Plants and Animals – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Plants and Animals – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In

“I think people can handle not seeing Muse every summer with 300,000 other people.” – Warren Spicer

Aug 06, 2020 COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In Bookmark and Share

We are checking in with musicians during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to see how they are dealing with everything. What has their home quarantine experience been like so far and how is the crisis impacting both their career and art? Here we check in with all three members of Montréal, Canada’s Plants and Animals (lead singer/guitarist Warren Spicer, guitarist/vocalist Nic Basque, and drummer/vocalist Matthew Woodley).

We’re living in future history right now, unprecedented times that will define our era. At some point we will be living in a forever-changed post-COVID-19 timeline, but right now we’re deep in it. Many have had their livelihood interrupted by the pandemic and included are most musicians, who make a lot of their money by touring and performing, two things they can’t do right now. Most record stores are closed and vinyl factories are shut down, so album sales are depressed too. Our intention with this series is to highlight the challenges musicians are going through right now to hopefully encourage our readers and their fans to rally around and support each musician (financially if you can, but we know it’s tough out there for many people).

We’re all in this together, a whole planet united in this fight, and we hope these interviews will help illustrate that. We put together the same set of questions about the current crisis and emailed them to several musicians and will be posting their responses as they come in.

Plants and Animals are releasing a new album, The Jungle, on October 23 via Secret City. The band self-produced the new album and recorded it at their Mixart studio in Montreal. The album is the follow-up to 2016’s Waltzed In From the Rumbling. The Jungle features “Sacrifice,” a new song shared in June that was one of our Songs of the Week.

When the album was announced they shared its second single, “House on Fire.” “House on Fire” was inspired by Spicer’s concern for a friend of his. The band collectively further explain in more detail in a press release: “We started working on this a couple of years ago. Warren was afraid for a friend’s health. He thought he was self-medicating too much and not taking care of himself. He couldn’t let go of this image of an overworked dude swallowing too many sleeping pills and falling asleep with the stove on. So it began as the place next door, sometime before Greta Thunberg turned the expression into a rallying cry, where Earth is the house and the people are sleeping. It’s terrifying, and on the whole we’re not unlike this friend, are we?”

Read on as the band reflect on their COVID-19 experience so far.

Where are spending the quarantine and who are you spending it with? If you’re spending it with other people, have you found that the quarantine has brought you closer together or caused tension?

Nic Basque: I’m spending the quarantine at home in Montréal with my girlfriend and my three sons (2, 6, and 14). It definitely caused some tension, challenged our concept of personal space, and forced us to express our limits. On the other end, it also brought us closer as a family and a team. The older kids are helping out more with chores and are taking care of their little brother. We moved to a bigger place with a backyard in early May, that changed the whole dynamic of the family, everybody now has more space. The backyard also opened our social life, it’s easy to have friends around. Warren (my bandmate), often comes with his family to hang.

Is everyone in your family safe and healthy so far?

Nic: Yes. I know just a couple people who got infected by COVID-19. My sister-in-law had some annoying symptoms but nothing too serious.

What’s your daily routine been like? Have you spent much time outdoors? And since musicians spend so much time on the road, have you found it hard adjusting to so much time at home?

Nic: I usually wake up early with the kids. At first, we built a schedule with the kids, the routine helped, we called it “une belle journée” (a beautiful day), it was at the same time ironic and hopeful. We usually had some school stuff in the morning and piano lessons and tried to spend a lot of time outside, exploring the different neighborhoods of Montréal and parks. We had a couple of Zoom meetings with the band and our manager Mischa to try to plan our release, it was quite difficult to get anything done. With three kids, it’s been hard to do anything else than homeschooling and play. The only music I did for a while was with my kids, they wrote songs and we made beats together and videos. My older son made a whole record ( My girlfriend is also a musician, so lately we tried to spend time on our project together (Bibi Club).

I miss playing live shows. Playing with Warren and Woody is extremely instinctive and natural, and I miss this unique energy. I don’t miss being in a van all day and waiting for everybody and showing up to a venue and carrying amps to a basement and the opening act are vampires taking forever to remove their gear after their set.

What financial impact has COVID-19 had on you and your band? Have you had to cancel or postpone any tours or festival appearances or postpone an album release because of COVID-19 and how will that affect you in the long term?

Nic: As a band, we had to postpone the release of our record and push touring. I also play with other artists, and all my shows have been cancelled. I was supposed to write music for two plays this year, one of them has been cancelled, the other one probably will probably be cancelled too. It has a huge financial impact in the long term, luckily in Canada we have financial support, for now anyway.

Do you trust the government and our leaders (such as President Trump) to effectively deal with the pandemic? What most concerns you about the response of elected leaders at home and abroad?

