Take a look at the cover art for Plantoid’s debut album, the jazzy, prog-rock opus  Terrapath. In a desolate, misty landscape, a massive half-vegetable, half-machine  structure resembling a spaceship looms above figures shrouded in shadow. It’s  weird and eerie, but it also ignites a feeling of wonder and nostalgia, like cracking  open your favourite sci-fi novel as a kid. It harkens back to ‘70s rock artwork, where  ornate fantasy scenes gaze back at you from dusty vinyl gatefolds—and yet it was  created with the decidedly modern AI software Midjourney. In short, it’s the perfect  visual for a band that is able to marry both the old and the new in a fresh and  exciting way. 

“Sometimes, when we play the record as a whole, it sort of feels like we’re entering  this universe that we’ve created,” says Plantoid’s lead singer/guitarist Chloe Spence.  “The sounds, the art, and where our minds go while we’re playing the album takes us  to this alien planet that no humans have reached.” 

Musically, Plantoid’s cauldron harnesses multiple subgenres at once to concoct a  sort of primordial soup, the molecules of which are built as much from progressive  rock as they are jazz, fusion, folk, and even a bit of ‘70s hard rock for good measure.  The band began as the brainchild of Chloe and Tom, who met while pursuing music  courses at Lincoln College in their teens. Quickly united by a passion for eclectic  psychedelic rock, and far-out, emotionally charged songwriting, they formed the  band Mangö and started gigging around town with drummer Louis Bradshaw, who  Tom had been good friends with since secondary school. 

After making a name for themselves locally, the three relocated to London and  recruited bassist Bernardo Larisch, who they met at a uni freshers party. Now a  four-piece, and renamed Plantoid, the band were ready to dig even deeper into their  shared influences, ranging from Miles Davis to Todd Rundgren, to Jeff Buckley, all  the way around to the more acute experimental fare that gives Plantoid their razor sharp edge. 

Plantoid are one of those bands that exceed the sum of their parts, with each  member bringing a unique flavor that enhances their sound tenfold. Tom has been  playing guitar practically his whole life, and his style, which fluctuates from lush  finger-picking to reverb-laden rock riffs, sits very comfortably on top of Louis’ jazz infused drumming and Bernardo’s intricate basslines. The band find their ace-in-the hole with Chloe, however—as well as serving as Plantoid’s principle lyricist, her  soaring vocals, at times both angelic and alien, propel each song on Terrapath to  new heights. 

“Sometimes, Tom comes up with a melody, and we bring it into rehearsal, and then it  can shoot off in whatever direction,” explains Chloe about the band’s songwriting  process. “I play the guitar, but Tom’s the one who does all of the really deep,  eccentric chord changes and stuff that bring out all these different harmonies.  Sometimes, not always, I’ll take it to the piano and just mess about. I like to take the more chaotic songs back to their roots on the piano when writing my vocal  melodies.” 

One such song is Terrapath’s closer, the ghostly “Softly Speaking”. More indebted to  atmospheric chamber pop than the band’s usual prog, Chloe wrote the song almost  entirely on the road, and it serves as a soul-nourishing palette cleanser to the  album’s more raucous elements. That’s not to say that it shrinks into the background:  in contrast to “Softly Speaking”’s title, Chloe’s vocals pack an emotional wallop,  alternating from measured harmony to guttural wail. “As much as Chloe loves all of  the experimental stuff, she also just loves a really powerful singer-songwriter song,”  says Tom. 

The inclusion of “Softly Speaking” on Terrapath easily shows off the band’s range in  mood—however, lead single “Dog’s Life” swings right back around to the band’s  roots. Named in homage to Chloe’s dog Poppy, who by all accounts is “a little  psychotic”, the track is a mood-swing of a sonic voyage that pings from blissfully  elated to shockingly heavy. 

”Dog’s Life” represents a lot of what we do in one track,” states Tom. “From this  psychotic heaviness, to the beauty of Chloe’s vocals, to the jazziness, it’s kind of an  all-rounder. Putting it out first lends itself to say, ‘Okay, well, the next thing that they could put out could be somewhat lighter … or it could be something absolutely  mental.” 

“It’s quite a jarring tune in the way that it changes section by section,” adds Chloe. “Poppy’s not that bad,” she laughs “She just changes moods really quickly. The song  is kind of about phasing out, when you’re on the verge of losing it. It’s about being able to recenter yourself again.” 

“Pressure”, another key track, showcases Plantoid’s total commitment to the sort of  heavier rock that birthed their sound back when they met in school. Chloe’s vocals  veer somewhat closer to Ty Segall territory, and Louis’ frantic drumming send the  track careening through the atmosphere. It’s a big, bold song, and one that has  already become a fan favourite in Plantoid’s epic live shows. “We’ve played it live a  lot and it always gets a great reaction,” says Tom. “It’s quite balls to the wall. It’s one of the shorter tunes as well, and after “Dog’s Life”, we wanted to portray the rawness  and power we’re capable of as a band.” 

Elsewhere on Terrapath, shines “Modulator”, which both Tom and Chloe describe as  the album’s most “poppy” song. It’s also one of the most straight up jazziest tracks— minor chords momentarily take the track into what could be almost an easy-listening territory, but Tom’s chunky guitar solo and Louis’ skittering drums keep it planted  firmly in the realm of experimental rock. As Chloe’s vocal harmonies burst through  the fray, right before a mind-gripping tempo change, you realize that there are few moods this band can’t capture with just their imagination and their four instruments.

With this level of music aficionado detail, you’d think that Plantoid spent a lot of time  in the studio getting things just right but the reality is that they recruited producer  Nathan Ridley to record almost the entire album live, with minimal overdubs, and the  result is clear in the finished product. Terrapath sounds like you’re front row at a  Plantoid gig, only one with the best sound imaginable. “Nathan is amazing—he’s  such a passionate guy,” raves Tom. “He gets the best out of us. There was one  song, a track called “Insomniac”, where we just weren’t getting there. Nathan would  come in the room with his shirt off, staring at us, just bouncing up and down, getting  in our faces. He’s a real believer in portraying emotion through music.” 

Emotion, whether it be through their music, lyrics, or performances, is a large part of  Plantoid’s creative impetus. Think back to that little alien searching for meaning with  his big green spaceship: through all the crazy solos, elastic basslines, acrobatic  vocals and supermassive drum beats, Terrapath is a story about finding yourself  through the music you love. Speaking again of “Pressure”, Chloe encapsulates it  perfectly: “It’s a boiling pot that never comes down. It just keeps on going and going,  and I think the lyrics can reflect; dealing with mental health and trying to feel your  emotions. In the past I have definitely struggled, and I was the queen of hiding  emotions without realizing that I was even doing it. In a way, many of these songs  are about just allowing yourself to work through your emotions. Whether they’re good  or bad, you’re gonna have to do it at some point.”