Plants and Animals talk to Midnight Poutine about their new album
Today, Montreal natives Plants and Animals release their third full-length album, The End of That. As the city (and the world) were waiting to hear their new offering, I spoke briefly with lead vocalist Warren Spicer about the band's recording process on this album, the early-midlife freakout that inspired their lyrics, and D'Angelo's bass player.
Every band hopes for a time in their career when they can record an album in a 19th-century stone mansion in the French countryside, and for Plants and Animals, this was their time. The band spent about two weeks in La Frette Studios outside of Paris working with engineer Lionel Darenne. "As it turned out," Warren said, "it was pretty hard work, actually. We thought we were prepared to to do this recording." Unlike in previous recording sessions, the band wrote their songs in advance and had all their parts worked out when they went into the studio. As it turned out, the album gelled more slowly than expected, only to be saved by a little wine and cheese and a couple extra days of laying down tracks.
Some of these songs saw their live debut at the band's Pop Montreal performance in Breakglass Studios, where they played with tape rolling for a possible live album. I asked whether that would come out at any point, and Warren seemed doubtful. "The whole thing, we kind of picked over it. It was really good in the room and we went back and picked through the audio, I think it made a little more sense with the video." That video, of course, is the pitch-perfect cover of Wolf Parade's "I'll Believe in Anything" that they released to the internet a few weeks ago. If they ever do release a live album, he said, they would "record a bunch of shows, and pick the songs to put on tape."
(You can spot me in the audience, but I won't tell you where.)
But returning to this album, I had to ask about the lyrical themes running through it, since they seemed to reflect a pretty particular late-20s/early-30s set of anxieties. With songs about friends getting married, getting over cocaine addiction, and leaving the party life behind, the lyrics are far more direct than on the band's previous albums. "I was experimenting more with the idea of disguise or hiding who I was," Warren said of the old stuff, "writing songs in a character format, and not talking about myself. I guess this is the end of pretending to be somebody you're not." On coming to terms with his age, he continued, "It's an interesting time when people are making decisions and figuring out what the next logical stop of the equation is. Being in a band, and living a kind of alternative lifestyle can be confusing."
As I always do in interviews, I had to ask what Warren was listening to these days, new or old. He said that recently he and his roommate have returned to the soul masterpiece Voodoo by D'Angelo, going especially crazy over the bass parts. "There's a live version of 'Chicken Grease' on the Chris Rock show from the 90s... I try to Imagine what people playing not he record are like, and I didn't picture a tall scrawny white guy as the bass player."
Neither did I. But I found the video, and it's true. (Also, the song is ridiculously good.)
The End of All That comes out today on Secret City Records
Plants and Animals are set to play Cabaret du Mile-End on March 10