Plants and Animals’ Homecoming Bigger than Ever

Montreal Indie Rockers Look Back at Humble Beginnings

Plants and Animals end their cross-country tour in Montreal on Friday.

It’s with a stride of confidence that Plants and Animals return home for a show in St. Henri’s old Corona Theatre. They’re making the final stop of their cross-Canada tour, playing packed venues bigger than ever.

“This tour so far is the most fun we ever had on the road,” said guitarist Nic Basque of their month playing across Canada. “It seems that people who come to the show really appreciate what we are doing.”

It’s a far cry from the trio’s first forays into the Montreal music scene in the early 2000s, meeting in Concordia’s music program.

They started out like many local bands, getting regular spots at Casa del Popolo and Divan Orange, honing in on their sound that would eventually grow into a contemporary take on the guitar-driven classic rock of the late ‘60s and ‘70s.

Despite the oxymoronic premise of making contemporary a “classic” genre, Plants and Animals have found the sweet spot. At times they have veered towards the vaguely indie-pop, but with their latest LP The End of That, they sit comfortably in the arena-sized rock sound they’ve created.

Originally an instrumental jam band, they quickly transitioned to including lyrics in their songs.

“There were a lot of lalalas at first,” Basque admitted.

When the timing was right, the trio, comprising of Basque along with vocalist/guitarist Warren Spicer and drummer Matt Woodley, applied for grant money and immediately intensified their writing and jamming.

Their first album Parc Avenue, released in 2008, was met with instant critical success. Before they even knew it, the band was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize and were nominated for a Juno Award.

As for the latest LP, the band did as many Montreal artists do, recording at the now very Canadian studio La Frette in Paris—a trend set a few years ago by the group’s friends Feist and Patrick Watson. After working on parts of their second record La La Land at the studio, they new next time it would all be done there.

Basque put emphasis on the “magical” characteristics of the studio, describing the space as having “a kind of hippie welcoming to it.”

“It looked like a big Westmount house,” he said. “We slept there, we ate there—we did everything there.”

Despite recording abroad, Plants and Animals are very much a group with their hearts in Montreal, and continue to be based here. There’s no denying the sense of “scene” in Montreal, a feeling Basque knows well.

“I think the scene divides itself in three parts—instrumental music, rock music and electronic music,” he said. As a francophone playing in an anglophone band, he likes the fact that the historically segregated linguistic groups are now more blurred.

The band works works Anglo and Franco bands alike, such as touring with Malajube, who’s track “Étienne d’Août” they covered at POP last year.

“There is a good support [system here]—it’s not competitive,” he said. “The record companies, cheap lodging, local support […] it all helps a lot.”

Plants & Animals (w/ Leif Vollebekk) / Nov. 16 / Corona Theatre (2490 Notre-Dame St. W.)
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