It’s ‘slacker’ that he gets most of all, though, which is perhaps the most inaccurate term of the lot. You only need to see him perform once to grasp how much of a gifted guitarist DeMarco is, although, of course, he does his best to pull focus from that, stripping naked, drinking heavily, calling his audience ‘peasants’. He first picked up the instrument when he was 14 and took lessons for a year; progressing quickly from the AC/DC riffs he initially wanted to learn. He chose to quit and start his own bands when he sensed that his teacher, having noticed his early potential, was trying to turn him into a jazz-fusion guitarist. “Fuck that!” he says.
His first groups were overtly novelty acts; I suspect as a defence mechanism that he still has in place today, in part, at least. The Meat Cleavers took the piss out of chongos, performing shit-fi garage tunes about Nascar and “redneck shit”. ‘Going To The Bar’ and ‘Fuck Me by the Poolside’ are two of their more memorable song titles. The first show they ever played was at a skate park in a sketchy part of town, “hooker central”, after they’d sent joke threatening letters to Edmonton’s local promoters saying, “Give us a show or we’re going to beat the fucking shit out of you.” That the strategy worked only seems to confirm DeMarco’s stories of a hometown up for a fight.
A second group – playing smooth RnB and called The Sound of Love – was then formed to act as DeMarco’s vehicle for wooing girls from his school… or slagging them off for turning him down. “I was kind of a jerk in high school,” he says.
At his shows today, his encores – where he and his band play a medley of ridiculous covers, including tracks by Neil Young, Limp Bizkit and Metallica – have become a draw of their own. It’s the daftest part of the evening and ironically where the true extent of his work ethic is most realised – fucking a guitar whilst shredding ‘Enter Sandman’ is not something easily mastered, and besides, when was the last time you heard of a young guitarist who even took lessons?
“The whole concept of encores is so hilarious and stupid to me,” he says, “so we use it to play covers and do something outrageous. A show’s gotta be a good time. I’m not there to bum people out.”
He finds the term ‘slacker’ a little tiring, essentially because it undermines the effort put into making the music, which is pretty much the only area of DeMarco’s life that is free from gags. “Sometimes I’ll sit down for an interview and the guy’s thinking, [DeMarco adopts his hoarse villain voice again] ‘I’m going to get a kooky-ass interview – this guy’s pretty much fucking retarded’, and then when I can put sentences together they’re like, what the fuck’s going on, this isn’t what I planned. It’s strange,” he says, “but it’s my life now, and I’ve come to accept that.” He ends a lot of sentences in a similar way, sometimes with a simple “… but it’s ok,” emphasising that there are worst things in the world he could be worried about. And he knows that it’s all his own doing, too – his overriding image as village idiot. “If you do something where people have to double take, it makes them pay more attention,” he says, and so when his label suggested that he release ‘Salad Days’ on April Fool’s Day, he just couldn’t resist.
DeMarco has become Captured Track’s biggest artist (a fact that he insists will change as soon as Wild Nothing and Diiv release more music), but last year the two had their first major run-in. He calls ‘Salad Days’ his “therapy” and “meditation”, and considering its underlining theme of a young man coming to terms with new pressures put on him due to his own success, the last thing he wanted to hear from his label was that they needed another upbeat track to pitch to late night television shows. He’d never been asked to change anything before, and when Captured Tracks asked if he could re-record an old song from his previous band, Makeout Videotape, it was like poking a hornets’ nest with a shitty stick.