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June Garber

Plants and Animals Want to Control Your Mind and Your Listening Experience

Canada's Darwinian indie darlings Plants and Animals, welcome and thrive on evolution.

By Shelley Gummeson

We lure you in with the good cop, and then we turn it on you and it gives us total control over your mind and listening experience

The biodiversity of Plants and Animals did not appear to be threatened by the intense global warming experienced at the 2008 Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival. The trio of Plants and Animals was right on time for their interview. It was a blistering hot day, and almost everyone appeared to be a bit heat drunk as they sought refuge from the rays. Everyone, that is, except Warren C. Spicer, Matthew Woodley and Nicolas Basque of Plants and Animals.

Plants and Animals
Plants and Animals are short listed for the Polaris Prize

We were shepherded towards what can only be described as 'the mothership', a two tier, smoked glass and metal monstrosity of a trailer parked backstage. 'It's air conditioned,' we're told, as a volunteer wrestled with the secret hatch entrance. I'm fully expecting the craft to light up and drone out sounds, in an attempt to communicate with the music that permeates the air. Our escort pries open the hatch, which slips from his sweaty death grip, snapping guillotine- like back into place. Another try and we quickly slip through the door, fearful of losing limbs.

Montreal's Plants and Animals, have captured the imaginations of people and the attention of the music industry with their organic, and occasional swooping, orchestration. There are only three of them but they make a big sound. They have been short listed for the Polaris Prize, an award that is based on the merits of musicality not sales or popularity. Despite all the industry accolades and the release of a blockbuster debut album, Parc Avenue, Plants and Animals are grounded and enjoy a lighthearted chat.

SG: What an interesting name, Plants and Animals. Are you agriculturalists, botanists or zoologists?

Plants and Animals
Montreal's Plants and Animals are a trio with a big sound

Warren: We're all of those things. We're zoologists, we're environmentalists, we're botanists. Did I already say that? So we decided to name our band after that.

SG: So, what kind of plants and what kind of animals are we talking about here.

Warren: Ah, Nic is a marmot, Woody is a manatee and I am a dandelion.

SG: I was listening to your music and I found that it lulls you into this false sense of security then zaps you with something else. It was unpredictable and had some sweeping drama to it. Where does this come from?

Warren: Maybe, kind of a lack of experience in songwriting, and putting things together that don't necessarily seem like they should be together. Kind of coming at it from a na�ve place and making songs from there.

Woody: That's rather self deprecating. I see it as more of a good cop, bad cop kind of thing. We lure you in with the good cop, and then we turn it on you and it gives us total control over your mind and listening experience. As opposed to what Warren says, it's all lies. It is very orchestrated.

SG: So, we as listeners are deliberately led down this path�

Woody: Yes, the path of false security. You think you are following the beacon of hope and end up in the Bermuda Triangle. You're going down.

Nic: I would go in between those guys. I'm the moderate. I don't think it's planned out. I don't think we do this, 'Oh it would be such a good surprise when that part comes in'. I think it is the way we think music. There is a na�ve way to approach things, but we also make them work. It's like the Inuit. We find the rocks and we sculpt it. We do not know what it will be, but sometimes it is a big marmot, sometimes it's a dandelion and sometimes it's two things at the same time.

Plants and Animals
Montreal's Plants and Animals are a trio with a big sound

SG: Your album Parc Avenue took almost three years to make. Why did it take so long?

Woody: It was just a lot of work and a lot of changing of ideas. We started it and we didn't really know� we've gone through a lot of stuff. We definitely weren't the band we are now.

Warren: We just kept producing material and makings songs. We couldn't see the final album until we had done enough stuff to say, 'Okay, this fits and this fits. This is kind of who we are'. It's like Nic said, we're carving away at the stone until you see what the final thing is.

SG: Are you guys now the band that you had envisioned becoming?

Woody: We're still evolving. We're going to make more records and things will change. We've been doing a lot of shows and touring. We kind of got to a point where we realized this isn't good enough now. We're going to have to change what we're doing to continue getting better at this. Days will pop up where you realize that whatever you've been doing the past little while is good but you need to keep moving forward. We will evolve.

SG: What would surprise us about the three of you?

Nic: I think it is that we are just three. It's happened a few times where someone who doesn't know the band thinks we are maybe twenty.

Woody: Yeah, yeah, our album is full of sounds and full of different instruments. The cover is a zoo of people and when you show up at our show it's just us. Fortunately that's worked out for us. We've got a great big sound.

Days will pop up where you realize that whatever you've been doing the past little while is good, but you need to keep moving forward. We will evolve.

SG: What do you want people to know about you?

Warren: Umm�Ah�.I'm drawing a blank on this. Nic, any ideas?

Nic: You don't know this but none of us has any legs. You can't see this, so please buy our CD so we can have fake legs.

Woody: Nic pulls through with the truth.

Plants and Animals don their shades and disappear into the shimmering heat waves of the day. The secret hatch of 'the mothership' trailer snaps shut, guillotine- like behind them. Their limbs are intact.

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