Plants and Animals - 02.29.12
Thank you to Matthew Woodley for taking the time to do this interview, and thank you to our contributor Brenden Doyle for running it.
Tell us about the new album.
The new album is the called “The End of That”. It's coming out February 28th 2012 which is about two weeks away. We're all nice and excited about it. It's uh. you know. It takes a while to make those things and we spent the better part of last year doing it. We finished it up around the summer and the past couple of months have been waiting and pre-release preparation and you know, it's a good thing that the release day is upon us, because we are ready to play some shows.
Yeah, you are getting ready for a new tour?
We are starting a tour in March, yeah right after the record comes out, which is Canada and then the States with SXSW and Texas mixed in there. So, all North America for about 3 months. We'll take a couple of breaks in there to make sure we don't go crazy, it's going to be a big North American coup d'etat.
What is the significance of the title “The End of That”? Is it the mark of a new beginning, or a forgetting of the past?
Both, both. Well, it's the title track of a song. If you listen to the lyrics of the song, it's the end of a few things. But I think in a greater sense, it's the end of a certain era, with life lessons. It's a coming of age record - coming of age again.
So how did you end up recording in France?
We had been to this studio called La Frette once before when we did the last album we put out called Lalaland. The guy who owns the studio - he's this wonderful French gentlemen who also splits his time in Montreal and had seen one of our shows and aside from that there were a couple of other musical connections from a couple of people we know who recorded there. He threw out the idea of coming to do a few days there. So we did on our last album. We went back in the midst of touring that album just to stay there because it's a house as well as a studio, and it immediately struck us that we had to go back to this place. It's this great big manor outside of Paris, with several floors and a great big grandiose staircase that connects them all. And in the basement level there's a studio with the requisite control room and a couple of deadrooms, and a grand piano, and a wine cellar you can set up in. But then the studio branches off, and upstairs you can set up in one of the living rooms, and you can put mics in the hallway and can put mics in the kitchen if you want, and eat in the kitchen and sleep upstairs from that. It's really just this amazing, crooked, old, beautiful, magical, complex where it's really easy to feel at home and play music, it's really easy to be creative and I can imagine different but I can't really imagine a better place to record a record.
In your press release, it was mentioned that you “forgot to do your homework” while you were in France, is there a story behind that that you'd like to share?
I guess the first song we started tracking, it wasn't really clicking right away and I was the guy slowing it down because I kept forgetting the parts, and then the irony of it was that we decided consciously on this record that we were going to hole up and develop our songs before going to studio and recording them. It's not something we've done in the past. In the past, we really created a lot in the studio - made a lot of changes. Very dramatic things happened in the studio, but this time we said ok, we're going to know all the songs together, we're going to go in, we're going to know how to play them, and just magically be in the execution. That first day, I just took a little while to get rolling, and so I took some shit for that, [laughs] which was deserved I guess. We got over it, and things started clicking a little bit later in the session. I think we should have started with a different song, in retrospect.
What was it that made you decide to change directions from a more improvisatory process to a process where you had everything prepared before you went into the studio?
For everyone, it was a matter of having things more developed before you record them, because if you record something that isn't already mostly structured – because we'll never set things in stone, we're just not that kind of band - but if you improvise a lot in the studio it's really easy to also be looking at the clock and trying to get things right and add all these extra stresses, and a month later listen and think, shit if I just had a few more minutes or days or weeks I could have done this or done that, and made this part better or that part better. And I think this time around we really wanted to develop things to their fuller potential, so that we didn't have that hindsight afterwards.
Did it make the process in the studio a less stressful experience?
[Laughs] You think it would have, but it took us a while to get going. I was missing sections at first, and Warren was stressed out for whatever reason, just for the intensity of only having two weeks to get something done, and Nick didn't. [Nick] is kind of a homework wizard, and gets things right away. I think we still felt the pressure of time. Before, we could take months sometimes and been able to mess around a lot. For our first record we did it over two years, so, we can record a song and then three months later, while we had our lives and our day job, we could look at it and say, no let's turn this completely inside out and give it an entirely different flavour. So, even though you develop things a lot, you only have two weeks to do it, and you still feel the time pressure for sure.
