LP. 

Salad Days helped build out Mac’s universe in the eyes of the public. From the way he dressed to the phrases he would say, Mac started to become a cultural touchstone for a lot of people. He is the sensitive storyteller who bares his emotions but is a total goofball while doing so. Sonically, there is a sweet, underlying melancholy throughout most of the songs which I really love. Mac hadn’t incorporated keys on previous records the way he had on Salad Days. On “Passing Out Pieces” in particular the keys add a lot of warmth. It’s also the first time Mac reflected on his strenuous life on the road and his growing fame which became more all-consuming than I think he even realized. Two weeks after the album roll-out Mac found some time to be my wedding band, which has always kept him and his music close to my heart.  

This Old Dog

(2017)

By Pamela Garavano-Coolbaugh (Current Captured Tracks Label Manager and Head Project Manager for Omnian Music Group)

In my experience, deadlines don’t matter much in the world of Mac; over time, you develop a trust that when Mac delivers a record, it will deliver, for lack of a better word, and you’ll be able to get all the wheels in motion quickly. This Old Dog was no exception. We were barely back in our office after New Year’s Day in 2017 when the final album mixes hit. When we listened, we knew that we had a record that highlighted all of Mac’s strengths as both an engineer and songwriter. It was perhaps sparser, but somehow that felt like more and not less. He hit that fine line he always walks, the line of being both personal – maybe more than ever here – and universal, all done with a roguish wink. To this day, “Moonlight on the River” still blows me away every time I listen.

Looking back now, it feels ironic that a record isn’t finished when the music is done. Among other things, the album artwork needs to be finalized and, for the first time, Mac wanted to skip being on the album’s cover. In mid-January, he sent over a photograph of a stuffed animal Mickey Mouse that his girlfriend Kiera had taken. It was an amazing album cover and we all loved it until someone chimed in that – and I quote – “Disney will crush us.” Google then brought me countless articles about how Disney had sued everyone from a lone daycare to Sonic Youth (see: Sister) for using their imagery. They’re known to be notoriously litigious, especially with their flagship characters. We tried a few ideas, but however we edited the photo, it never felt right. So, with some frustration and deadlines looming, Mac whipped up the album cover and the rest is, as they say, history.

When you look back at how much these three records, and Mac’s personality in and of itself, it’s pretty evident that his influence was all over this decade. I can’t tell you how many records I hear or get sent that have the Mac “sound” and look all over it, some of which has gotten a fair share of success, but, to me, nothing like the real thing. The slacker normcore mentality adopted by his many, many clones is pretty much as far as you can be from Mac himself. Look at his recorded output and his tour dates, I don’t think any slacker could do that. Reading these paragraphs from individual people who were right there in the thick of it with each record was a good way to look back at the decade and the work we did together. It was a real honor to work on Mac’s incredible music.

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