Got plans Wednesday night? Break them and go see Plants and Animals headline Bowery Ballroom, where the ebullient Montreal trio are sure to get the room grooving with their melodically fuzzy post-classic rock. The group just released the follow-up to their warmly received debut Parc Avenue; called La La Land, the record was recorded entirely in analog, mostly in an old mansion outside Paris. The result is grittier and bigger-sounding than Parc Avenue, but that elusive spirit of West Coast bonhomie remains, as does their mastery of irresistible pop hooks. A captivating live band, Plants and Animals have the rare ability to get your head bopping at first listen, as we discovered when we saw them upstage Wolf Parade at Warsaw so many years ago. Last month we spoke with the band's drummer and vocalist, Matthew Woodley, from the road.

Where are you? Buffalo, New York. Where are you? NYC?

Yeah, Brooklyn. Did you have a show there? Yeah, last night. We just had a big feed and we're getting ready to roll on to Cleveland.

How's the tour going to far? Great, this is kind of chapter two or three or something like that. But last night was our first show of this month for an American date.

You're on the road for what seems to me to be a long time. Having a break now and then is nice because you can kind of go home and refresh. I didn't mind it that much. If we were gone for months at a time I would probably go nuts. But this is okay, it's what we do, so we do it.

Do you guys share the driving responsibilities? Yeah, we split it up mostly. We have a few other people along with us to help out. But I do a lot of it. [Laughs]

How did the band come together? In a nutshell, Warren and I met when we were in junior high school, in Halifax which is on the east coast of Canada. I guess we were in 7th grade, and started playing together shortly after that. We grew up playing in different bands, often together, and we both ended up in Montreal at the same time, going to university, and we met Nic there. That was ten years ago, and now the three of us have been together ten years.

Did you ever consider adding a fourth person to play bass full-time? Yeah, once in a while it's come up, we thought about it for this record, maybe getting a fourth person to round it out a bit, but ultimately we decided for a bunch of reasons that the three of us were working pretty well. We didn't put much effort into finding a fourth person and it didn't fall into our laps. But both of the guitar players make up for the lack of a proper base player by loosening the bass frequencies and all kinds of sound tricks. It nice, a smaller, precarious balance of three people that I think we all like.

I first saw you guys at Warsaw when you opened for Wolf Parade and I was just blown away. It was completely riveting. Oh cool, thanks man. That was our first trip out to the U.S. to play, I think. I was really nice of those guys to take us out, we didn't have a record out at the time and we got to play for really big crowds for a week and it gave us more experience and more confidence that we were doing something that was working.

Can you talk about the recording process for the new album? Well we did a lot of it in Montreal and a chunk of it in Paris.

Why Paris? The studio came up through a label connection and a connection through a man who had seen us play in Montreal. He had been working the French music scene for decades and he owns this big manor outside of Paris that has a studio in it. So it's a residential studio. And someone said, "Hey, do you want to go record there?" So we looked it up online and we showed up at the place and put our heads down for five days and really got into it. It's sort of a compound surrounded by a big fence and trees. It feels French, but it doesn't feel urban-Parisian by any means so it was really easy to just shut out the world and focus on playing music without any distractions.

I see you guys did one of those take away shows. Did that happen when you were in Paris recording? Yeah, I mean I describe it in so many interviews but if you watch that video of us playing The Mama Papa that sums it all up, you see the layout of the house and that amazing situation. Ones in one living room, and another's in another living room and then Nic's downstairs and the camera sweeps from room to room and goes out through the garden, through the control room, and you see that and you see where Nic is this gaggle of pedals in the basement. That's a good way to get a feel for the place. That video is worth many millions of words.

Yeah, I'm looking at it now, you guys are each playing simultaneously? Yeah, with headphones on. That's 1970s technology.

Plants and Animals | The Mama Papa | A "Take Away Studio" from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

Do people draw too much of a connection to that sound from that era with you guys? Is that overemphasis? I think because it's in the first paragraph of the press release that got sent around it becomes a question, you know? "So, you guys record to analog?" And I think half the people that ask that don't even know what that means and I think ultimately it's not that important. It's more esoteric studio stuff. But it still is what we record and we still work with that memoir of our old-school aesthetic. Our '60s, '70s analog aesthetic. That's the stuff that often sounded best.

Is that era of music one that's been particularly important to you? Yeah, it has. It still is. It's not the only one, but it's a golden era for sure.

What type of other music do you listen to that might surprise journalists who just use the shorthand that you are influenced by this '70s California sound? It's hard to surprise anyone these days when everyone's got an iPod crammed up with ever imaginable type of music. Right now Jimmy Cliff's on in the background. I like the Motown stuff a lot. I like African music a lot. Some modern stuff. It's really a mishmash.

What are some of the inspirations that made this album what it is? What were you going for and how do you feel it's different from Park Avenue? Well, when we did Park Avenue we didn't have a label, we were just kind of playing around Montreal. It was a two-year process of figuring out what we were doing and what was going to end up on this album that would be Park Avenue. By the end of it we had taken a big step into playing music full-time with a manager and touring and stuff like that. This new record was a product of a band that had been on the road for a number of years. I think we went into the studio and continued along the lines in which we had been playing, the three of us plugged in, but a little bolder. Before had been maybe a little more pared down.

