Q&A with Breathe Owl Breathe

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Folk band Breathe Owl Breathe charmed audiences at the Mohawk last week (Photo courtesy of Breathe Owl Breathe).
Folk band Breathe Owl Breathe charmed audiences at the Mohawk last week (Photo courtesy of Breathe Owl Breathe).

A folk trio that lends its music to be the warmth on a winter-time journey, Breathe Owl Breathe is on tour with singer songwriter Laura Gibson and opened up the show at the Mohawk last Sunday night.

The Michigan natives Andrea Moreno-Beals on cello, Micah Middaugh on guitar, and Trevor Hobbs on drums were on their way to a bookstore show in Marfa when The Daily Texan spoke with the band’s drummer.

The Daily Texan: I Google’d your name and a “hire a mountain guide” website came up. What’s something you’re knowledgeable or confident enough to guide people through?

Trevor Hobbs: Yeah, the mountain guide is not me. But I do have an affinity for the Earth sciences and I did a master’s degree studying Geo-Morphology. So I think that I’m qualified to speak about that, it’s interesting you found a mountain guide though.

DT: Where did you get your Master’s?

TH: Michigan State University.

DT: As a drummer in a folk band, are there ever times you just want to rage?

TH: [Laughs] Uh, yeah, definitely. There are times when I just want to groove. It’s interesting because I feel that feeling [the rage] is slowly making its way into our music. But playing along with acoustic instruments like the cello and acoustic guitar, you definitely have to approach drumming in more delicate perspectives.

DT: So could you describe the way that “feeling” is making its way into the sound?

TH: I think we’re always interested in jumping on instruments that we are maybe not most comfortable with. Andrea has been playing drums more and more, and I’ve been playing keyboards. So in order to keep it grounded and held together we occasionally throw in a drum machine and try to lock into that rigid sound. But it’s hard to pin down where it’s all going. I think we are always looking to evolve in a lot of different ways with our songs, whether it’s toward a groove or instruments we’re not familiar with.

DT: So what are you guys traveling in?

TH: We’re traveling with Laura [Gibson] and her crew, it’s a passenger van. We got all our gear in here and we’re sort of folded up. We’re just tucked away with all of our stuff.

DT: And how did you guys meet Laura?

TH: We met in Portland. We started going to her shows and we just really admire what she does, so we just met through music that way. We started hanging out and seeing each other when we would come to Portland then she asked us to come along on this tour.

DT: It’s pretty cool how musicians meet up and make friends.

TH: Yeah! It’s a very open community.

DT: It seems you guys have an affinity with animals. What makes you partial to owls, dragons, wolves, dogs, moles and/or ostriches?

TH: I think that affinity comes from Micah being interested in making songs about characters that are moving through space and going through time. They kind of have an element of story-like nature to them. I think it’s part of Micah’s songwriting. Just being someone who grew up always interested in stories and always having storytelling and poetry around him, it comes from him and that time I think.

DT: Last year you released The Listeners/These Train Tracks, a two-story vinyl with illustrations. What brought upon the idea for that project?

TH: It was kind of a long time coming. Micah has always had this idea to write a children’s book. It was kind of a three-year project in the making. He is always writing down stories or lyrics in little pocket books and keeping them in random places, like the cabin and coats and pockets. I think that’s how the book started. He imagined a story of a mole and an ostrich and how they meet up underground. The [band's] music was coming together at the same time as the story was and it dawned on us that they show together really nicely. Then we did a kickstarter fundraiser to raise money to fund the book. It was successful and it was a reality so we thought we should do it for real.

DT: You mentioned the cabin, what’s that about?

TH: All three of us lived at the cabin at one point. Just recently I moved but Micah and Andrea still live there. It’s this place that’s a Lincoln Log Style cabin that’s on a property that Micah grew up on. It’s where his grandparents lived when they were still around. They would go there to spend the winters. Now it’s a place where we’re setting up the music studio, Micah has his print making studio there, so it’s a place we return to when we’re off the road to recoup and create stuff. We make movies and record.

DT: Is living in a cabin more appealing then living in a house?

TH: Yeah, definitely. It comes with its fair share of pros and cons but the pros outweigh the cons. Just being able to go out the back door and get lost in the woods on an adventure and just having the freedom to create with few distractions.

DT: If you had to choose a landscape, or culmination thereof, which you say Breathe Owl Breathe sounds like?

TH: I think our songs are reminiscent of icy landscapes of the North. But I think more and more lately they’re sort of rolling canyon desert landscape filtering into our aesthetic.

DT: What’s the best setting to listen to your music?

TH: Maybe on a tape in a car. [Laughs] We have a lot of people say our albums have accompanied them on a journey somewhere.