Plants and Animals are a Montreal-based trio that began playing together as kids, emerged on the international scene in 2008 and have developed a varied cult following ever since, built this on the shoulders of their self-produced records, their intense live show, or both—depending on who you ask.
They have been nominated for big awards. They have appeared on major radio and television programs. They have opened for household names and headlined many tours of their own around North America and Europe. In 2013, they decided to slow down.
By slow down, they meant make music the way they used to. It was the beginning of what would be an on-and-off recording process stretched out over two years. It was a time of rest, as the story often goes, for a band that had seen plenty of touring and not enough home. They slept in their own beds and made their new album through nine seasons and the thick of life. Through births and deaths, most notably—magnificent sunrises, shattering sunsets and the days between. Their new LP is called Waltzed in from the Rumbling. It is a dance of days.
By make music the way they used to, they meant to follow threads to their frayed ends. They recorded any ideas that popped up and edited impulsively. Lyrics were often streams of consciousness, bent into shape. They left mistakes in place where they had their charms, looking to expose rather than conceal. The lead singer doubled as engineer, the lead guitar player as baroque pianist, the drummer as inside-outside eye. They called in friends to sing, to play bass, keys, strings and horns. They found an antique guiro next to an obsolete VCR on the curbside and recorded both. They made an empty fridge sound like a timpani drum. They covertly recorded girls' brash gossip on a city bus. They discovered the guy who always hung around in the kitchen was a cabasa wizard. It all found a place. They took the path of big production. They pulled down the curtains and showed their hearts and bones.
It felt like the time that they quit their day jobs, holed up in a crooked apartment on Parc Avenue and made their first record.
It was more like an art studio than a recording studio, says Warren Spicer. A mess, pieces of songs all over the place. We had this big canvas and were constantly filling in corners here, erasing there, repainting that part, standing back and looking at the whole picture to see what we had.
The influences are far and wide: the broken soul of Van Morrison; the off-kilter geometry of J Dilla; the dark, French funk of Serge Gainsbourg; the fire of John Coltrane's quartet; Messiaen's synaesthesia; the quirk of Antonio Badalimenti. It sounds like P&A, wide open with room to move.
We wanted to push the songs in less obvious directions to keep it interesting, says Matthew Woodley. To keep each other on our toes but also imagining that people listening to it would appreciate the same. But if it ever felt like cleverness was taking precedence over feeling, we'd drop what we were doing and move onto something else.
We pushed each other and we listened to each other more than ever before, says Nic Basque. It was fun and much easier than in the past. You just work—that's how people develop their language in whatever they do. That's what we did.
This is Plants and Animals’ most soulful and inventive collection of music yet. Eleven soundtracks for leaps taken, ships sailed, dark water and pink skies. Waltzed in from the Rumbling came out on Secret City Records on April 29, 2016.