Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Grief and gratitude

Halifax garage rocker uses songwriting to help process grandmother's death

  • Print

Not long after Halifax garage-rock duo Cousins -- Aaron Mangle (guitar) and Leigh Dotey (drums) -- released 2012's excellent Palm at the End of the Mind, Mangle's grandmother, Betty, died. She lived with dementia towards the end of her life.

Mangle, 29, found himself recalling the conversations he and his older sister had with their grandmother on visits to Wickwire, her assisted-living home. "We had to decipher what she was saying. She was there, but she was on a lot of medication. She was hallucinating a lot. She could feel things in the air; she had a sense of some sort of electric field," he says, over the phone from the road. "It also gave her powers." (Specifically, it helped her win card games she wasn't paying attention to.

After she died, Mangle began writing songs based on those conversations with Betty. "(Songwriting) was a way to process her passing," he says. "I hadn't lost a loved one before. The songwriting process was helpful."

Two of those songs -- Phone and Body -- anchor Cousins' latest album, The Halls of Wickwire, which has earned a spot on the latest Polaris Music Prize longlist. Released in May and recorded with Graham Walsh (Holy F ) and Josh Korody (Beliefs) at Toronto's Candle Recording Studio, the new album serves as a tribute to Betty -- even if it was somewhat unplanned. "A lot of the songs on the album were written outside of that situation, and a lot of them were being worked on already," Mangle says. "We didn't go in with a concept."

While it certainly has emotional heft, The Halls of Wickwire is also just a great slice of urgent, energetic garage rock. Its immediacy can certainly be owed to the way it was recorded: in one week-long, see-how-it-goes session.

"We figured we'd just get a start on it," Mangle says. "Everything went really well and we ended up recording everything in seven days." That's in stark contrast to Mangle's approach with home recording, which he says is often drawn out and frustrating. "It was nice to be able to hammer it out. We didn't expect to accomplish as much as we did, and I think that lack of pressure worked out for us."

Walsh, in particular, helped crystallize Cousins' vision. "He took songs in directions we wouldn't have thought of," Mangle says. "It was a challenge at first, but all in all, we're happy with how it worked out."

Mangle is also happy he elected to immortalize his grandmother's spirit on record.

"We didn't have to do it, but it felt like a good opportunity to deal with something that was happening in my life," he says. "It was a hard thing to go through -- I didn't know what to do or how to help. (The record) is a nice thing to have."

 

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2014 C3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Cheap summer weekends

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Bright sunflowers lift their heads toward the south east skies in a  large sunflower field on Hwy 206 and #1 Thursday Standup photo. July 31,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)
  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 101130-Winnipeg Free Press Columns of light reach skyward to the stars above Sanford Mb Tuesday night. The effect is produced by streetlights refracting through ice crystals suspended in the air on humid winter nights. Stand Up.....

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What should the city do with the 102-year-old Arlington Street bridge?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google