Vancouver's own Dan Mangan is my absolute favourite new singer/songwriter. And I don't just mean Vancouver singer/songwriter, I mean favourite in the world. And it's not simply because I'm the guy who edits the site that serves as Vancouver's cheerleader for everything rad that it produces; this dude recently released a banger of a CD called Nice, Nice, Very Nice that's been getting heavy airplay at home, in my car and at the office (coming from both the FM dial and his CD) and outside of my microcosmic narcissistic hole has been getting a lot of play on the radio as well as positive reviews in pretty much every publication in Canada (check his site for confirmation on that but I think it's "every" publication by now). There's also been more than one song from the album already on CBC Radio 3's R3-30 Countdown of Canada's current most awesome 30 indie rock sings.
Next week Dan will be heading East on a cross Canada tour so we figured we'd send him off with a conversation about the things he'll miss the most about Vancouver while he's gone. Enjoy!
photo: jonathan taggart
What makes Vancouver so awesome?
It's unparalleled mixture of urban metropolis with natural landscape. There are cities that have more arty scenes, or more commerce - but the thing that kills me about Vancouver is coming home to it and always being wowed by its visual aesthetic. I remember as a kid people saying tag lines like, "In Vancouver you can sea-kayak, see a Canucks game and snowboard in the same day". I don't know if any really hyper people actually do that kind of stuff, but for someone more physically motivated than myself, it could be achieved. I just like the fonts on the street signs. I like the gray dewy mornings. I like the feeling that I'm in a city that still smells okay.
Who's your favourite Vancouverite of all time?
That question is too hard to answer seriously. Maybe the guy who runs Locus Cafe - not because I know him at all, but because he looks like the dude from the band Aqua who would yell "Come on Barbie, let's go party!". I will say that I think Ben from the band Said The Whale is a really swell guy.
Current favourite restaurant?
I've recently gotten into the Olive Cafe at 28th and Main. It's brand new and there's this really sweet Greek (or Italian?) woman who makes incredible sandwiches and soup. The ingredients are always fresh and half the time she forgets what you've ordered and when it comes time to pay you have to 'honour-system' your way through the bill.
What’s your favourite new band from Vancouver? “New” being from, like, the past 5 years.
Man - there are so many. I feel like there's such an uprising. A real community has been fostered here in the last few years. There's a slogan that's been going around - "The New Montreal". Analog Bell Service, Said The Whale, DRMHLLR, Parlour Steps, Mother Mother, Hey Ocean!, Yukon Blonde, The Zolas, James Lamb, Ladyhawk, Black Mountain, You Say Party! We Say Die!, Bend Sinister. I apologize, I've pluralized your singular question.
What's your favourite Vancouver band of all time?
Ah jeez, what a question. Well I think an iconic Vancouver artist is Veda Hille. She has been active not only in the music scene, but in the theatre and visual art scenes as well - and for decades, and still going. Stronger than ever.
veda hille. photo: quinne rodgers
Favourite Vancouver venue to play at?
The Vancouver East Cultural Centre. It's possibly my favourite venue in the whole universe. That being said, I've never had the chance to play at some of the larger venues like The Commodore, The Orpheum, Vogue or Queen Elizabeth. I imagine that would be quite enjoyable - but there's a brilliant mixture of concert magic and intimacy that occurs naturally at 'The Cultch'.
live at zulu records. photo: christine mcavoy
What was your favourite show you've seen there?
I saw Hayden, The Seams and Veda Hille there about four years ago. Hayden forgot the lyrics to at least four or five songs and stopped dead in the middle of each of them. I think he might have just been really stoned, but he said he'd just spent months in the studio recording "Elk Lade Serenade" and had lost his live show edge. I think it was a "Rock For Choice" show. It was a great night.
Do you have a "best Vancouver show" memory of all time?
I remember being right up front for a Broken Social Scene show at The Commodore years and years ago - and just feeling like the horn section was so powerful. I loved the mixture of traditional instruments and contemporary indie-rock. These days, that's pretty normal, but back then it seemed they were really on to something. Also once when I was 19 I saw a Doves concert at the same venue and they invited people from the crowd to dance on stage for the last song. I was the first kid on the stage and rocked out pretty hard.
In what neighbourhoods of Vancouver have you lived during your lifetime and what did you like the most about each of them?
South Main - 28th/Main - I like being close to Bean Around The World, Olive Cafe, East Is East, East West Market, the BCL, Slickity Jim's Chat n' Chew, Locus, Hawker's Delight
Dunbar - 17th/Dunbar - I liked being close to that pizza shop that got shut down for having a dirty kitchen
Commercial Drive - 6th/Commercial - I liked being close to Continental Coffee and Wonderbucks
City Centre - Oak/17th.. I liked being close to Max's Deli and De Dutch Wooden Shoe Cafe
Want to talk about your song, Tina's Glorious Comeback?
The lyrics are a little coded. The royal "we" that occurs in the choruses could be taken in to the context of a romantic relationship, but really it's about my relationship with the city of Vancouver. I have so many memories of going through my parents' change dishes for coins (75 cents) to go wait underneath one of those big brown earthy wooden bus stops - probably listening to Nirvana Unplugged or something on my walkman. Whether you were driving or walking, those bus stops were everywhere and really added to the ambiance/vibe of the city. I think the fact that they were rain-worn and wooden really defined what it was like to grow up in Vancouver, where all of the houses are rain-worn and wooden - which is different than Toronto where everything is brick. When they tore down the bus stops and erected (yea that's right, erected) the futuristic looking metal ones, it really changed the city forever. It's like painting a house with a different trim. The difference is subtle, but consistent. I realized that in many ways Vancouver is changing for the better, and in many ways it is changing for the worse - which stirred up all kinds of emotions about getting older and nostalgic. It doesn't matter whether the pros or cons outweigh each other, it just is a comment on change, really.
dan's recently release "nice, nice, very nice" CD available HERE
Favourite place to be on a Sunday morning?
Probably Locus Cafe - get there early with my girlfriend to read through some of The Straight - with good company on the way
What are you working on right now?
Trying not to go out of my mind. I'm glued to the computer these days trying to keep the plates spinning with this new release. I don't have a manager so I spend a lot of time planning. Now that the record is finished and released and circulating, all I can think about is the next album though - how I want it to be different, how I want it to sound, and trying to write in any spare time. I've got a Canadian tour for October, and a European tour for November. At the moment it looks like probably Australia in January then back to the road here at home.
photo: jonathan taggart
If I gave you 100 bucks right now, what would you go spend it on?
Perhaps 16 orders of "curry chicken noodle" (best greasy $5 you can spend) at Hawker's Delight and a new CD from Red Cat Records. I'm just realizing now that my Vancouver Is Awesome questionnaire has turned in to a running advertisement for local establishments. I think I might have just 'sold out'. Shit.