The Bowery Presents
Mac DeMarco

Mac DeMarco

special guests Delicate Steve

Thu, August 20, 2015

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

Warsaw

Brooklyn, NY

$30 advance / $35 day of show

Sold Out

This event is 18 and over

Mac DeMarco
Mac DeMarco
Before you ancients out there turn your heads and scoff at the premise of a twenty-something rock-and-roll goofball calling himself an old-anything, consider this: said perpetrator, he who answers to the name Mac DeMarco, has spent the better part of his time thus far writing, recording, and releasing an album of his own music pretty much every calendar flip, and pretty much on his own. The fresh meat you’re now feasting on, This Old Dog, makes for his fifth in just over half a decade—bringing the total to 3 LPs and 2 EPs. According to the DMV, MacBriare Samuel Lanyon DeMarco is 26. But in working-dog years, ol’ Mac here could easily qualify for social security. To stay gold, turns out all he needed was some new tricks.

Though used to and pretty happy with that annual grind, it was a little space—in time, location, and method—that inspired DeMarco while making the record. Moving from his isolated Queens home to a house in Los Angeles helped give the somewhat transient Canada-native a broader base, and a few more months on his calendar to create did their job as well. Arriving in California with a grip of demos he’d written in New York, he realized after a few months of setting up his new shop—complete with a few new toys—that the gap was giving him perspective (insert tooth joke here).

“This one was spaced out,” DeMarco says. “I demoed a full album, and as I was moving to the West Coast I thought I’d get to finishing it quickly. But then I realized that moving to a new city and starting a new life takes time. And it was weird, because usually I just write, record, and put it out; no problem. But this time, I wrote them and they sat. When that happens, you really get to know the songs. It was a different vibe.”

DeMarco wrote some demos for This Old Dog on an acoustic guitar, an unusual yet eye-opening method for him. “The majority of this album is acoustic guitar, synthesizer, some drum machine, and one song is electric guitar. So this is a new endeavor for me.”

And from the outset, from the pops and clicks of the CR-78 and acoustic strums on the album-opening “My Old Man,” the synth-drenched beauty of the second track, “This Old Dog,” and that ironic recurring word itself, it’s clear that DeMarco’s bag is filled with new tricks indeed. This Old Dog is rooted more in a synth-base than any of his previous releases, but he is careful not to let that tactic overshadow the other instruments and overall “unplugged” mood of the work. In fact, DeMarco recognizes that he might share more than just a geographical flight-path with a certain Canadian-cum-Californian songwriter.

“I think what I was trying to do is make Harvest with synthesizers,” he laughs. “But I don’t think I even came close to the mark—something else entirely came out. This is my acoustic album, but it’s not really an acoustic album at all. That’s just what it feels like, mostly. I’m Italian, so I guess this is an Italian rock record.”

Speaking of roots, while it’s known that DeMarco’s family history is complicated at best, the songs here may be the closest glimpse into his personal life and relationships with his kin he’s ever allowed. But then again, they may not be. Only one thing is certain: the titular mutt, naturally, is DeMarco himself, and as he brings us into his world, he makes sure it’s from his own hard-earned vantage point and measured post.

“This record has a lot to do with my family and my life right now and the way I’m feeling and stuff,” he says. “One of the main goals for this record was trying to make sure I retained some kind of realness. That’s the bottom line. Being in any sort of spotlight can be jarring, especially when you’re not preoccupied with touring and you’re just sitting in your house writing songs. But wherever my bedroom is, the records are gonna be whatever is happening in there. I could be in Alaska and I’m sure it wouldn’t change things much.”

Despite the changes considered during the creation of This Old Dog, Mac DeMarco’s mid-twenties masterpiece, it’s clear that the engine that motors him is in no danger of slowing down.

“As long as I feel real then there’s nothing else that matters,” he says. “Making these albums is just something that I have to do, and so I do it.”

This Old Dog is out now on Captured Tracks.
special guests Delicate Steve
special guests Delicate Steve
The first time I heard any of this music, Steve was giving me a lift home after a Nat Baldwin show. We were going up Allen Street in Manhattan, and I'd finally convinced him to play me something from the new album. "This is going to be the last song," he said, and put on "Luna." OK, maybe I'd had a couple of beers, but in the dark of night the lights of passing cars and neon signs glowed molten and forlorn just like Steve's guitar, and there was a serene space in the music as if it were the eye of a storm. It was one of those times when surroundings, moment and music combine to make a powerful impression. I'll always remember it.

