The following was originally published on Exclaim.ca. It can also be found in the May 2010 print issue.
Plants and Animals Tighten Up
By Jessica Lewis
There was one thing that was obvious to the members of Plants and Animals after their last album, Parc Avenue, came out: their next effort needed a harder rock’n’roll sound. In order to focus on it, they had to work harder with each other. “Parc Avenue was the product of three guys who were living in Montreal, working some kind of a day job,” says drummer Matthew Woodley. “Not full time musicians by any means.” Woodley and his two other band-mates, singer and guitarist Warren Spicer and guitarist Nicolas Basque, played in other bands as well, so Plants and Animals only had about one gig a month in Montreal. After Parc Avenue, a more experimental album that they feel is messy and naïve, they knew something would have to change for what is now La La Land. “We made a conscious decision to make a rock record,” says Woodley.
“We weren’t this unit that we are now,” says Spicer. “We would just find time where we could get together and try to make these songs happen, and as a result, that record is a lot more all over the place in a lot of ways. This one is a lot tighter because we are a lot tighter as a unit.” Woodley adds: “We don’t have our own lives anymore, we’re married. We got married to each other. This is what we do.”
The trio found their harder sound when they drew upon the energy of their live shows. “The crowd makes you want to play louder and have more energy,” says Woodley. Basque adds: “We got more interested in the electric guitar sound. I think that was always in the back of our heads, to work on good guitar sounds and songs with a lot of character.”
Certain places proved to be an overall valuable influence to the band and their sound. On La La Land, the essence of California and the roads they’ve travelled seeps through; you can almost see the sunshine and sepia tones. But it was recorded at both the Treatment Room in Montreal and Studios La Frette outside of Paris. The trio worked on a couple songs in Montreal first, but it only seemed to prove that they needed to go to a new environment. “We got some confidence going and we knew that we had some songs that we were happy with,” says Spicer. “I think at that point, it was a good decision to try something else.”
After arriving in Paris, the band’s focus was somehow restored as they relaxed on the manor’s grounds. They stayed for five days, recording with the windows open, drinking wine and eating baguettes. It was a French producer’s house, full of peculiar music gear hidden in drawers, under the beds and in another studio in a shed. “There [are] a lot of secrets in that place,” says Spicer.
The band later returned to La Frette to mix the album, but eventually ended up having Spicer remix it all over again in Montreal. “We just had some time to listen to it and some of the decisions we’ve made and the work we did there in retrospect we just weren’t completely satisfied with,” says Woodley. But now, Plants and Animals are tighter, and so is their sound. Though La La Land feels similar to Parc Avenue at first, with more listens, the clearer rock’n’roll and psychedelic focus becomes apparent. It’s like that manor full of gear ― mysterious, captivating and spacious.