Dan Mangan has been around the musical bend a few times over the course of his 16-year career. Now on the road touring for his latest record, Mangan brings a more direct approach to his work than ever before.
In November 2018, the Vancouverite released his fifth studio album, More or Less. Unlike Mangan’s 2015 release titled Club Meds — which was a busy, midi-infused sonic statement — More or Less is a sparse record that draws strength from its somber simplicity. Lyrically, the album is what longtime listeners love about Mangan — it is selfdeprecating, thoughtful and questioning but not dogmatic while he contemplates aging, family life and the ties that bind.
In “Cold in The Summer,” the record’s “bummer jam” in Mangan’s words, the songsmith talks about no longer being a kid trying to make it in the music industry and the tepidity of domesticity after a life on the road. These reflections on family life, which are more wistful than lamentful, pervade the rest of the record. For Mangan, his kids — or raising them, anyways — were a major influence on how More or Less turned out.
“Life just gets so much more complicated. The concept of time and what you can get done changes so drastically… You try to make things more efficient,” Mangan said. “I have so little time to focus on things beyond my kids, and I don’t want that time used up with bullshit. If you direct that into songwriting, I have less time to make wandering, musical things.”
While Mangan says that he doesn’t have as much time now that he has kids, he has still managed to keep busy in recent years. In addition to scoring five episodes of the Netflix cartoon Hilda, Mangan also runs Arts & Crafts subsidiary record label Madic Records and cocreated the house-show startup Side Door.
Beyond artistic projects, Mangan has also been engaged in some political activism. Joining around 200 of Canada’s most celebrated musicians, Mangan signed a statement of solidarity with the Unist’ot’en camp following the RCMP’s forceful removal of 14 land protectors on Jan. 7. For Mangan, the choice to sign the statement was obvious.
“Reconciliation can’t really be done at gunpoint. There’s been so much talk of reconciliation, and here is one of the first tests of that talk, and it’s been a huge failure,” Mangan said. “It’s a real piss-off that the First Nations people of Canada have to do all of the heavy lifting while all of us privileged city dwellers don’t really understand what’s at stake. It was a no-brainer for me to sign it.”
On Feb. 7, Dan Mangan is bringing the new record — and some old favourites — to a full house at the Broadway Theatre. If a string of packed shows and a Juno nomination weren’t enough, More or Less even managed to get a nod of approval from one of the Fab Four.
While Mangan was recording the album in Los Angeles, Paul McCartney popped into the studio that Mangan was recording in and chatted about the record for 20 minutes. Mangan says McCartney’s affirmation brought him to tears.
“He was like, ‘I liked your song,’ and my head kind of exploded. I didn’t have an emotional response to that … until I was watching James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke with Paul,” Mangan said. “It was months later that I just started crying. This guy changed the world — music was never the same because of him.”
This marks Mangan’s second encounter with a musical giant while making an album after he met Dave Grohl during the recording of Club Meds and convinced the Foo Fighter to sing backup vocals on a song. Mangan says he hopes to bring in a hologram of Bob Marley for his next album.
Dan Mangan’s More or Less is available on Apple Music, Spotify or wherever people get music in 2019. For physical copies or information on his tour, head on over to danmanganmusic.com.
Tanner Bane / News Editor
Photo: Killbeat Music / Supplied