Montreal group Plants and Animals embark on exhaustive tour on the back of their new album The End of That

Guitarist Nic Basque power steps his way through a set.

As much as any other job, music can be a grind. With the hectic schedules that most independent bands set for themselves, making a living at it can really take its toll. Matthew Woodward, the drummer for Montreal’s Plants and Animals, sounds like he’s been touring for months.

“We just played South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, which was a complete gong show,” said Woodward on the phone from Victoria, B.C.

The band — composed of Woodward, guitarist/bassist/jack of all trades Nic Basque and lead vocalist Warren Spicer — just performed a hectic five shows in three days at SXSW. Their time at the festival didn’t allow the band to slow down, said Woodward.

“There’s a show everywhere, there’s a bar everywhere in Austin, there’s a parking lot everywhere in Austin, and anywhere there’s an open space people set up a stage. It’s a zoo. It’s a zoo of music.”

Their tour began only weeks ago, shortly after the release of their new LP The End of That, but with over 30 dates still to come they have no rest in sight. Of course, this is nothing new for a group that has been playing and touring since 2005.

“After an album release, you hit the road pretty hard,” said Woodward. “That’s a busy time and then it tends to gently peter out over a while and then you record and put out another album. At the very simplest, that’s the way album cycles work for us.”

Though The End of That was just released, Woodward says the songs may find new lives over the course of the tour. “We spent a lot of time rehearsing before this tour in Montreal, but we do end up developing things on the road. There’s no better place than in front of an audience for finding out what’s working and what’s not.”

The album began to take form last winter in Montreal. The group recorded in a local studio, laying down basic groundwork for what would eventually become The End of That. After a period of practicing, recording and tweaking what Woodward describes as being “almost like working every day,” the band packed up and headed to France.

There, in a small community outside Paris, the band returned to a studio called La Frette where they had recorded years before.

“It’s a world-class studio that also happens to be in a beautiful house that you sleep in, eat in and smell the breeze in,” explained Woodward.

The album itself is an evolution for Plants and Animals. The band tried to achieve a continuity on this record that was lacking from their previous two LPs.

“The tones are really consistent from song to song and through the album,” said Woodward. “Nic’s guitar especially, he’s got this certain sound that sort of threads the whole thing together.”

Even though the album contains that continuity, Woodward resists attempts to classify The End of That under one specific musical genre or time period. “Some songs are dry and kind of R&B-ish, and that has a ’70s feel, and there are other ones that we recorded in the big living room upstairs that have more of a grandiose feel.”

When compared to their previous albums, The End of That definitely has a unique sound. The group’s effort to craft an album that sounds like the same collection of music from start to finish is evident, but the group’s focus remains on crafting great music regardless of what comparisons they might draw.

“This one, maybe in its simplicity brings ’70s references to people’s minds, but we tried to still keep it contemporary,” Woodward explained. “We’re not trying to be in an era that we’re not.”

Looking to the future, Woodward says the band has found a comfortable sound with this album, but that they’re not done working.

“I hope we don’t get too conservative because it’s a lot more interesting to keep changing than to recreate over and over again.”

Now that the album is out, the group is focusing entirely on the tour. Until the end of April they’ll be driving to a different town every day, playing a different bar almost every night, and Woodward says that despite their packed schedule they look forward to returning to Saskatoon.

“I couldn’t imagine driving across the prairies without stopping in and playing at Amigos. The crowds there are always really good.” Woodward paused to let out an extended yawn. “Rowdy,” he concluded.


Photo: laviddichterman/Flickr