Plants and Animals play and sound like a band that has lived through decades together. But there is a good reason why a band with only three full-length albums, the first of which was released as recently as 2008, sounds so mature.
Bandmates Warren Spicer and Matthew ‘Woody’ Woodley first met as 12-year-olds in Halifax, N.S., but they found their missing piece, Quebec native Nic Basque, over 10 years ago in the depths of Concordia’s music department.
Combined, they bring a tight, red-hot gospel/soul sound that escaped rock somewhere between the ‘80s and today.
Woodley’s skittering, feet-flicking drum beat and Basque’s classic-rock-country trilling guitar provides the canvas for Spicer’s gargling, soulful voice and easy-to-relate-to tales of ecstasy, disappointment and growing older.
Since their debut album Parc Avenue got shortlisted for the 2008 Polaris Prize, Plants and Animals have toured Europe and North America extensively, played the summer music festival circuit, and opened for Grizzly Bear, Gnarls Barkley and The National—to name a few.
Despite hobnobbing with industry elites and dealing with the distractions of rock ‘n’ roll life on the road, Woodley claims that his bond with Spicer and Basque has only strengthened.
“The one thing that’s changed the most is we’re more comfortable being open with each other,” revealed Woodley. “We’re not afraid to say what we think to each other, not too shy and don’t take things too personally.”
Fresh off the shelves, The End of That has already garnered significant commercial attention. The album was featured as CBC Music’s Album of the Week, its first single, “Lightshow,” was Amazon MP3’s Song of the Day on Feb. 29, and the band stole the cover of several Montreal publications in February alone.
While Parc Avenue was Plants and Animals’ love letter to Mile End, and La La Land (2010) revealed the gritty truth of touring around Los Angeles, The End of That is a therapeutic return home.
Vocalist Spicer dealt with some life issues through the lyrics. In “Crisis!” he returns home to find “everyone is getting married or breaking up / And the stroller situation on the sidewalk / is way out of control,” while on “The End of That” he reflects on his foray into cocaine.
“I don’t think that we wanted to be happy-go-lucky,” said Woodley, “but we wanted to put something out that hit people in the heart a little more quickly, not such a slow burn.”
Woodley and Basque often have their music charted out before Spicer brings the lyrics into the studio, which Woodley admits completely changes the way it plays out.
“It’s kind of an obtuse feeling when a song hits, and when you put words on top, they can really change the message of the music,” explained Woodley. “Sometimes I find it’s an adjustment, playing it, coming to grips with it.”
The band recorded the album at La Frette, a manor just outside Paris where they ate, slept and played while touring in France.
“We got there after playing a show at two in the morning, turned on the lights, and realized, ‘Oh man, we have to work here again, we’ve got to settle down and do it here,’” recounted Woodley.
“It isn’t the fact that it’s in France, the city close by, or even the river down the street. It’s the space itself and what it felt like that made it so special.”
With roots in improvisation, Plants and Animals are known for seducing crowds to the dance floor with their loud, jam-rocking live shows. They take their albums’ work to the stage on an entirely different level.
“There’s nothing like [playing] live,” professed Woodley. “It’s in the moment, it’s about the people.”
This time around, the Mile Enders wanted to produce an album that already reflected as much of their live material as possible.
“I think you might find the live show as close to the album as we have ever gotten,” said Woodley. “It’s still louder, and still rockier, but it’s closer in character.”
Plants and Animals play Le Cabaret du Mile End (5240 Parc Ave.) on March 10. Tickets are $17 in advance or $20 at the door.