The Jungle :: Chatting With Woody from Plants and Animals

by Keeley Braunstein-Black

While they mix things up in the studio usually during performances, Plants and Animals is:

Warren Spicer – Singing, Guitar, Synth 

Nicolas Basque – Guitar, synth, and electronics

Matthew Woodley – Drummer and singing

Woodley opens with, “Everyone calls me Woody.”

Plants and Animals just released a new album called The Jungle. Hailing from Montreal, the band began playing together many years ago. The band name ‘Plants and Animals’ came from a chapter in a travel book, “dusty old travel book about Mexico or something, and we thought this would be a fun name for a band.”  Their first release was in 2003. The new album The Jungle was released on October 23, 2020.  It is their fifth full length album. They said, “we have been doing this for a long time and now take more time in-between albums.  This time was worth taking the time to do it.” 

“The album title came from almost an accident — from an old song from a previous album that we were trying to get, but couldn’t really get to work.  Nick had this idea it was worth salvaging, and it had a cool chorus, something about the structure just wasn’t working.  Tried it again, broke it down into its components, added sounds like insects at night and we took the chords from the old song.  It sounded like monkeys and jungly and that came into the lyrics.  It became a metaphor for this complex mysterious weird overarching theme for the time we live in.  Drinking, talking about the U.S. supreme court judge on trial made it into the lyrics.  Held a prism up to the window pane and we played with the colours that came out.  This crazy time that we live in all of the changes that are happening and there is the jungle.  Not about real monkeys,” says Woody “It can be interpreted a million different ways.  All interconnected unless you get into the details, and it has this kind of chaos to it.”

Woody describes their creative process as “all over the place.  We work on instinct. As an experimental band, we use loose structures and build crescendos and have conversations with each other through our instruments.  We weren’t a three chorus bridge kind of band.  That does happen sometimes now; Sometimes it follows those forms.”  This democratic process is one where “everyone pitches in.  It is an open ended process.  We are less territorial – we all shared lyric writing more than ever.”  Woody compares the writing process to building a sandcastle with friends.

Woody’s favourite song to play is “Sacrifice,” because, he says, “[we] let it grow wings and let it turn into a Bossa Nova jam which is fun to do”. However, Woody enjoys playing all of the songs on this album, “we have played a few shows in the past month for a pub in Montreal on a roof streamed online.  Last September we toured the UK and Italy.  We road tested a lot of these songs. I really like playing all of them; short and concise.  Before we had this sort of greatest hits thing going.  Now we can play the whole album”.

The album has a loose structure and a carefully thought out flow. “We’ve always made albums that have an arch, beginning, middle, and end; we created an order that flows.  Listen to them in one shot.  People don’t consume music like that anymore, with Spotify it’s all over the place.  Once they are done, what’s the best order to have them? How does it flow, making an arch flow and continuity?  Hard to keep people’s attention now isn’t it? We thought about whether to make an album because they are verging on obsolesce.  It’s nice to have something that you don’t need a battery or internet connection for.”

If you are familiar with Plants and Animals you may be in for a bit of a surprise. “We have always been resistant to call ourselves one thing, at our core we are drums, guitar and vocals.  Elements of kindsa disco vibes, production wise influence from hip hop in the way it’s produced, a lot more synths than we used to have… A really conscious effort to make something more now, musical colourful palette in the air, not fencing it in,” says Woody.

While no one is sure what comes next during these times, Woody’s view on all of this is that it’s “a cool opportunity to figure out what’s now and we should take advantage of that.”

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