Rock Like a Smile

Nicolas Basque finds that touring in places where not all bands go can be the most fun.

“There’s something really real about it,” he says. “People are really there for the music and to have fun.”

Because of this, he looks forward to his band’s upcoming visit to Whitehorse. Hailing from Montreal, the three-piece indie-rock band Plants and Animals will be playing at the Yukon Arts Centre on September 15.

Described as energetic, yet raw and vintage-sounding rock, the music of Plants and Animals wouldn’t be out of place if found sandwiched between records of the ’70s rock era. It has a fuzzy, analog quality to it that, when combined with the relaxed guitar riffs and groovy synthesizer, results in a heartfelt, nostalgic sound.

Besides Basque on guitar, keyboards and vocals, Plants and Animals consists of lead vocalist/guitarist Warren Spicer and drummer Matthew “the Woodman” Woodley, both originally from Halifax, NS.

The three have been playing music together for the last decade, and now have two full-length albums, Parc Avenue (2008) and La La Land (2010) under their belts, as well as two EPs, Plants and Animals (2005) and With/avec (2007). They recently finished recording a third CD, as yet untitled.

“The new album won’t come out until January, but we’ve been working on it since about September or October,” says Basque. “We ended up recording near Paris, France with a friend of ours. We worked on a few songs there and then came back to Montreal to finish it.”

With positive reviews on their last two albums, Basque seems optimistic about the third as well.

“It’s kind of a fresh perspective,” he says. “I like it; it’s a continuation of what we’ve been doing with our previous albums. Right now it’s the record we always tried to make. It’s the most honest to what we are and how we play. It’s really a sunny record, it’s not about breakups… it’s like a smile.”

Basque continues on to explain that the new record represents a bit of a change in the band’s approach to the recording process.

“This record is the beginning of something,” he says. “It kind of opened a new door to a new way of working for us. We worked more on the arrangement of the music, and focused less on strings and horns and stuff. We went more trippy and bass-y, with simpler rock songs.

“Overall, the album was more planned out, with less open doors for figuring stuff out after the fact. I had time to think a lot, try stuff out,” he adds.

“We did as much of it as we could live, because there’s always discoveries in the studio. It was a wild ride, a really fun recording process.”

So far, Basque says, the feedback from those who have heard the new material has been very good. He hopes to be able to play some of the songs from the new album when Plants and Animals performs in Whitehorse.

“We’ve spent the last six months in a studio, so we’re really excited to play live again,” he says.

“People describe our show as pretty energetic. We move around a lot, and move through a lot of dynamics. I think there’s good musicianship between the three of us, and we just hope it translates to the crowd. It will be fun to connect to a crowd and work with a real live audience again!”

While their stop in Whitehorse isn’t part of a tour, it will set the stage for a year of touring once the new album is released in January. Until then they’ll be working on even more new material and rehearsing their set for the new album.

Plants and Animals will play on the main stage at the Yukon Arts Centre on Thursday September 15 at 8 pm. More information on the band and examples of their music can be found on Myspace, or on their website

Willow Gamberg is a former What’s Up Yukon intern who writes about music and other arts-related topics.

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