In September 2012 I arrived in Exeter, heavy laden with the same jumbled assortment of emotions I imagine most people feel when they leave home for the first time. Now some people adjust quite quickly, others take longer, and then there’s a few of course who never manage to. I’m not a very sentimental person, but nonetheless I can still remember for the entirety of my first week I had this sort of breathless feeling in my chest. It was a bit like being on a rollercoaster, right before it’s all about to kick off, and your heart rises to your throat, and your lungs shrink in your chest. I had a great time during fresher’s week, but I couldn’t shake it.
It was around about the same time that Mac Demarco – aged 22 – released his debut album, 2. Music, as so often is the case, was a big part of Mac’s life growing up. His grandparents were musicians, his mum and his aunt had dabbled, and so when Mac caved aged 14 and picked up a guitar, he had fate on his side. When he then left high school at 18, he moved from his hometown Edmunton to Vancouver and continued to work on his music. By most accounts, deciding to live as an artist is pretty brave – especially one as idiosyncratic as Mac Demarco. But Mac took it in his stride; he had always been laid back and goofy in equal measure. It’s why the ‘slacker-rock’ label, which has undeniably been thrust upon him, has stuck so resiliently amongst his fans. In the world of Mac Demarco, nothing is taken too seriously.
Back in 2012, I was probably someone who took things too seriously. Looking back on it I feel a twinge of regret; the past three years have changed me quite a bit as a person, and becoming more relaxed has been a big part of that, but it’s sad to think I wasted away so much of that first week by worrying. Don’t get me wrong, I did some pretty goofy things in my first year. I believe there was one instance that resulted in me wearing some rather skimpy women’s underwear. But a lot of that was for show – I was a nervous wreck, I just didn’t want anyone to realise.
Music can make us feel lots of different things – it’s something I’ve spoken about at length. One of the most infectious of these is aspiration. And whilst it may seem odd, especially to people familiar with Mac Demarco’s work, for me to say his music made me feel that way, it’s the unshakeable truth. When I first listened to 2, not long following its release, and watched some videos of Mac Demarco on the Internet, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit jealous. He was making a living from being himself, and none of it seemed to frighten or stir him in the slightest. I don’t want to be Mac Demarco though – I’m quite happy being Will Cafferky – but I envied his attitude. There was something so heart warming about seeing the way he enjoyed himself on stage, even if that did on occasion manifest in some rather unsavoury ways (putting a drumstick up his arse, for instance)
So when it came to the music itself, all of this stuff acted as a bit of a backdrop. In amongst the intermittent nerves and exaggerated drama of my first year of university, listening to Mac Demarco became a bit of a reflective release. 2 is an album oozing with personable confidence; Mac bounces from the goofball biopic Freaking Out The Neighbourhood to the sincerely beautiful The Stars Keep Calling My Name with a consistent tranquillity that can only come from someone with a great deal of inner peace. Even in those moments when Mac is seemingly heartbroken, take My Kind Of Woman for example, he seems so at ease with his emotions, so comfortable in his own skin. And so I found that, whenever I was feeling particularly hysterical or found myself taking it all a bit too seriously, I’d listen to 2 from start to finish. It served as a sort of emotional benchmark – a reminder that it was possible to be happy and relaxed, weird and popular, comfortable and successful.
This album is all about Mac. And yet it’s incredible, commendable even, that something this creatively selfish can deliver a message with such universal utility: it’s good to be you, relax and enjoy it.