Dan Mangan Facebook It might feel a little early in Vancouver…
- Posted on Aug 23rd 2012 3:30PM by Erik Leijon
Arts & Crafts
"On two fronts it's a strange award to be receiving," Mangan says, who like fellow Canadian artists Patrick Watson and Sam Roberts, have over time grown into fully-fledged, stable bands that just happen to refer to themselves by their frontman's name (although Roberts & co. now go by "Sam Roberts Band"). "The thing is though, I still do play solo sometimes, or sometimes I'll do a show with a clarinet and cello player, which I guess Sam and Patrick don't do. I'm not locked into this band but 98 percent of the time I'm playing with them, so it's complicated."
Speaking of complicated, Mangan's Oh Fortune was also awarded the Alternative Album of the Year.
"Whenever I think of alternative I think of Pearl Jam's Ten," he says. "It's funny how a term like alternative can get so antiquated over time."
It wasn't all Juno talk though; Mangan spoke to Spinner in Quebec City about the indie-folk name game, transitioning from singer-songwriter to band and having the mayor show up at your hometown gig. Here's what he had to say:
So how were the Junos?
Awesome. I had very low expectations. I hadn't watched them in 15 years and I didn't know they had been embracing more independent music. So I went and I wanted to take everything with a grain of salt, but I have to admit when they call your name your heart starts going, everyone's clapping and it's fun. If you win, and you're there, everyone's patting you on the back all weekend. It's a strange experience and you feel special, then you go home and kinda forget it ever happened... but for a weekend I had a great time.
The program for the Quebec Summer Festival [which is where this interview took place] refers to you as "indie-folk." What does indie-folk mean anyway, and are you that?
I've heard contemporary folk, indie rock, indie-folk, post-folk... I've heard lots of different things for us. I don't really know where to place us because we're not really a folk band -- there's a lot of rock elements in what we're doing -- but we're also not a straight rock band either, we're floating in between a lot of different things. The guys in my band come from experimental jazz projects, so it's a slightly weird beast. There's certainly been a wave in the last decade of toque-wearing, plaid-laden, bearded folky people from Canada, and I don't think we're separate from that, but I also don't think we're buying into a deep ethos.
Do you consider Dan Mangan a band these days?
I had been touring alone all through the first record -- I was touring around Europe, buying a train pass and literally wandering trying to get as many gigs as possible. Then I had written the songs for Nice, Nice, Very Nice and I had asked these guys in Vancouver to play on the record and eventually I got deeper in line with them. Then the record took off in a way no one expected and we were getting all these offers to play these big festivals, and we were attracting more attention from managers and agents and things we'd never had before. By then it was clear that having a band was going to be a good idea going forward. Nice, Nice, Very Nice changed what was possible for this group of people. More and more I've been bringing avant garde players from the Vancouver jazz scene and it's helped me grow as a songwriter and a musician. I started as that singer-songwriter guy and my mind has been warped by deep thinking people who love music, while I feel like a kid still learning to play guitar.
How have the crowds changed along with this shift in mindset?
That's the ironic thing, as the band's gotten weirder we've been getting more popular. I'm happy about that, that's great. I think there are some people who are longing for the Dan that's more of a singer-songwriter, and I think that's natural, but we've been picking up this whole new audience that didn't know us before.
Do you have any Oh Fortune tour highlights so far?
We've gotten to do a lot of cool stuff. We played in Stanley Park last summer; it was a big homecoming show in Vancouver. It was bizarre. The mayor was playing tambourine on stage, 15,000 people were there and it was really amazing. Then we got to play the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver, and I've wanted to play there my whole life. It's where Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Neil Young played, so stepping on that stage was incredible. Strange that I keep mentioning Vancouver, but it is our hometown. Berlin was great too; if I didn't live in Vancouver I could do Berlin for a while.