The folk band’s sound has changed dramatically, but keeps the same catchiness throughout
“The days are no longer my own, to piss away the waking hours,” sings Dan Mangan in his hit song, “Robots.” The talented and wonderfully bearded folk singer, Dan Mangan, writes songs that’ll send a shiver down your spine—or conjure butterflies in your belly. Fans will remember the singer’s husky voice in that beautiful song. It was a ballad that could transport you to summer sunsets, road trips, and first loves. This folk-rock song, “Robots,” although enchantingly nostalgic, differs completely from what Dan Mangan and his band are up to now.
On Jan. 13, the 31-year-old Vancouver native released his new album, Club Meds, with Blacksmith after a few years off from touring.
The new album has quite a different feel than the artist’s three previous LPs; Postcards and Daydreaming, Nice, Nice, Very Nice, and the Juno-award-winning album, Oh Fortune. In his past albums, Mangan’s folk sound was dominant, and could easily make a person sway and smile. Club Meds has a darker, more psychedelic sound to it. Mangan explains that the change happened quite naturally. He took a few years off after Oh Fortune, and he feels as though his time off made him curious about trying new things. “I think it’s just about getting older, and having a natural desire to try different things. After having some time off, I felt there was a new essence to what we were doing,” Mangan said.
Another change is the new name found for his beloved backing band. “It was something we talked about years ago; we were just looking for the right name to come along, and when they found Blacksmith, it just fit,” he said. Mangan speaks very highly of his musicians, and isn’t afraid to share the fact that he has been in a serious relationship for many years. “I’ve been married to these guys for a long time. Going on tour, you are with the same people 24/7. We get on each other’s nerves, but we have a lot of fun. Blacksmith are seasoned, and schooled musicians,” he said.
Club Meds is a confident and assertive album because it offers-up an original sound; it mixes moody psychedelic music while keeping their indie-rock roots. The first track,“Vessel,” is a perfect example of the band’s new sound. The rhythm is hard to follow—the drum and guitar beats seem to stretch out—and the intro to the song is very Radiohead-esque. Mangan’s voice on “Vessels” perfectly portrays how his voice has evolved with every album released—his voice, now, finds itself at a register that’s lower and huskier.
“I think this is what this album is about; appreciating the darkness and the complexity and distracting yourself from it. There is a great postponing that we do where we push back having to deal with our problems,” he said.
One of Mangan’s biggest inspirations is the legendary author, George Orwell. “He is a remarkable man. He has this capability to see things in humanity, and has incredible creative instincts that are very admirable.”
One of the most admirable things about the singer is that he tells it like it is: “I am very happy in this point in my life. I believe happiness is a choice and I feel that anyone can rationalize reasons for self-pity. Some people are born into incredible privileges and some are born directly into poverty. Every day you kind of have to decide to be happy. You have to appreciate the little things. Life is hard and beautiful and sometimes fucked-up, but that’s just what it is.”
Mangan practices that same straightforward take on life in his career. He believes that in order to get to the top, you have to work hard.
“I started playing guitar when I was 10; I was in a band in high school and around those years. Of course, life happens, people move away. So I played in open mics, and took whatever gigs I could get. I started trying to scratch some money together to make some recordings and play wherever they would have me,” he said. There is no magic trick or shortcut to success—Mangan went with the flow and his popularity grew as he kept working.
Mangan seems to pick the coolest things to get involved with. During his time off, he was presented with a new project to test his talent. He was asked to write the score for Peter Chelsom’s quirky independent film, Hector and the Search for Happiness.
“It was kind of magical. We decided to take a break from touring. Literally days after I told my manager about taking some time off, I got an email from one of the producers asking me if I was interested in doing some score work. It was totally serendipitous. I closed a window and another one was opening already,” he said.
There isn’t much Mangan doesn’t do; he’s a father, a husband, a writer from time to time, a two-time Juno award winner, a score composer—oh, and an incredible musician.
If you want to witness how cool these guys are first-hand, Mangan and Blacksmith are coming to Montreal Feb. 21 at the Virgin Mobile Corona Theatre.