We Interviewed Pierce McGarry, Bassist for Mac DeMarco, and Maker of Creepy Videos

By Avery Nettle

Montreal-based musician and filmmaker Pierce McGarry makes creepy films, but he's not really a creep. McGarry’s style falls somewhere between Desperate Teenage Lovedolls and The Hardcore Collection, but with more of an innocent curiosity of sound, sexuality, and psychedelics, rather than a mature one. The low-fi feel of his music videos and shorts is not by choice, but due to lack of money. Like most “artists” (who live on an “artists” salary), McGarry uses whatever cameras or computers are available to him. He’s worked with everything, including broken equipment and borrowed machines, and he doesn’t really mind. It just adds to his creative process. In short, McGarry is no diva. He’s a bum with a vision and a weird, weird way of executing it.

McGarry just got home from a two-month tour (he plays bass in Mac DeMarco’s band as well as his own project Walter TV) and is back to making videos. We caught up with him on video chat while he was at his neighbor’s house stealing their Internet connection.

VICE: What was the first video you ever made?
Pierce McGary: The first video I ever made was when I was a child. It was with Stretch Armstrong dolls and I broke the camera. It was my dad’s camera from [his] school and I broke it. I got in a lot of trouble.
 
Why did your dad have a camera for school?
My dad taught religion at a high school. He would bring a camera home so I could fuck around with it. I broke it. I got in a ton of shit.
 
How did you break it?
I don’t remember. I just broke it. I was a child.
 
What was the premise of the Stretch Armstrong plot?
It was a play. It was a diabolical scheme. An enemy verses enemy kind of thing. Man versus nature.
 
You have made some interesting music videos for Mac DeMarco, White Poppy, White Lung and a few others. What kind of camera do you choose to work with?
I usually just use whatever is available. For “She’s Really All I Need” we had access to fancy cameras because we were filming it at a studio in Concordia [University]. I used a very nice HD camera. But, most of the time I usually use a VHS camera. I’ll go with that. If I can, I'll shoot with film.
 
What did you use for the White Poppy video?
That was a broken VHS. That’s why it looks so junky. For that video I just thought that the music sounded so gnarly, like, the way it chugs along. It sounded like a bunch of shirtless skinheads pumping their fists. I wanted to have a bunch of people dancing really hardcore and make it gritty. That one was easy to make because I liked the song so much. We filmed it in a railroad crossing in Montreal and then the rest in Vancouver at Crystal [Dorval of White Poppy]’s house.

What is the most important thing for you when constructing a music video?
It has to go with the style of music, but the narrative is not important. It has to be exciting the whole way through or else it's just pointless to me. I like watching my videos way after I'm done with them and if I get excited, then it was a good video.
 
How do you make it exciting?
Trial and error. I will also watch it a million times when I am editing and if I get bored while watching it, I will delete it and start again.
 
Do you ever want to go beyond the music video and the borrowed VHS cameras? What do you have up your sleeve these days?

Right now I'm working on a few movies. I just recently shot a television series, but it's not serious, it's a comedy. It’s mostly fake infomercials for made-up, obscure sex products. Then, the real movie I'm working on is about train hoppers. I have new music videos coming out that I made for White Lung and Collage Party [recently signed to Captured Tracks]. There are some more in the works.

Do you make music videos just because you are involved in the music scene and your friends want things for cheap, or do you like it?
I grew up watching MuchMusic and taping my favorite shows, which I am sure you did too. I liked Prodigy’s “Fire Starter," Christina Aguilera's “Dirty,” and Britney’s “I’m A Slave 4 U." I watched those a lot as a young teen. They're fantastic videos. Weezer had some great ones too. I loved “The Sweater Song." I liked “Dope Show” by Marilyn Manson. It made me feel weird.
 
Don’t you think that since you're in a band you should be documenting your tours so that you can turn it into something later?
That was the plan on this last tour, but I just kind of forgot. Plus, when you film, you're removed from the experience. I’d rather just be living it.

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