Matthew Woodley: I live in Canada. Our leaders have done a decent job by and large in listening to scientists, communicating clearly, and providing a financial safety net for people who have lost their income. It hasn’t been perfect. I look to other countries’ dance with this whole thing for comparison sometimes, and it’s hard to know who gets closest to perfect. We’re all learning we all have to listen to and look out for one another. (And no I don’t trust Trump.)

How do you think the crisis will affect this November’s U.S. presidential election? Will it make it easier or harder to defeat Trump?

Matthew: Easier because he’s incompetent, but harder because he cheats and is propped up by cowards. But I can’t help being optimistic. The alternatives are too depressing, and I think there’s genuine hope to right the ship. I have lots of friends and family in the USA and your government of course affects the whole world a whole lot. I feel very invested in the November outcome.

Which sources of news have you been turning to most during COVID-19 and which social media platform have you found most useful?

Matthew: The Guardian and The New York Times have been my one-two punch for news sources for a long time. Then I surf around the www for a wider perspective. If I compulsively check anything, it’s news and opinion sites, not social media. I have a Facebook account I rarely look at. Instagram more. Twitter never. Social media platforms can be great engines of positive social change and I respect that, so I keep an eye open. But, by and large, they make me feel bad. It’s like how some people realize and accept that pot makes them paranoid: after a while their first instinct is to pass.

What do you think will be the lasting effects on society of all this isolated time at home?

Matthew: An urgent movement to recalibrate power among human beings and a fundamental understanding that we’re an animal species on a planet of which 30% should be set aside by 2030 as a human-free nature reserve because hybrid cars and Beyond Meat burgers are nice but not enough.

If you have school-aged kids, how have you been dealing with homeschooling and how are your kids adjusting to life at home and away from friends?

Warren Spicer: I have two boys, 3 1/2 and 7. We decided to not do any home school. We just tried to follow the path of least resistance during the lockdown period and focus of getting along and having fun. We baked breads, made really complicated paper airplanes, played Nintendo, worked out, rearranged the house, lots of painting and drawing, dance battles, reading, wrestling and pillow fights, watched all the movies, whittling, homemade bow and arrows, watched the 92/93 Blue Jays World Series wins, and have generally had a pretty good time. For sure not seeing friends has been hard, but we’ve kept in touch and the kids understand that we’re all going through this together.

Are your parents, grandparents, and others in your life who are at risk taking social distancing seriously? If not, what lengths have you gone to in order to convince them to stay inside?

Nic: Everybody around me has been taking social distancing seriously since day one, wearing masks in close space, being careful for themselves and for others.

What is the best way fans can support you financially right now? Buying vinyl and CDs, downloading and streaming your music, buying merch, supporting your Patreon page or other crowd sourcing platform (if you use one), or some other means? Is there a particularly cool piece of merch you’d like to highlight?

Warren: I think the best way to support us right now is by sharing our music. I think if you love a band who’s not super famous and mainstream just posting songs you like and promoting the band to people who’ve never heard the music before is really helpful. Without a real in person show it’s so hard to connect with new fans, so if some people who have a connection with us can try and spread the word that’s worth more than any T-shirt sales :)

Which albums, songs, films, TV shows, books, podcasts, live streams, video games, board games, etc, have been helping you get through the quarantine?

Matthew: Right now I’m reading There, There, by Tommy Orange. It’s about 12 Native characters in contemporary Oakland who come together at a powwow. It’s angry and stirring. I’m learning from it.

Have you been doing any live-streamed concerts during COVID-19 or do you plan to? A lot of artists have been doing them, do you think it’s a challenge to make them original and interesting?

Warren: We have not done any live-stream shows yet. It’s not something I am very attracted to. I’ve tried to watch a few from other artists and it’s just too boring and awkward. Maybe when the album comes out in October I’ll have to try a little harder to make it work. I’ve really enjoyed the pause in the music industry, and industry in general. All the huge music festivals and sports events should adopt an ever four year approach like the Olympics. I think people can handle not seeing Muse every summer with 300,000 other people.

Is there something you’ve been putting off for a long time, but are now doing with this time at home?

Matthew: I’ve raised the bar in my little backyard garden, which I wouldn’t be able to devote myself to if I were sitting in one of those trailers filled with plastic bottles and mixed nuts at a music festival. I’m growing lots of vegetables. Grapes, cherries, and juneberries too. Fat sunflowers. I also have my sights on making our old hardwood floors less noisy before the cold comes back and the windows stay closed until next April. Two of us are working from home when we can and one of us is seven. In Montréal every year we all go into winter hibernation to some extent. This year the cave promises to be deep.

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Zaericia juriya
August 11th 2020

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