Have Plants and Animals gone Hollywood? The Montreal trio’s new album, La La Land (Secret City), finds the outfit hitting its stride with songs that boldly hark to the days or AOR radio, classic rock, and hazy, lazy California sunshine-dazzled days -- though strangely enough, the group got it all down on tape in Montreal and outside Paris (the latter spot was an old mansion crammed with vintage gear). It’s recording made for rocking out -- a sight to be seen when Plants and Animals arrive at the Independent on May 25.
Q: How did La La Land come to pass?
Matthew “Woody” Woodley: A voice told us it was time.
Q: What sort of ideas were simmering during its making?
MW: We wanted to make a rock record, but the way we work is very much without a blueprint. If an idea simmers, we turn up the heat on the stove and hope it doesn't boil over.
Q: What does La La Land mean to you? Did LA -- or America -- inspire the album?
MW: I always think of it more as a state of mind than a place. There are some LA and American references, but I wouldn't take it to theme level. During the last two weeks, before handing the record over to the label, we were remixing, trying to setting on a track sequence, dealing with the artwork, retracking a song we weren't happy with and renaming the album almost daily. La La Land summed up the vortex quite nicely.
Q: How did the song Kon Tiki develop?
MW: We had a night off in California one tour between shows and decided to spend it on the coast. By chance, we ended up at a lovely motel-resort in Pismo Beach called the Kon Tiki Inn, and the rest is classic rock history.
Q: Thinking about the song "Future from the ‘80s" and the tune "Tom Cruz," I wonder how '80s pop culture played into this album?
MW: “Tom Cruz” is a title that has nothing to do with what that song is about and entirely to do with how it feels, or, more specifically, how we felt when we were recording it. It was just before Christmas, and one night in the studio, we got into the seasonal drink from our parts: rum and coke. It gave us that perfect combination of arrogance and charm, Tom-style, and we just got used to calling it that.
I guess “Future from the ’80s” has more to do with ’80s pop culture. It's Warren [Spicer]'s take. I watched a lot of sitcoms back then, I'll tell you that. It was the golden age of the sitcom, but I don't miss much else.
Q: It's a rockin' album that recalls the more ambitious moments of poppy prog -- was that something you were shooting for in the sound?
MW: Recording this one was a pretty straight extension of what we had been doing for the two years leading up to it, which was playing Parc Avenue live and plugged in as a threepiece. That and the fact that Warren and Nic [Basque] developed a fuzz pedal obsession, and I had to buy bigger drums to be heard.
Q: The band has fielded its share of acclaim and award attention -- does something like American Idol (the show rather than the song on La La Land) chafe against you or seem alien to you? And how do you feel about idolotry?
MW: Sure, that show is a whole other world of music than the one we're involved in, and I would feel OK putting it in the alien camp. That said, it doesn't chafe me, it's just silly entertainment and not worth getting too upset over when you can better spend your time, say, putting on a CCR record and having a beer.
As for idolotry, meh. Some people are fantastic, huge and inspiring, and they make the world a better place for it. To me, those who truly fit that bill usually aren't too concerned with the pedestal.
Q: Considering "Jeans Jeans Jeans," one has to ask: What kind of jeans are you wearing right now?
MW: Well, I've pretty much always been a Levi’s man, changing the cut now and then to keep up with the Joneses.
Q: Any favorite plants or animals you'd care to discuss or give a shout-out to?
MW: I'd like to give a shout-out to the cattle of Wyoming and the horses of Utah who have kept us company all day on this long drive we're doing. They look like like they have it all right out here.
Q: What's next for you?
MW: We're in the midst of a month-long American tour, so lots of shows. But we're already talking about hitting the studio again and trying out some new ideas in between dates this summer and fall. Music.
Plants and Animals perform Tuesday, May 25, 8 p.m., at Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. Lost in the Trees opens. $12-$14. (415) 771-1422, theindependentsf.com