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New album marks big changes for Dan Mangan

By Jason Herring, March 5 2015 —

Canadian indie sweetheart Dan Mangan is loved across the country for his thought-provoking albums and engaging live shows.

But when Mangan and his band set out to record their new album, Club Meds, after a brief hiatus from touring, the group decided they needed a change, in both name and style.

When they released the album earlier this year, they did so under the moniker of Dan Mangan + Blacksmith, even though the band — consisting of Mangan, Kenton Loewen, John Walsh and Gord Grdina — stayed the same.

Mangan says changing the band’s name highlights the work done by the musicians he plays with.

“The name change just seemed like the right thing to do to give credence to the guys who have given this project, and me, so much of their life and creativity,” Mangan says. “Blacksmith just seemed like the right title — Kenton texted it to me, and I just thought it was really great. Kind of a romantic notion, the idea of craftsmanship and forging things.”

Club Meds sounds as if an entirely new band made the record.

Previously, the band’s songs were characterized by tongue-in-cheek lyrics and instrumental arrangements that often sounded like indie-folk. On the new record, the band favours dark, sparse arrangements that lend a more sinister atmosphere.

While Mangan never shied away from writing about difficult subjects, Club Meds sees him take a major step forward as a lyricist. The record can be seen as a concept album that, in Mangan’s words, is, “about the difference between being awake and being asleep.”

The main idea the album explores is sedation, both literally in the album’s title track and as a metaphor for the robotic lives that we live.

“The record is kind of a discussion about being willfully blind to things and the quagmire of bullshit that’s out there in the world,” Mangan says. “[It’s about] trying to limit how those distracting malevolent forces can distract your psyche, and trying to stay awake and alert and thoughtful and compassionate and kind.”

Another major change for Mangan and company comes in the shows that they’re playing in support of the new album, which see the band graduating from dive bars and outdoor festivals to concert halls.

This is the first time the group has had a tour primarily in these venues.

“That’s something that we’ve been a little bit challenged with on this tour, for a band that came from bars and that setting, where we’re used to playing, and all of a sudden we’re in these big theatres across Canada,” Mangan says. “At the same time, theatres can be really great. You can be in a setting where people can hear every word that you’re saying, which is really amazing.”

Club Meds is out now on Arts & Crafts records. The band will play a sold-out show at the Jack Singer Concert Hall on March 10.

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