An interview with Dan Mangan

The indie singer talks his latest album, backing band and scoring a film

(Dave Lichterman/Creative Commons)

(Dave Lichterman/Creative Commons)

Dan Mangan is a singer songwriter from Vancouver who has won two Junos, scored the Simon Pegg film Hector and the Search for Happiness, and occasionally written for Huffington Post Canada and The Guardian’s arts section. In January, he released his fourth LP Club Meds. Mangan will play the Coast Hotel Kamloops Theatre solo on Nov. 22, the fourth stop in a cross-country tour.

Marlys Klossner: Where did the sedation theme for Club Meds come from?

Dan Mangan: It’s funny, I think for every one of my records when I first start working on it I don’t have a huge intention or angle on it, and then after the songs are put together I start noticing patterns and lyrical connections. I’ve been an opinionated person for a long time, but when I was younger I didn’t put those opinions into songs. I had a little bit of a softer touch. With this record, as I got into it, I found myself not angry, but incensed with a lot of things that I see in myself and in the world. There’s a natural tendency for us to waver back and forth between feeling incredibly connected and aware of the streams of thought and energy around us, and other times having our eyes closed, head in the sand, and just focusing on the next task. I think we all do that and if we were to spend too much time at either end of the spectrum that wouldn’t be helpful for us.

MK: For Club Meds you had a sort of re-unification with your band Blacksmith, with whom you share top billing for the album. How did that come about?

DM: These are the same guys I’ve been working with for many years, but the writing process has definitely been a little more collaborative than it was in the past. Before I used to have a song pretty much fleshed out and they’d play along. This time around when we got together I had lyrics and melodies but I hadn’t totally figured out how the song was going to sound, and so the guys’ musical expertise held a lot of weight onto how the songs were put together. I think if you know me and the other guys in the band quite well, you can kind of hear everyone’s different personalities come through in certain songs. Everybody really gave it everything they had. I think because I gave the guys a little more responsibility with this record, they took that responsibility head on and really wanted to make sure to give it their best.

MK: Do you have a favourite place to play?

DM: We have our spots. I love playing at home in Vancouver, of course. Germany’s been really great for us, we love touring in Germany. We’re consistently overwhelmed by the response over there. They have a particular kind of way of being really attentive and listening at shows and it’s really normal over there for people to drive two or three hours to go to a gig. That’s been a sort of second home to Canada. Great shows can happen anywhere at any time, so there’s not really one place.

MK: What was scoring a movie (Hector and the Search for Happiness) like?

DM: It was a lot of work, sort of humbling in a lot of ways. I had operated in a space of getting my own way creatively all the time and feeling like I knew what I was doing. Being in a scenario where I was very much the rookie and having to prove myself was good for me. I learned a lot. I hadn’t been in a situation where I was collaborating on a project that was way bigger than my part of it. It was really fun. Getting to hang out with the actors, getting the behind-the-scenes scoops – also just creatively it was a really fun task. I probably wouldn’t want to do it all the time but every couple of years would be a trip.

MK: It seems like almost every year you put out some new music. What can we expect from you next year?

DM: Right now I’m working on a little EP, not a full record. It’s kind of stripped down, going back to my solo roots. I’ve been in the studio messing around, but no full-length album anytime soon.