And that's a big part of Delicate Steve - the mystical synergy that music can have with life. It's why the new album is called Positive Force. "I want to put out a positive feeling," says Steve. "It's so much more fun to get people all excited and uplifted."

And like its predecessor, 2010's also aptly titled Wondervisions, Positive Force really is uplifting, straight outta the idyllic, tree-lined streets of Steve's hometown of Fredon, deep in rural New Jersey, where he wrote and recorded this album. (Listen closely and you can hear the local crickets in a couple of songs.) Maybe it's a little more burnished, leisurely and cunningly layered this time, but there's still that winsome Delicate Steve charm, by turns tender and triumphant, of songs like "Big Time Receiver" or "Afria Talks to You." These are eleven soulful, unabashedly heartfelt variations on the theme of joie de vivre, and each of them is kind of irresistible.

Steve not only played all the instruments on the album - very much including the lyrical and virtuosic guitar that defines the album - but he recorded the entire thing, and mixed it too. And that's all very impressive, but the thing to remember is, Steve is first and foremost a songwriter. His compositions have verses and choruses and sometimes even bridges. It's just that he doesn't happen to be a vocalist. So he gets his guitar to do that. That's why, funnily and miraculously enough, this is instrumental music you can sing along to.

Actually, a few songs do have vocals - besides "Two Lovers," there's "Big Time Receiver," "Touch," and "Redeemer." (Steve sings, joined occasionally by Christian Peslak and Mickey Sanchez from the crackerjack Delicate Steve live band) And even then, the human voice is just another instrument. "As guitar-driven as this album might be," Steve says, "I didn't want it to feel like an instrumental record. I wanted it to have a more encompassing thing, so it couldn't be called instrumental." So Steve calls it wordless music.

But where on earth does this wordless music come from? Steve says the inspirations for Positive Force included a bunch of classic rock, like Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and the Kinks. You can hear the Beach Boys in "Love," the title of "Afria Talks to You" is a deliberately misspelled reference to Sly Stone, the guitar playing on "Tallest Heights" is Steve's tribute to Michael Jackson's vocal style, and "Luna" is a tribute to Miles Davis. Steve's ultra-expressive, melodic slide work hails back to Derek & the Dominos and George Harrison, and I hear some serious proto-Delicate Steve in Santana's sublime "Samba Pa Ti," not to mention various Afro-pop and all reggae's sunsplashed variations.

But there's a futuristic gleam to Delicate Steve that deletes all comparison to just about anything except maybe contemporaries like Yeasayer, Ratatat and the late, great Ponytail. Yeasayer's Anand Wilder, a big Delicate Steve fan, said the music reminded him of early '80s stuff by French-Beninese musician Wally Badarou, who also made bright, upbeat music drenched in ecstatic sunshine. (That explains the title of "Wally Wilder.")

You might notice the hot licks all over Positive Force. Or you might not, since they're so tastefully deployed. That's a big reason why Steve has become a go-to guitarist in the New York-area underground. One night in December last year, he played at downtown NYC avant music club the Stone with a riveting side project by Anand Wilder - and he was so great that the next band, which featured members of Javelin, Man Man and Cibo Matto, asked him to sit in. In 2011, he did an exquisite collaborative single with the great Brooklyn band Callers, sat in with Nat Baldwin from Dirty Projectors, Akron/Family, Fang Island, Janka Nabay, Yellow Ostrich and Ra Ra Riot, and that May, the Delicate Steve live band backed up Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo and Les Savy Fav's Tim Harrington on some smokin' Minutemen covers at yours truly's Our Band Could Be Your Life tribute concert in New York.

All this stuff happens not just because Steve is a splendid musician but because he and his music exude what we call in the business "a good vibe." That feeling permeates every nook and cranny of this record. In a world that does its level best to validate every bitter, cynical thought you've ever had, Positive Force is, in its own delightful way, provocative - it challenges you to accept unqualified sweetness and warmheartedness. "The world is already so full of stuff," Steve observes. "So if you're going to put something in, why not make it something good, instead of adding more negativity. That's part of the mission statement."
Venue Information:
Warsaw
261 Driggs Ave.
Brooklyn, NY, 11222
http://www.warsawconcerts.com