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Plants and Animals: Somewhere between a crisis and a pretty good time

Somewhere between a crisis and a pretty good time

Warren C. Spicer: "You can have some depressing lyrics in a happy song; it makes for an interesting experience"
Photo: Sophie Samson (assistant Alexis Melançon)

Plants and Animals return with The End of That, a third LP whose creation took them from Mile End to France

In 1970, after a year of intense touring, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant holed themselves up at Bron-Yr-Aur in the Welsh countryside to take a breather and write some new songs for what would become Led Zeppelin III. The Treatment Room, a studio located in the heart of Mile End, next to the tracks and the old St-Lawrence Warehousing Company building, is sort of like Plants and Animals’ Bron-Yr-Aur – a stress-free environment where they laid the basis of their third LP, The End of That, in a much less hurried fashion than they had for their previous, La La Land.

"We had toured like crazy for Parc Avenue, then we came home and it was time to make another record so we just jumped into the studio and started recording right away. Didn’t give ourselves time to work on things, we just went and did it," remembers frontman Warren C. Spicer. "This one we had time, we had this place where we could work on things, so we just wrote a lot more songs and had a lot more time to work on them before we actually recorded them."

The actual recording of The End of That took place at La Frette, a manor on the outskirts of Paris where they’d cut a few tracks for La La Land. "It’s the simplest feeling… When you’re over there, you feel like you’re at home," says drummer Matthew Woodley. "I think being isolated in a house with just an engineer and an assistant all the time, being like a little family there, helped a lot to bring out the best in everyone," adds guitarist Nicolas Basque. "The ground floor has these big 15-foot-high ceilings and big old windows," describes Spicer. "There’s a living room area that we set up in for some stuff, and then in the basement where the control room is, there’s a couple other rooms which are more in the style of 70s studios, like fully carpeted, fully isolated… So there’s a bunch of different options, and we ended up using everything."

IN BETWEEN THE TEARS AND THE LIGHTSHOW

Much of The End of That deals with heartbreak and loneliness, with those times when you feel "all down in the dumps, man." While Spicer stresses that "it’s not a concept album," The End of That does feel remarkably cohesive. "We sequence albums more thinking about just the flow of the music than thematically," says Woodley. "We still care about albums, even though so many people just want to put on the iTunes shuffle and whatnot. We think of it as a whole – there’s a whole arc to it."

Warren also concedes that his lyrics were pretty uniformly inspired by a rough patch he went through in 2010. "It was a difficult year. The writing, for the most part, was just pretty honest about what was going on. But at the same time there’s humour and jokes, it’s not a bummer of a record," he assures. "I think that was an attempt to not necessarily let the weight of that kind of thing distract from what the music is. You can have some depressing lyrics in a happy song; it makes for an interesting experience." Matthew: "Like [Marvin Gaye's] Mercy Mercy Me. ‘Fish full of mercury’ and everyone’s dancing!"

Similarly, in the upbeat Crisis!, Warren muses about how alienating it can be when everyone around you is getting married and having kids but you’re doing the opposite. "You’re at a certain age and you leave a relationship and you’re like, ‘Oh boy, now.’ The contrast of lifestyle becomes really apparent." You’d think being a musician who’s often on the road would emphasize this feeling, but Spicer thinks it ultimately makes it more palatable. "I get to run away for a while and see lots of things, I don’t have to sit in one place and just think about my relationship. When we get to tour, there’s just so much happening all the time, it doesn’t have to be a priority."

Or as he sings in Song for Love, "It’s a chance to convalesce in a van, drink some beer and recover."

Plants and Animals
w/ Thus: Owls
At Cabaret du Mile End
March 10

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