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Q&A: Plants and Animals

By Nevin Martell on April 2, 2010

 

Q&A: Plants and Animals

Being out of step with the times can come off as repetitive and archaic, like the rerun of a third rate sitcom. But sometimes that very same proposition can be a mind-altering experience, because it serves as a fresh reintroduction to something thought long lost. And that’s where Plants and Animals make there home. Unabashed retro-ists, the Canadian trio possesses a deep love for Fairport Convention LPs, Hendrix’s surrealist licks and Dylan-gone-electric bootlegs. Made up of guitarist/singers Warren Spicer and Nicolas Basque, along with drummer/singer Matthew Woodley, Plants and Animals are on the verge of releasing their sophomore set, the hypnotically fantastic La La Land. Whether it’s the Latin-flared groove of “Kon Tiki,” the spiraling psychedelic energy of “The Mama Papa” or the strident rock of “Tom Cruz,” Plants and Animals give off the vibe that they have their own hot tub time machine. Thankfully, they’ve chosen to use it for good times and not bad rip-offs. FILTER catches up with Spicer at home in Montreal, enjoying a little downtime before heading out on a far-reaching North American tour in April.



Where did the title La La Land come from?

Warren Spicer: We were okay with the idea that it was partially referring to Los Angeles, but it’s more a reference to that place where you’re in over your head. It’s more the state of mind where you’re in some kind of fantasy reality, as opposed to the physical fantasy reality of LA. The last record’s title seemed to fall into place without anyone ever noticing it wasn’t ever there, but this one was a total black hole. There was a list of a thousand ridiculous names, including Maniac Mansion, which was a Nintendo video game we played as kids. It got to the point where every name was a joke. We were going completely crazy, because we were trying to find something relevant to what we were doing. La La Land ultimately came from a lyric on “Swinging Bells,” so it just seemed to fit.



What song changed the most in the studio?

We ended up recording “The Mama Papa” three times and mixing a whole bunch of different versions of it. It was one that we had been playing live before we recorded it. There was something about the way we were playing it live that was immediate and easy, but we couldn’t record that feeling in the studio. It almost didn’t make it on the album, because we didn’t know how to get it right. When we got down to the final deadline for the album, we had this realization that we didn’t mix it the way we wanted it to sound. But that gave us a chance to have a perspective on the mix, so I ended up remixing it ten days before we had to deliver it. And during that time, we were able to include a final recording session, where we laid down “The Mama Papa.” That was a last ditch effort, but we got it right and that’s what you hear on the record.



With a song named “Kon Tiki,” one has to wonder if you guys are huge Thor Heyerdal fans?

We’ve read the book and seen the movie, but it actually has nothing to do with that. Kon Tiki is a motel on a side of a cliff we stayed in between San Francisco and Los Angeles on a day off. The whole song is about hanging out there.



There’s another song with a nod in it –“Tom Cruz” – which looks like it got re-titled by your record company’s lawyer.

That was a song that came together in pieces; the title actually came before the lyrics. It was the first thing we recorded for this album. We were super excited to be working again and we were drinking a lot of rum and coke. We weren’t even worried if we recorded anything, because we were just having fun. We felt this overwhelming, manic happiness and confidence. Our drummer titled that song as if we were Tom Cruise, hopping up and down on that couch on Oprah.



Are you going to send him a copy of the album?

For sure. I’m sure he’ll love it. Or at least maybe he’ll say he loves it.



Favorite plant or animal?

The Atlantic salmon. I grew up as a fishing fanatic, though I don’t get to fish a lot anymore. I’ve never caught salmon and it’s a dream of mine. They’re very noble and interesting creatures. F

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