by Sacha Kingston-Wayne
Ottawa’s Plant Legs love sad songs. “Bad Fortune,” the first track off their debut EP Plant Matter (out April 21), is a fresh slice of haunting guitar pop. Like any great sad song, it may make you want to lie down on the floor. I spoke with members Robin Richardson-Dupuis, Deirdre Morrison, and Neil Abraham about plants, nostalgia, and finding inspiration in melancholia.
SKW: What emotions do you want people to feel when they hear your music?
RRD: I definitely want them to have a nostalgia bomb.
DM: Someone told us at one of our shows that we made them feel really nostalgic.
NA: I read this thing recently that the said the reason why millenials are so susceptible to nostalgia is because in the past twelve to fifteen years of our development, we’ve gone from being pre-Internet to having all this technology. Anything before this fast-paced world isn’t that long ago but feels like “way back when”.
RRD: Most people are pretty ready to feel nostalgic.
NA: There was a guy who had a different cast on his arm at every show and he said we made him feel all sorts of feelings. He wanted us to sign a different cast each time. He’s our number one fan.
SKW: Does Plant Matter have a consistent emotional tone?
DM: In terms of the lyrics, I think so.
RRD: It’s like looking at a bunch of pictures that were taken with the same camera.
SKW: Were the songs written around the same time?
RRD: In the past year or so.
DM: A lot of the songs have the theme of reflecting on time passing.
SKW: Did it slow down the band when (previous Plant Legs member) Keegan Gomm moved to Toronto?
DM: We knew that we didn’t want to replace him with another drummer because we had really good chemistry, so we decided to go in the direction of using digital drums. It was a lot of work to create those.
RRD: We didn’t even really talk about finding a new drummer. It was Keegan or no one. He’s still in our Facebook group chat.
SKW: Is there something about plants which you find inspiring?
NA: Yeah. Plants are really cool. They were the first form of life that existed on Earth. I think that’s kind of badass.
RRD: I feel like plants exist on a different spiritual plane.
DM: I think they’re stronger than humans and they’re not evil.
NA: They have all sorts of secret ways to communicate. They’re very secretive.
SKW: How did you learn these facts about plants?
NA: My partner is a biologist. She works with plants.
DM: I used to work as a naturalist at a provincial park. I studied some field guides and collected little specimens, mostly moths.
SKW: Why have you chosen to self-record?
DM: We don’t have very much money. I try to record as many bands as possible and also I wanted to have a lot of control because I feel like I’m very close to the project.
NA: If we’re pouring a bunch of our own money into it, it’s so much more high-stakes.
RRD: It’s something we’ve made ourselves.
SKW: The song you released last year, “Violet”, is quiet and understated. Does the EP follow that trajectory?
RRD: Yeah, parts of it do. I think we started from more of a dream-pop, kind of shoegaze-y place, and now we’re trying to explore some different avenues and some darker stuff. But for the most part, it’s a similar sound.
NA: I’ve been trying to sneak in some math rock here and there.
DM: It gets a little louder on some tracks but overall it’s pretty quiet and sad.
SKW: Does making that style of music come naturally to you, as opposed to something louder or more abrasive?
DM: I don’t think I can write anything happy without it annoying me. (laughs)
RRD: I feel that way too. I feel like sadness is somehow more real than happiness, or more significant.
SKW: I think the thing about sad songs is you hear them and you’re like “oh, someone else feels the same way”.
NA: It’s easier to write a sad song than it is to write a happy song.
RRD: There’s so many other places to put happiness. People kind of expect happiness as a default. People don’t want to see sadness so you need a place to put it.
DM: I’d agree with that.
NA: The songs we write aren’t depressingly sad. It’s more about embracing melancholy.