Mac is very serious about pinball. They shared an apartment for a while, but toward the end of their stay, they were just crashing on friends' floors and sofas. It is filled with furniture Mac has found on the streets, as well as his instruments and recording gear.
On the far side of the room, there is a loft bed with Mac's desk and workspace beneath it. Several of Mac's own concert posters adorn the walls, as well as some photographs, including one of him doing a naked handstand in one of the Great Lakes. He cannot remember which one. When Mac finally comes out of the bathroom, he goes right to work with his new toy. He intensely fiddles with his camera and the mini-television thing he just bought in hopes that it will play the Phoenix tour footage.
He briefly stops to turn on his current favorite album: While McCartney's claustrophobic and completely bizarro electro-pop tune ' Temporary Secretary ' zips along, Mac searches for some wires to connect the camera and the mini-TV. He finds them, but the connection does not work. But we can still watch the tour clips with one eye through the videocamera's viewfinder, so that is what I do. Like most tour scenes, it is pretty boring. There are long shots of the road and traffic and trees and Mac and his bandmates — guitarist Peter Sagar, bassist Pierce McGarry, and drummer Joe McMurray — drinking beer and goofing off to kill time.
I cannot tell what they are saying, because there is no sound, but they look exhausted and delirious and happy. It wasn't the funnest thing because their audience didn't really care about us. We get offered a lot of support tours, but I don't like doing them. I guess it would be cool if it was with a band I really admired, but we might as well do our own tour or bring along bands I really like, like Naomi Punk or our other friends' bands.
For now, Mac is not thinking about the road. He is on vacation, spending his summer doing as much nothing as possible. Plus, my whole job is partying, so when I'm not on the road, I just want to stay home. There will be a new album out next year, but there is no rush. Mac has not been able to completely shutdown his onstage persona, though. He is spending his summer in Brooklyn, and so he is recognized on the streets by fans more than he has ever been in the past. It sounds trite, but really, if you walk around certain parts of Brooklyn, you will inevitably see a member of a buzz-y indie-rock band.
Earlier, at Green Village, I am pretty sure one of the people rummaging through the junk was Samantha Urbani, of Friends. Sometimes it's fine, but some of these fans are really fucking crazy, man. People recognize Kiera now, too, which is partly my fault, I guess, because I brought her on stage at Pitchfork [Music Festival]. That was Mac's doozy of a birth name.
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He was one of those 'Christmas Dads' who just pops in on the holidays. My mother was the one who raised me. The nickname stuck. Mac spent his formative years in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta. That's the scene. So many jocks and chongos go there with their super-tight shirts and jacked abs. Hockey players and Ed Hardy-type assholes. Those guys wear Lacoste moon boots and sketchy, pre-faded jeans. Mac played soccer as a kid, but he spent more time playing video games. He loved the 'Final Fantasy' series. When he was 13, he got so deep into computer programming he announced he wanted to be a computer programmer when he grew up.
This was Mac's way of rebelling against his family, which included several musicians. His aunt sang in a band called Hot City Brass. He recently found some old tapes of her performing, and he digitized them. He plays a song for me and we sit silently for a minute listening to his grandmother's beautiful, bellowing voice.
On his last album, '2,' he even named a song after her. Since they thought I was gay, I could get away with a lot of sketchy shit, like going up and smelling them. The girls knew I wasn't gay, though. It was weird. The guys left me alone. Lots of jocks. I did my own thing and nobody really bothered me.
Mac says he drank a lot of beer in high school, but he also did pretty well in his classes.
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He was in the honors program, though he was not initially accepted because of his hard work. I found out they were in all the advanced placement classes, so I went to the principal and asked if I could get in. In his senior year, Mac began regularly skipping school. He was spending more and more time playing guitar, and hanging out in the recording studio with his band Outdoor Miners , who took their name from the song by English post-punks Wire.
One day, his French teacher approached him about skipping so many of her classes and he told her he was too busy playing in a rock band. She asked Mac if he thought playing rock music was more important than learning French. Mac, of course, replied: But he graduated anyway. He stuck around Edmonton for a few months, working as a day laborer with a road construction crew.
After saving up some money, he moved to Vancouver. Right before he left, Mac started making blown-out and noisy weirdo-pop music under the name Makeout Videotape. He played all the instruments himself, and he put some of the songs up on MySpace. He did not play any shows while he was in Edmonton, but things started to take off in Vancouver.
He stayed for three years.
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I met all these year-old indie-rock people. In Edmonton, I'd talk about bands I liked and nobody knew what I was talking about, but in Vancouver, people knew more than me! I met all these girls and took them out on bike dates. I was really into meeting chicks back then. I was really into being a social character. Now I don't care: I just want to sit in this room by myself with no windows.
But I wanted to be super-cool and meet all these people back then. He worked at Starbucks for a spell, but that did not work out. Can you imagine Mac, deviously grinning, handing you a cup of coffee from behind the counter? He then somehow landed a job with a social work-oriented community center. He applied to teach basic computer literacy courses, but the management there was so disorganized, they accidentally assigned Mac to teach classes at a nearby high school.
Some of them were older than me! It was super-fucked up, but cool, and I didn't say anything because it paid really well. I wasn't a very good teacher, and the kids looked at me strange.
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They could tell I was just some guy off the street who wasn't supposed to be there. They were like, 'What the fuck are you doing here? It was super-cool. Mac started recording more of his own music, too. There were memorable melodies, but they were buried under layers of hiss and gunk. Mac might not have known how to use his recording equipment, but through the scuzz you can hear the first stirrings of his smooth croon and warped-pop sound. Toro Y Moi. Toro Y Moi guest programs Dusty Fingers Toro Y Moi brought some percussive 80s groove in to play on Dusty Fingers, and discussed his journey into the Mojave desert where his latest live album and concert film was recorded.
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Interview – The life and times of a Flashflooder
I wanna see more, show me what you got. It's been two years since the last Toro Y Moi studio album, but you've released three more records in between. Is your constant stream of productivity getting tiring? I've been wanting to cut back on touring to make more records, and that's something I started doing last year. I really admire The Beatles for quitting touring and just making records that are better and better. That's the model I want to follow. The last time we talked, you expressed ambivalence about making music as a long-term career option—that you wanted to focus more on design in the future.
I'm still feeling the same way. I'm not married to the music career, but I love making music. The visual arts are still a passion, so I'm going to be juggling those two—one as a hobby, the other as a career. What do you like about living in Oakland? Coming from the South, California's always been a symbol of progressive thinking.
The sun is so abundant, too—it draws you in and it's really good for emotional support too. I go on hiking trails or to the beach three times a week to take a step back from the studio and calm down. The like-minded people and the nature really makes me want to stay there. Do you find yourself taking on more work in times of emotional turmoil? In a way. It's definitely cathartic to zone out and get the creative process started. At the same time, it's my career and it's very overwhelming, so a lot of the time I was just listening to ambient music and thinking, "Do I want to go bigger?
Do I want to stay the same? Now that I'm doing this for myself and not for someone else, where do I go from here? It's what humans are built to do. We think too much, so we gotta do something. After your breakup, how did you adjust to being alone again? I got into body work and yoga and giving myself five minutes of silence in the morning. Once I have my cup of coffee, I'm on the computer, emailing, and making music for 12 to 14 hours.
I've been really into going out and getting meals and seeing movies by myself—giving myself alone time as opposed to feeling like I'm just alone. Really, I'm surrounded by people all the time, so I've just been trying to appreciate being alone.