Plants and Animals Talk Piano, Experimentalism and Taking Their Time

Photo by Caroline Desilets

A lot of bands say that every album is a reaction to the album that preceded it, which is certainly the way Plants and Animals approached its latest, “The End of That.” After taking just two weeks to record 2010’s “La La Land,” the band spent considerably more time preparing to make “The End of That.”

“Two weeks was a lot of pressure to execute, and that’s not the way that we work best,” Matthew “The Woodman” Woodley tells Listen, Dammit, before the band embarks on a tour that stops Wednesday, Oct. 10, in New Haven, and Friday, Oct. 12, in Northampton. Taking their time on the new album, the band’s third, had counterintuitive results, Woodley says of the 11-song album, which is a low-key, unassuming collection of catchy indie-rock tunes. “It’s definitely the simplest thing we’ve done, the most off the floor, least tweaked and added upon with overdubs.”

Here are three more facts we learned.

1. Recording live to tape has pros and cons. Plants and Animals wanted “La La Land” to reflect the sound of the band performing together at a moment in time. But performances sometimes come with mistakes. “I think we wanted to capture ourselves in the studio last time as a live band, to put the emphasis on the live performance and the interaction among us all,” Woodley says. I think we did that to some extent, but when I go back to my own playing, I think, ‘I could have done that better.'” That’s part of the reason the band took more time on “The End of That.” “You don’t play a note or hit a drum and it’s gone,” Woodley says. “It’ll always be there.”

2. There’s a lot of piano on “The End of That.” But there could have been even more. “We recorded a lot more piano than we ended up using,” Woodley says. “When we were writing over the winter, Warren [C. Spicer, the singer] was living in a place where there was a piano. Montreal is cold and dark and snowy, and he just connected to the piano.”  That’s not to say you should expect a lot of piano on Plants and Animals songs going forward. “I think it’ll stick around, but I don’t think it’ll ever be part of the spine of our sound,” Woodley says. “Warren’s always played the acoustic guitar, and it’s always been the same acoustic guitar. I’ve been playing with him since we were 12, and that’s as straight up as you can get. It just comes out of him so naturally.”

3. Plants and Animals started out making “more obtuse” music.Spicer and Woodley met guitarist Nic Basque in college, and their initial musical forays were improvisational instrumental experiments. The songs the band wrote back then have long-since fallen by the wayside, though Woodley says they contained elements worth preserving. “When I listen back to some of our instrumental stuff again, it’s like, ‘Oh  yeah, we have this flavor to us,’ and it’s kind of inspiring. I’d like to recapture some of that side of us,” he says. “I’d like to open up and explore the more abstract side of things again.”

Plants and Animals performs a free show Oct. 10 at Bar Nightclub, 254 Crown St., New Haven. Information here. Doors open at 9 p.m. The band plays with And the Kids Oct. 12 at the Iron Horse Music Hall, 19 Center St., Northampton. Tickets are $10 in advance for the 10 p.m. show. Information here.


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