The Mac daddy

Mac DeMarco’s exercises in imperfection have quickly raised his profile.

Mac DeMarco eschews perfection in the name of rockin'.

Photo by Laura Lynn Petrick

Mac DeMarco eschews perfection in the name of rockin’.

Grant Tillery

Mac DeMarco sounded like he just finished a pack of Viceroys.

With a brief lull in his schedule, DeMarco anointed last Wednesday his Sabbath so he could catch up on much-needed rest before embarking on a tour supporting his new album, “Salad Days.” He seemed restless, so it was easy to imagine him smoking a pack a day of the dirt-cheap brand to appease his hyperactivity.

Viceroys were DeMarco’s favorite brand of cigarettes — his breakout track, “Ode to Viceroy,” pays ironic homage to the infamous cancer stick.

“I was a cheap bastard,” he said. “I still smoke them if they’re around, but they don’t sell them in the States.”

As an Edmonton, Alberta, native, DeMarco adopted Brooklyn, N.Y., as his home when his music career exploded. Though his debut album “2” generated chatter throughout the music blogosphere, “Salad Days,” cemented the allure of DeMarco’s irreverent nonchalance — defined by a portmanteau of indie, punk and rockabilly.

As a child, DeMarco dreamt of attaining technical proficiency on par with some of the greatest British rockers of yore. But as he matured, his perfectionism disappeared.

“When I started playing music when I was 14 or 15, I loved The Beatles, The Kinks and all these great old ‘60s bands,” DeMarco said. “I was under the impression that I’ve got to practice guitar forever and that only when I’m the master, will I be able to write songs. But then I listened to bands like Beat Happening and The Gories. With The Gories, I was like, ‘These guys get so drunk before they play and barely know how to play their instruments, but they’re amazing.’”

A Mac DeMarco track is an exercise in the art of imperfection. A guitar might be slightly out of tune, or the chord progressions may be ersatz, and DeMarco’s voice evokes a tinnier, untrained reincarnation of a raspy Frank Sinatra.

These slight imperfections make DeMarco’s music compelling. He embraces his limitations and owns them in a way that conveys artistry. His band is tight, adapting to these idiosyncrasies without batting a lash.

“I’m not a great musician. I really don’t know how — especially when I started — to record things properly,” DeMarco said. “Circumstantially, through not knowing what I was doing and not being able to rip something off, you end up with something of its own, rather than something that you’re trying to do.”

DeMarco’s laissez-faire, devil-may-care attitude won over legions of fans quickly, much to his surprise.

“As soon as we got our first really good Pitchfork review, things got crazy after that point,” DeMarco said.

While DeMarco credited Pitchfork for broadening his audience, he dismissed the site’s clout as merely “handy.”

“I feel like I have a built-in fan base at this point, which is comforting,” he said. “When you start getting into the realm of Pitchfork, people will like your music because people have been told to like your music. But if you get to the point where people are genuinely interested in following what you do, it’s not like a teeter-totter where it’s like, ‘Maybe we’ll just [expletive] leave you for the next band that gets a good review.’”

Negative press hasn’t jaded DeMarco one bit — he said he deals with it by tuning it out altogether. This allows him more time to experiment on future projects and fantasize about his dream collaboration with Elton John.

“Maybe I could become his boyfriend,” DeMarco said. “It’d be great to go on long walks on the beach, write a couple hits in the afternoon and lie down in bed together in the evening.”


What: Mac DeMarco
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: 7th Street Entry, 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis
Cost: $16 (Sold out)
Age: 18+