Was this album inspired by Los Angeles? Have you been to LA? Is that where the name La La Land comes from? No, the name can play in a little bit but it is more of a state of mind than a place. That said, yes, we've been to Los Angeles a few times for a day or two on tour and I think it rubbed off on us in one way or another. But that's not what the record's about.

What is the record about? Just scenes, here and there. There isn't one grand over arching line. There was no blueprint or such at the beginning. We just recorded and kept taking what we had, and ultimately little snippets from here and there, from that song and that song would reflect the scene more than we define the music around the scene.

Do you write the lyrics? No, I don't work in that.

Do you write what's on the website? Because you just said the bit about a state of mind that was on the website. Yeah, I have some stuff to do with that.

Because on the website it says "La La Land isn't a place, it's a state of mind," and it goes on to say that "Plants and Animals has never been a band with much interest in posturing or unnecessary theatrics but in La La Land the curtain isn't just pulled back, it is gone entirely." Yeah, that was written by a guy who works for our label but that came out of a discussion with all of us, so our input is in there in one way or another.

Do you read reviews? Rarely. I read the odd record review, but very very rarely. I guess I'm kind of interested in the criticism side of it, but I don't read articles and interviews and that kind of stuff, I've just always found it too distracting.

Well, it just struck me as odd because the review on Pitchfork seemed to be saying the opposite of what you were going for in terms of the curtain getting pulled back and I wanted to know if you had any response to that. Well, it's just one review, you know? They're a very influential publication and I've always liked that there seems to be a certain standard of criticism that they go for, and it's not all hype and fluff. The criticism I've read on their website of other records I tend to agree with. I like it. I read their criticism of our album only briefly the day it came out, someone had told me it was out, I just said okay, well, whatever. We're doing what we're doing.

I would think for someone who is creating something you would never want somebody else's opinion, of which there are thousands, to get up in your head.
Yeah, that's the thing, it can have too much of an impact on how you do things. You might try and shape your music or your performance in a way that is, whether conscious or not, geared to criticisms that you've read. On the other hand I don't like reading lots of favorable reviews and saying "great, everything we do is great," and letting that go to my head. I like being somewhere in the middle.

Are you guys playing mostly new material on this tour? It's a mix. Every show I've ever gone to, the band has a popular record and people want to hear the stuff they've developed a connection with. But we try and play a mix of old and new, which is fine with me. I never get tired of playing old songs.

How do you guys decide the set list? We often do it backstage a couple of minutes before we go on. [Laughs] There are certain habits and certain combinations of songs that tend to work night after night. I think the trick is to try to build it around the beginning and the end and fill in the middle with appropriate songs. I always feel the way you start and end a set are really crucial for the arc of the whole thing.

How would you describe the dynamics of the band, is there one person that has sort of a lead role? Yeah, it depends what we're doing. In the studio Warren for sure is in the lead role. He comes in with the tunes in the first place and he's the most developed producer of the three of us. But we all have our ways of bouncing off each other beyond that. It really depends, but we're all necessary pieces of the puzzle.

Are you the point man for the press? A lot of the time, yeah.

Is that because you like talking or because the others don't want to talk to the media? [Laughs] I don't know, I'm just comfortable with it I guess.

So you'll be back in New York playing Bowery Ballroom, and that's one of the last shows of the tour? Yeah, that's the second last officially. I'm looking forward to that. Of all the cities in the U.S. New York's got a kind of special quality to it. It's New York after all. We played at the Bowery before but we haven't headlined it yet so I'm really looking forward to that one.

Are there any places that you are familiar with in New York that you like to go to when you're in town like restaurants or bars or record stores or anything? We often stay in Brooklyn. Brooklyn's cozy, it's easier on the nerves compared to Manhattan especially when you're traveling around with a big van full of gear and people and stuff, and it's just easier to have that much more space. We've gotten familiar with Williamsburg and with Park Slope. In Manhattan we've gotten familiar with the Lower East Side. Those are the three stomping grounds we end up in. That's where the venues are so that's where we end up staying.

Can you share any strange, noteworthy experiences you've had whether playing live or with a fan or on tour? An anecdote? Oh, man, there's so many. [Laughs] We had our first ever experience in the show before last in Vancouver of people storming the stage and dancing and bouncers coming on and kicking them off and stuff like that. That was pretty cool.

You must have felt like rock stars. [Laughs] Yeah, it doesn't happen to us much but we did I think, yeah.

Your website looks like it's in 3-D and I never have 3-D glasses handy. If I went and got 3-D glasses would it be in 3-D? It would be in 3-D if you went and got 3-D glasses. I haven't spent much time with 3-D glasses on it myself but yeah, that was the idea. That was the fun little twist behind it. And of course it had to look good for people who don't have 3-D glasses because not everyone brings them home from Avatar.

And you have a blog on the website too? Yeah, it's a little naked isn't it?

Yeah, it says "I am the Woodman." Oh yeah [Laughs] I didn't even write that. [Laughs] I guess I should get at it. I think I will. I think I'm going to do it in the long idle hours on tour. If I'm not driving or sleeping or in the throws of the logistics of things.