I remember hearing in earlier interviews that Plants and Animals used constraints to focus their creative process, such as using a 24-track instead of the digital rig, was it just as easy to remain focused with less time constraints writing your songs outside the studio environment? Were there other constraints keeping you in check?
There were a lot of constraints. I mean, we still recorded to tape, but we had more tracks. The reason we recorded to tape before and still continue to is because of the sound. The limits it imposes is kind of a bonus. I don't know, I guess the constraints are just you show up, you wake up in the morning, and you have to play some songs, and you want them to be well executed; you want everyone to click together with chemistry; you need to have that 'je ne sais quoi' that makes playing together the best it can be, and we can make music out of that special feeling. If you feel pressure, then that can obviously get in the way of whether that elusive magic you're looking for. I think that in any situation it's just about... giving 110% and putting the puck in the net.
So how much of Plants and Animals is pure collaboration, and how much of it is one person making executive decisions?
It's a mix of both. We all have veto power to a pretty large extent anyway, but the chorus verse structure of the songs comes from Warren almost exclusively. Then we develop the song as a band, and then the lyrics tend to follow after which is also [Warren]. It's pretty democratic, we are pretty cool with making and taking suggestions and that kind of thing. Generally it works out. I think actually the more we do this, the better we get about speaking our minds and not taking things as personally. And at the same time, not having our egos as involved and just trying to do what serves the songs the best.
Well, I've read you started with a bassist.
What lead to you deciding to do this?
Well, we've always overdubbed bass on a lot of the songs anyway. And, it's kind of odd to have a rock and roll band without a bass player. It can be done, and we've done it, and live there's been a lot of compensation. Warren and Nick tune their guitars differently and the amps have a ton of low end, and I will play the drums a little differently, with just more bottom end, and always having one eye open and trying to fill up the rhythm section and the low frequency spectrum, that even if you don't think about it, you come to want because it's just bound to the music. Bass is... important to have. It's amazing. So we just said, why, what are we doing? Why don't we just get a bass player and tour a bass player?
Maybe a better question would have been, what took you so long to consider adding a bass player?
Yeah. [Laughs] I guess the first we were really happy with just three. We knew what we were doing that it meant that Parc Avenue was so open and it was full of bells and whistles and horns and strings, that just not having a bass was just one other thing that was just sort of missing in trying to recreate the album. Next time around we came closer, we didn't do it for - I don't know. I guess everyone wasn't ready to dive for their own personal reasons, and I think we also didn't do it for economic reasons. This time it was... this music it just needs a bass player... let's get a bass player.
So in your last tour, I saw you in London and you were touring with Karkwa. Was that a good experience?
Yeah. It was amazing. It was amazing playing with those guys. They are so good, they are such an amazing band. London was a particularly crazy night. I don't know, Call The Office was cold, and a couple of things were falling apart, one side of the PA wasn't working.
I remember the mic's were a little sketchy.
Everything was fucked. And you know, we're all used to different things, from big highly functional theatres to bars where everything is falling apart. Karkwa on the other hand are, they don't tour the rest of Canada, they tour in Quebec. In Quebec, they are a really big band, and they play really big rooms. Here they are coming with us in Southern Ontario and playing a real mix of towns and places where they've never been, where they speak and sing in French and most people don't know them, and I think at first they were a little bit thrown off by the whole thing, and then a couple of days in they started to love it. I bumped into the percussionist a couple of months later, and he said that that tour had changed his approach to music. He was like “it's all about the show man, it's not about my monitor right? It's about the show, it's about making it work and thanking people”, and he was so animated about the whole thing. He's right, it's important not to forget that.
Everyone at AP.net thanks you for taking the time to talk with us and we're looking forward to your new release!
Thanks! 'The End of That' was released February 28, 2012.