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Mac DeMarco Explains His Mini-Album Of Love Songs, Track By Track

Mac DeMarco's Another One is out Aug. 7 via Captured Tracks. Coley Brown/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Coley Brown/Courtesy of the artist

Mac DeMarco's Another One is out Aug. 7 via Captured Tracks.

Coley Brown/Courtesy of the artist

"It's all love songs this time," says Mac DeMarco when we connect over Skype (cell reception at his place in Far Rockaway, Queens, is spotty) to talk about Another One, his latest mini-album. Make that love songs with little problems: Each of the songs on this charming, scruffy collection takes on love that's just out of reach, whether it's doomed from the start or just run its course. "It's just kind of like every angle of how somebody might feel if they're having strange feelings in their chest," DeMarco says.

The cover of Mac DeMarco's Another One.

Well-worn territory, but DeMarco inhabits it with the comfort of a local, testing the ways different styles can draw nuances out of similar themes. He recorded the album in that same Rockaway bedroom he called from (the same one whose address he gives out — "Stop on by, I'll make you a cup of coffee" — at the end of the album), but cautions, lest you get ideas from a certain Ramones song, that his neighborhood looks out on the bay, not the beach. "It's a whole different kettle of fish," he says. "The beach is where the sexy people go. The bay is where the people come, and maybe they have their sports boat or something, but it's the fisherman's side. It's not a fun water. It's beautiful, but it can also be disgusting."

DeMarco's as affable and breezy on the telephone as his mini-album of bayside would-be love songs is in your headphones, and as eager to reveal the inspiration behind a synth sound or guitar solo as he is to explore the hidden corners of ill-fated love. You can listen to all eight of the songs on Another One — and read about how they came together, in DeMarco's own words — below.

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1. The Way You'd Love Her
This song is kind of a slow song where it's like, "You don't get to love her," or him or whoever — in my tastes, her. It's like "Oh, she would be so, so enamored with the way you would if you could, but you can't." It's like an innocent feeling — an innocent outlook on love and excitement, I guess. I think it speaks partly to how the song [has] kind of a naive mentality, because it's that kind of stubbornness about having a crush on somebody or something. It's like, "I can't, but I bet I'd be really good at it." But that's ridiculous, and it turns into a fantasy thing. Having a relationship with someone is a lot more complicated than that in the first place. I don't know how to say it, but you know what I mean.

It's pretty much your standard guitar Mac Demarco song — a little drumbeat in there, nothing too crazy or new. But I really like the solo. I tried to do a little Robbie Robertson solo.

2. Another One
"Another One" is my favorite song on the album because I'm kind of a guitar player guy, so to write songs that are all keyboard and no guitar is a new thing for me. I'm not a great piano player or anything, but I can try to bang away a little bit. Sitting down at the piano to write songs, for me, is pretty interesting. Well, I mean, on the synthesizer — I don't have a piano.

I'm pretty comfortable on a guitar now. What I used to do with my old band is I would tune my guitar strings so I couldn't find chord shapes. So I wouldn't do something like, "Here's the major scale, here's the pentatonic scale," because I just had no idea where the notes were on the guitar anymore. It kind of forced me to find new shapes and new chord progressions and new things. On the piano, to the same respect, I never even learned how to play. So it's kind of the same thing where I know where notes are, and I know some chords and some chord variations and stuff, but a lot of times I'll just put my hand down and be like, "Oh, I like that. That works." I don't have the proper hand or fingering technique, so I'm just trying to figure out something that works for me that I can actually play. It's interesting, and I end up coming up with weird things.

This one is a little more of a narrative, so the singer is saying, "There's this girl out there, and she is in some kind of relationship thing," and then perhaps the singer's perspective is being the other man in sort of an entanglement.

3. No Other Heart
This one is another one I wrote on the piano, or I mean the synthesizer. I feel like this one is kind of bop-y. For some reason, the chord progression reminds me of a John Lennon chord progression because he had very simple, chunky piano parts in his songs. I like the chorus. I feel like the chorus is quite cute.

This one kind of mixes the scenes from the first two songs, where there's somebody out there, and you really want to love her and you think you'd really like her. It's that feeling where, "Maybe you've got something else going on, but if you came with me, I'd be able to make you real happy." It's that naivete or whatever, that arrogance, [that comes with] the excitement part of having a crush on somebody. It's the fantasy and the imagination — the initial feelings that come before things kind of get f***** up. Your heart starts pounding, you're all excited, and you get all these ideas and all these notions. But most of the time, it's not really going to work that way. But it doesn't matter at that point because it doesn't matter because your heart's beating so fast. Nothing else matters. You've got to be right about this.

