Vancouver’s Dan Mangan has been a hero on the Canadian indie scene for years now — his direct voice and excellent songwriting have won great acclaim and he’s also shown a remarkable ability to evolve with each album he puts out. Mangan’s latest, this one with his band Blacksmith, Club Meds, is his most intense to date: a real portrait of a maturing artist willing to push boundaries in order to better express himself. The album just came out last week and has been catching rave reviews.
As a married fellow with a small child, Mangan cooks at home a fair bit and seems to have embraced the “food is love” philosophy that all the best people live by. We caught up with him to chat about the glory of cooking soup and hanging out drinking coffee with Colin Greenwood from Radiohead:
Rolling Spoon: Are you much of a cook, or more of an eater? If you do cook — what are some of your specialties?
Dan Mangan: I like to eat. I like all kinds of food. I believe myself to not be a picky eater, but my wife often claims that I am, in fact, a picky eater. It’s a point of contention. I love to feed people. I like to spend a lot of hours on a stew or a soup or a chili. I like chopping things and then putting them in a large pot. I have become a better cook since having a kid because now we have no social life and leaving the house after dark is nearly impossible.
Your new album is fantastic — what kind of food fuels you when you’re in the studio? Did you have any particularly great meals while recording this album that you think of when you listen back to certain tracks?
Breakfast. When we were at The Warehouse, it was all about starting off with a great breakfast wrap or sandwich from one of the hip joints in Gastown (also a good excuse to find a solid Americano). There’s also this thing in Vancouver called the Breakfast Courier where a dude on a bike will bring you a hot greasy-spoon-esque breakfast. So we did that sometimes. There’s a great Lebanese restaurant right by my little studio (where we did overdubs) called Nuba. I think we probably went there about three times a week. When recording, it’s important to leave the studio sometimes and get some new air in your lungs. Some time to reflect on what’s happening inside the studio.
Which member of your band is the best in the kitchen?
My guess is that Kenton is the most romantic cook. He likes to get people full of good food and drunk. He’s a good host, and enjoys giving. I probably cook more often than he does, but I’m slightly more utilitarian. I remember once in Brooklyn we were staying at an Air BNB for a few days and half the band was sick as dogs. I did a big shop and made a vegetable coconut soup that was just what we needed at the time. Those moments are nice. It’s amazing to provide for people you love.
I see you have a pretty hefty slate of Canadian tour dates ahead of you, followed by a big trip through Europe. From an eating perspective, do you look forward to touring or is finding food kind of a drag? And not to disparage our home land, but when it comes to eating, do you particularly look forward to those European shows?
Both, I guess. There’s something nice about the surprises you get on the road sometimes. Haphazardly finding some amazing quaint spot. That said, sometimes you’re dying for a home-cooked meal. I’m just glad I don’t have any severe dietary restrictions. I think that would make finding food on the fly a serious pain in the ass. The amazing thing about European shows is that the food is PART of the experience of the evening. The bands, the promoters, the agents, etc, all eat together, and often the food is just killer. It creates a sense of community. “We’re all in it together and we’re all going to do what we can to create a memorable evening” type of thing.
When you come home from touring, what is likely to still be in your fridge?
Leftover toddler-sized portions of steamed vegetables and whole milk.
Do you have a favourite thing to bring to a potluck or serve at a dinner party?
As I mentioned, I’m a big soup guy. I love bringing a pot full of awesome and a spoon. One time we were shooting a music video for nearly NO budget so I made four massive pots of soup for the entire crew. I fed 45 people for like $50 worth of vegetables. That was a victory.
Do you have any stories about breaking bread with other musicians that you’d like to tell?
One time, many years ago, I experienced an incredible morning at the house of Colin Greenwood. He plays bass in Radiohead. By a process of events that’s too complicated to mention, I ended up with him and one other gentleman for about an hour. We sat at his kitchen table. He brewed a French press and we sat and talked music. Then he played me rough mixes from what was to be “In Rainbows.” Then he gave me a tour of his land, which was an old farm. He said he wanted to throw a BBQ in this old barn and have a band play, casually asking if I’d play. I said yes. Then I never saw him again. Life is weird.
What is your favourite kind of pie?
Do you have a recipe that you’d like to share with us?
Yep. SUPER QUICK BANANA PANCAKES. 1 banana, 1 tbsp of whole wheat flour, 1 egg. Mush it together in a bowl, fry it in a pan with lots of butter. Takes 2 minutes. Tastes awesome.
I made Dan’s pancakes and I really truly think I did not use a ripe enough banana, so I was forced to add some milk (and I would add more next time because it was still pretty dense for my taste). I think next time I would even add a second banana. Does that sound crazy? Maybe. But the idea of whole wheat flour held together by loads of banana and a little bit of egg is pretty appealing, so I’m going to keep experimenting with the ratio (and the thickness of the pancakes, which I think makes a difference) before I let this one go. Or I’ll just go make pot after pot of soup, which sounds pretty good too.
UPDATE: There was a typo! The recipe Dan originally sent said one cup of flour when he meant one tablespoon, so you will not need any extra water and it should look nothing like the pancake pictured above! I will admit, if you use one cup, it will not taste very good. If you use ONE TABLESPOON it will, as Dan promises, taste awesome and yield about five small and very delicious pancakes.
Dan Mangan + Blacksmith will be touring the heck out of Club Meds this winter/spring, including a huge slate of Canadian dates. Check out the full schedule here. And check out the video for the song “Vessel” from the album Club Meds: