In a Lincoln Log cabin in deep rural Michigan live and work Micah Middaugh, Trevor Hobbs, and Andréa Moreno-Beals. This is Breathe Owl Breathe.
A pocket history:
- Micah and Andréa met in a Dairy Queen parking lot.
- Trevor and Micah’s first day together was spent turning a party full of strangers into the set of an improvised VHS zombie movie.
- Their cabin was built by Micah’s grandparents last century. His grandfather was a radical preacher who traveled by dogsled.
- Andréa was born in Colombia.
- Trevor studies Geomorphology.
- Micah grew up in a Hexagon hut in the Jordan River Valley. He didn’t speak till he was four.
The trio’s new album, Magic Central, will be released on Hometapes on September 28, 2010. More than just a record, Breathe Owl Breathe have created a timeless aural cartogram of feeling, soul, skill, and story. You could have found it in the attic. It could have dropped from outer space.
The best way to learn about Magic Central is to listen. The second best way is to read what the band has to say about it. This story is theirs.
**Read the complete interview at www.home-tapes.com/breatheowlbreatheinterview
A lot of songs on Magic Central were born out of our experiences living at the cabin (our home). Many of the characters on the album were a reflection of what we were going through at the time. Micah had lived there by himself for quite some time, working on setting up his print making studio, and battling keep the place warm through the winter. Trevor and Andréa would come up to the cabin when they could (before and after shows and small tours), finding Micah mixing inks and sustaining himself on peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. Eventually, we were all there together, and the cabin became our refuge for making art and music together.
The place transformed from solely being Micah’s print studio into a place for recording, recreating (there’s a badminton net in the front yard), working on art projects, and living. The separation between the printing press, the kitchen, the light table, and the old piano was starting to blur...printed t-shirts by the drumset, mail under the toy piano, marimba next to the dart board, cello leaning against the light table... There was never a time when an instrument or an old book was too far out of reach. At one point, we used the field of fresh snow as a surface to project Last of the Mohicans, and watched from the upstairs window [Daniel Day Lewis and the triumphant music echoing in the valley...”No matter how long it takes, I will find you!”]. The cabin slowly morphed into Magic Central -- a place where there is no distinction between working, creating, songwriting, practicing, and playing.
So we started recording a lot at the cabin… on our 16 track, on cassette tapes, and VHS. Trevor would spend the late hours playing piano, and Andréa would be downstairs on cello. Micah was always recording us from another room while improvising lyrics over our music. Other times, Micah would go for a run and come back with a lyric or an idea for a combination of instruments, and they’d eventually turn into songs. In those initial months together, we came up with a ton of song ideas, constantly working with what we were surrounded by.
Late in the summer (2009), we started recording with Jim Roll in the studio. Many of the songs were still simple ideas when we started laying them down -- maybe just a lyric, or a banjo or piano line -- and our goal was to let the studio shape the song arrangements. We knew we wanted to do the instrumentation for the album all ourselves -- like doing our own stunts. We wanted the challenge of digging deep with the instruments we were familiar with [as well as the instruments we didn’t know well at all]. In the studio, we were constantly trying out different instrumentation [and recording approaches], trying to take advantage of the opportunity that the studio offers to collage songs together. The goal was to get as much recorded as possible, and spend the following months sculpting out an album.
In the early winter, Andréa left for Brazil. The songs that would make up Magic Central started to live a little. Up at the cabin, it became a time for epic cross country ski adventures, digging deep into the mixes, and coming up with song orders. With Andréa in a tropical climate, and us (Micah and Trevor) back in the depth of winter up north, broader themes in the album started to materialize -- distance and proximity, chill and tropic, opera and grumble...
Andréa came back from Brazil in the heart of winter (mid January). We (Micah, Trevor, and our friend Weston Currie) were finishing up filming the video for Own Stunts. Andréa brought back with her an equatorial vibe, a pander (Brazilian tambourine), some tropical gifts, and some new beats. There was a feeling of reintroduction between us all, like a member of our tribe had just returned from a spiritual journey. Andréa put on an Inuit parka (formerly belonging to Micah’s Grandpa), went out deep into the snowy surroundings, and finally the characters, the feeling of longing, and the epic journey of Own Stunts (both in the video and in song) started to make complete sense. We were also thinking about our final mixes at that time, and realized that there was another song out there that belonged on this album (Across The Loch). We went back to the studio, let the tape roll, and the song came together instantly between the three of us, bringing us all back into the same world...full circle...wrapping the album shut.
- Breathe Owl Breathe