4. Just To Put Me Down
This one's kind of a grumpier love one.

This one I kind of thought of a little more musically, because the lyrics are pretty simple and quite repetitive. As the music's gone on over the years, I've always tried to keep simplifying. I've pretty much just stopped writing bridges altogether. It's like verse-chorus-verse-double chorus. Keep it simple, keep it really short. Then on this one, I took it even a step further. There is a discernible chorus in it and there are different sections, but it's the exact same chord progression both times. It's kind of like a train rolling along. Maybe I didn't do the best job of it, but to have something that's extremely repetitive but also have it change in different ways slightly over the course of the recording is really interesting to me. That's another thing that I was kind of trying to play with as well.

I've become quite a big fan of the Grateful Dead over the last few years. I wouldn't consider myself a devout Deadhead or anything. I couldn't tell you my favorite live taping. I didn't go to the reunion shows or anything. But Jerry predominantly plays in a guitar scale called the mixolydian mode. At the end, there is a really long guitar solo that just goes to a fade-out. But live, now we can become a jam band with this song.

5. A Heart Like Hers
This is, I think, the first song I wrote for this album. I think was trying to make a little bit of a kind of R&B-style song, but it didn't really turn out that way. It's kind of that gloomy, pumping organ sound. I don't think I've got the funk in my bones enough to make something really funky or R&B or whatever. The thing that pushed [me] towards synths was I got into Yellow Magic Orchestra. But I can't play like that, so instead, I tried to do these chord changes and stuff. But I don't really know. For this one, it's got a different melody style in terms of the vocals than I usually go for. I was kind of surprised I was able to come up with it. It kind of reminds me of my music from a really long time ago, but that was all on guitar, so to be able to come up with that on synthesizer, it was kind of refreshing.

I wrote all [these songs] in about week, and then I recorded them over the next week and a half. I did it in the bedroom I'm sitting in right now. I have my desk against these two windows on the far side of the room, and I was sitting there for the most part. I had the four-track to my left. Out the windows is the Jamaica Bay, and across that is JFK Airport. So it's kind of like, I look out on the water, write these songs, turn around, turn the tape machine on and the drums are on the other side of the room. It's a nice place to do it. Far Rockaway, Queens, New York.

6. I've Been Waiting For Her
I didn't know if I was going to put [this one] on the album. It kind of had a little bit of a different vibe. But I figured, hey, a beach song, you know? I wanted to do maybe like a DBs feel or something, or quick little clean power pop stuff. This one's pretty self-explanatory, I guess. This is the, "I found her and I'm so excited," you know. It's like, "This is great. Here she is. What was I doing before?" It's just fun loving, easy, no harsh feelings in this song.

7. Without Me
I think it's a nice song to end everything with. Say you go through some kind of feelings of this nature, and then at the end, when you're finally like... "You know what? This isn't going to work out and that's totally fine." It's like coming to terms with that. It's like "Hope she's happy. It's okay. It's for the best, in a way." So yeah, I don't know. I think it made sense to me that it was one of the last songs on the EP.

[I tried out] this really weird, strange, warpy octave pedal on this song. It just kind of makes your guitar sound like a weird church organ or something strange. It's a cool thing. It's a weird, weird sound. And also, the funny thing about this song is I recorded it, and then I was like, "Maybe I'll put a synthesizer on here, too." I put this line that kind of runs through the song. But the funny thing is that I wasn't looking for the chords on the piano and playing them. I just kind of found some that sort of worked, but they're totally not the same chords that are going through the song. When I listen to the guitar chords solo and then I listen to the piano chords solo, they're in totally different keys, but for some reason, when they're played together, it makes this weird wishy-washy whole piece. But I don't know, musically speaking, how that worked at all.

8. My House By The Water
I did this one at the very end. I always like to throw something like this into my albums as a little something nice, just a little breather piece at the end. But for this one, I had a little keyboard line. Because I did write this song in my house here and I don't know how long I'll be living here, somewhere down the line, I'd like to be able to remember this place. So I went down and recorded the beach beside my house. I went down with a little field recorder. I live by the airport, too, so you hear the planes, and then just the sound of the neighborhood. I'll always be able to come back and remember, though.