Anyone who has ever seen Mac Demarco live or has ever fallen into a YouTube hole of his weird and wonderful antics will know that he’s no stranger to a cover. His gigs are never complete without a lengthy diversion into all manner of tunes, with either the main man himself taking the reigns, or one of the band (w'ere looking at you Pierce and Joey) lending their vocal talents to proceedings.
Whether it’s a drunken snippet of a song, belted momentarily and spur of the moment or any of the number of the covers he’s recorded (semi) seriously, from obscure 70s Japanese folk to late 80s cult-indie, he’s really covered all the bases. Here we take a look at some of his most ridiculous, obscure and downright strange offerings.
Medley ('Take Five', 'Break Stuff', 'Blackbird')
Learning covers is a time-consuming business. With Mac on the road so often it seems he likes to keep things fresh by chucking in a few covers here and there but there isn’t always time to learn the whole song, no bother. Here Mac and his band smash through three covers in a strange sort of medley and one we’re confident has never been attempted before that brings together Dave Brubeck’s lounge-jazz classic ‘Take Five’, Limp Bizkit’s nu-metal thrasher ‘Break Stuff’ and The Beatles' simply sweet ‘Blackbird’.
All of this is at a breakneck speed that’ll have you rubbing your eyes wondering what just happened. While it;'s no doubt totally worth yyour while watching the entirety of Safe For Work (comfortably one of Mac's finest recorded performances) if you skip to 28.55 you'll be treated to this bizarre mash up of covers.
Vanessa Carlton - 'A Thousand Miles' (kind of)
For most musicians, a cover is serious undertaking. A carefully constructed tribute to a musical icon; changed just enough to offer a unique spin but with enough attention to detail so as to pay proper tribute to its original artist – not for Mac. This is best seen here on Mac’s cover of Vanessa Carlton’s early 2000s karaoke favourite ‘A Thousand Miles’.
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t know at least half the words to this one, other than Mac apparently. Here he replaces almost every line with “making my way down town” before his band begin to play at breakneck speed with Mac roaming the stage clapping, dancing around and drinking. Not exactly a homage then, but good fun.
Some of Mac’s covers though are a little more serious, if tongue-in-cheek. Here he performs a surprisingly pretty cover of Neil Young’s ‘Unknown Legend’, a genuine icon of Mac’s.
Reminding us that he can actually sing Mac giggles and grins his way through the high notes of this one nicely while breaking things up with characteristic silliness from outrageous (but impressive) piano solos and a brief interlude where he pays tribute to “Uncle Neil”’s Canadian heritage.
Steely Dan - 'Reelin' In The Years'
When talking about Steely Dan in an interview with the Guardian back in 2015, Mac was quoted as saying: "This is the kind of music I listen to now, more or less. It’s very different to the sad teenager music I used to listen to – a shift into full-blown session-musician dad rock. Now that I think about it, my own music is pulled between both sides."
This love for Walter Becker and Donald Fagen's yacht rock outfit was brought to the stage with an insanely brilliant, drawn out cover of their 1972 tune 'Reelin In The Years'. As per any Mac Demarco cover, the longer it goes on, the more ridiculous it gets - crowned with more guitar solos behind the head than you could ever dream of.
The key to any successful touring band is a group of likeminded musicians who have your back. Any die-hard Mac Demarco fan will be familiar with Pierce McGarry, Mac’s sometime loose-cannon and fellow oddball bandmate. When on the road with Mac, Pierce is unafraid to take centre stage and entertain.
At 2015’s Primavera festival when Mac broke a few strings and had to take a break, Pierce was quick to step in and offer up a bizarre and seemingly irrelevant monologue about Moby before launching into a cover of Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’. It’s safe to say Pierce might not be the greatest vocalist – but he gave it damn good go. Shout out to Moby for this one.
From time to time Mac will commit one of his many covers to record. For his cover of Paul McCartney’s ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’ he adopts a creepy voice that makes the whimsical Christmas track more unsettling than you could ever have imagined.
This is solidified by the frankly horrifying artwork where Mac and Paul have melded together in a “Christmas miracle” to become one, their thoughts shared as flies feast on the beauty of Christmas oozing from their pores… very festive.