MANHATTAN, NY—Vernor Winfield McBriare Smith IV was born in British Columbia, Canada, and was raised in Alberta. He was named after his great-grandfather, Vernor Winfield Smith, who was the Minister of Railways and Telephones in Alberta in the 1920s. His mother changed his name to McBriare Samuel Lanyon DeMarco when he was five years old. It was not long before he was nicknamed Mac DeMarco.
DeMarco came from musical roots. His maternal grandmother was an opera singer in New York City and later became a teacher at the Alberta College Conservatory of Music. His grandfather played the saxophone, his aunt was a singer and his mother was a musician. DeMarco began playing music at the age of 14 and played in several bands while in high school. Upon graduating from high school in 2008, he moved to Vancouver, where he became a multi-instrumentalist and a multimedia artist. There he launched his recording career in 2009, calling himself Makeout Videotape. He also worked on what he called “psychedelic” video projects. DeMarco moved again to Montreal in 2011, but failed to find work as a musician. To earn cash, he participated in medical experiments and worked on a road paving crew. He persisted in recording and releasing singles, EPs and albums, however, and gained a small word-of-mouth following. He moved to Brooklyn in 2013 and released the Salad Days album on April 1, 2014.
DeMarco’s early recordings included skits, slowed-down vocals and adventurous arrangements. His style of music has been described as “blue wave,” “slacker rock” and “off-kilter pop,” and his live shows were often spectacles that included off-color jokes, nudity and lewd acts. In recent years, he seemed like a candidate for the Jackass series. None of this was evident when DeMarco performed a free in-store appearance at the Other Music record store on March 27. Accompanied only with his acoustic guitar, his songs were simplified to where he appeared to be a traditional singer-songwriter, albeit more jovial than self-revealing. One might think he was maturing, but he is still only 23 years old. There was a hint of a transition from his crazier days, however, as he sang the chorus to the song “Salad Days”: “Oh mama, actin’ like my life’s already over/Oh dear, act your age and try another year.”
With an electric band, DeMarco might sound more unique. Solo tonight, the bare-bones approach was enjoyable but less than riveting.