Evolving Lifeforms: Interview with Plants and Animals’ Matthew Woodley

Plants and Animals
La La Land
Secret City

Hailing from Montreal, Canada, Plants and Animals creates an indefinable brand of music, thick slabs of aural slices coming at ya. Their sound is by turns identifiable and then, without warning, ready to pelt you with nuances of originality. They rely on old school technology, abiding by the surefire techniques of analog to simultaneously transcend and subvert the digital age.

They are wayfarers of the open road, taking their music to over 100 cities so far since their inception in 2008 with their first release, Parc Avenue. They are three: Warren C. Spicer, Matthew ‘the Woodman’ Woodley, and Nicolas Basque, who go all the way, back to their boyhood evolving to the present from an instrumental-based unit to now, masters of pop songs that make their point — more often than not in under four minutes. Paul Maher spoke to Plants and Animals own Matthew Woodley about the band’s latest release, La La Land.

How did Plants and Animals come together?

Warren and I met on the schoolyard when we were 12. We started jamming shortly after that and have been doing it ever since. We met Nic in college. Now there three of us have been playing together for almost a decade.

Have you found the band’s sound or is it still evolving?

Some of both. We’ve found a sound and turned it into a record twice, all the while still in evolution. I don’t think any of us are content saying, “This is our sound, these are the fences, now let’s settle down and live within them.” La La Land was a definite evolution from Parc Avenue, and I think our next record will be different from the ones before it – borrowing from all we’ve come to play, but ultimately its own thing. I actually think our third record is going to be the best one we do. Maybe even better than the fourth, but I can’t say for sure quite yet.

Define for us post-classic rock and how it fits in with your music?

We played a show a few years ago in our hometown of Montreal and I was joking around with a journalist friend who had said we had a classic rock sound. “Post” just came out, and immediately made sense while being totally ridiculous. I used to be really into the Chicago post-rock sound of the ’90s. Now we’ve built our own post.

Does the acoustic sound of Plants and Animals translate well to the stage in front of a live audience?

We’ve gotten pretty electric both on record and live, but we always strive for dynamics. Big peaks and valleys. It keeps it interesting.

You’ve defined your songs as “honest” before linking it to the name of your band. In what ways does that honesty register lyrically, and does it register with your audience?

We put more energy into making our music feel than to be clever. Not that there’s anything wrong with clever, but sometimes music can have too much clever and not much music. Not for us, that’s all.

How does having MySpace for a web site help you engage directly with your fans?

Everyone knows how to find a band on MySpace, how to get a taste of their sound and their feel, and because of that it’s a great way to connect with audiences, people in the business and so on. It’s become such a standard that some bands don’t even bother with a website.

Are there any drawbacks to it?

Every band on MySpace fits into the MySpace format and sometimes that standardization can be misleading and stripping of character. I’ve gone and checked out bands on MySpace, assessed their vibe from their background, photo and pithy quote, listened to 10 seconds of their four posted songs, said “meh,” and moved on. Then I’ve gone and seen the same band live and had a totally different experience. We live in quick-click times and all that. It’s good to slow down and listen.

Main influences?

Ya gots to know your ABCs: Al Green, Bach and CCR.

Are there any pet peeves Plants & Animals might have about music today?

Lots. But it’s more fun to just listen to the good stuff with/avec a cold beer.

TOP 10 ALBUMS that matter to PLANTS & ANIMALS

1. A Love Supreme – John Coltrane

2. Exile on Main Street – Rolling Stones

3. Blue – Joni Mitchell

4. The Goldberg Variations – Bach / Glen Gould

5. Houses of the Holy – Led Zeppelin

6. High Priestess of Soul – Nina Simone

7. Graceland – Paul Simon

8. Voodoo – D’Angelo

9. OK Computer – Radiohead

10. American Water – Silver Jews