Plants and Animals

Collegiate Progressives

Apr 02, 2008 Spring 2008 - Flight of the Conchords Photography by Caroline Desilets Bookmark and Share


The three members of Montréal’s Plants and Animals might be Music Studies graduates, but theirs is not the sound of intellectual snobs. Graduating from Montréal’s Concordia University in the early part of the century with degrees in electro-acoustic music, Warren Spicer, Matthew Woodley, and Nicolas Basque have, with their sophomore album, Parc Avenue, hit upon a sound that is at once smooth, complex, and organic, with touches of ’70s rock and soul and an expansive musical palette that includes everything from flutes to violin and choirs of voice.

“After [studying music] for four years and really having to concentrate hard on making that sonic stuff, I just wanted to get back to playing guitar again,” says Spicer, the band’s vocalist and guitarist. “It was either that or performance study with jazz and stuff, and none of that really made any sense, so I think once we were done [with school], we all just kind of went back to what we enjoyed about playing music.”

For Spicer, it was the acoustic, folk-based sounds he grew up hearing around the house in Nova Scotia, where he and drummer Woodley began playing music together at age 12. After playing together throughout high school (including in an improvisational jazz combo), Spicer and Woodley met guitarist/bassist Basque at Concordia. It wasn’t until the three graduated, however, that Plants and Animals began in earnest. The trio released a self-titled debut of acoustic instrumental music in 2005, and, soon after, the band graduated to the more song-based approach that makes up Parc Avenue.

“I think when it comes down to it, writing a good song…you can’t really take a class on that in the way you can take a class on deconstructing whatever form of music and then building it back up,” says Spicer. “There’s just not enough to talk about. It’s just something you have to do and express yourself, with like-minded people. You don’t really need to talk about it that much, because when you hear it, it either makes sense or it doesn’t.”

Parc Avenue runs the gamut from the darkly sedate, string-inflected sounds of “Faerie Dance” to the skittering rhythms and horn bleats of “Mercy” and the more traditional guitar- and piano-based sounds of songs like “Bye Bye Bye” and “Good Friend.” The album is the culmination of two and a half years in and out of the studio, and, although it is a smoothly melodic listen, it is not easily classifiable by the usual genre descriptors. Perhaps due to some extended song times, it has even earned a misguided comparison or two to prog rock.

“I don’t know why [that was said],” says Spicer. “It’s not a proggy record. But no, we weren’t listening to much prog at the time.”

“I never really listened to Yes before, but I found some Yes songs that I really liked,” Spicer continues. “There was that one, I think it’s just called The Yes Album, and then the song called ‘Starship Trooper.’ Super epic madness.…And [so began our] journey into prog.”



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