For those of you looking for the anti-Valentine’s Day Valentine’s Day, I know a good place to sulk in a corner, think about your non-existent relationship, and blame your sadness on the holiday that Hallmark invented. Dan’s Silverleaf invites you to hang out with our neighbors to the North in Denton, Texas. Here, you’ll find a lovely (though not too lovely, this is anti-V-Day, right?) band by the name of Breathe Owl Breathe, currently touring with Laura Gibson, supporting their half-and-half children’s book-slash-vinyl 7″ entitled The Listeners/These Train Tracks. Sounding on the pangs of indie day-dreamers A.B., Elliott Smith and Alexi Murdoch, the Michigan trio has taken artistry in a new direction, combining literature, lyrics and music, with art. We caught up with percussionist Trevor Hobbs to get the story behind the story.
Tell me about how the idea of a writing a children’s book in tandem with your music came to be.
A lot of the effort was really Micah [Middaugh, guitar/vocals]’s creation through and through. He grew up always having songs and stories nearby. One of those stories is one day he was mowing the lawn up at the cabin where he lived, and he was keeping this pocketbook next to him all the time. He’s mowing the lawn, and he is just doing one row and then the next, and then the next. He had this vision of these train tracks, and these train tracks turn into a ladder, and this ladder into a caterpillar, as the story goes. The book started out in pocketbook form and existed that way for quite a while. I think the pocketbook idea was something that he grew up doing – like making small flipbooks with his brothers when they were young.
Right around the same time, we were creating little songs without really much of an intention of having them exist together. Once this idea of making a children’s book came about into a more realistic sense, it was kind of a natural fit that these songs would go with these stories and write them around each other. It was a long journey – I think it took a couple of years to settle on the lyrics and how their arrangements were finally made. We’re really happy to have it out, to have it done.
If you could write the future for Breathe Owl Breathe, what would you want the band to accomplish in five years’ time?
I think it would be really good if we were able to keep doing what we want to do exactly how we want to do it. I know that’s really vague, but I think that is one of our core values – to stay true to the art and to the music. It is kind of a difficult thing to maintain for so long, but when we have that sort of core value, it is worth it in the end.
For those unfamiliar with your band, describe your sound in one sentence.
We like to use instruments that are given to us by friends. Those sounds can span a wide variety of decades. Stylistically, I think our music is simple and story-like; it’s fun and poetic.
You’re coming to Denton soon, touring with Laura Gibson; what are you most looking forward to about the tour?
Well, we’re excited to hear [Gibson’s] new album; we haven’t heard any of that yet. The thing that I like about Laura is that she is such a down-to-earth, honest, really grounded individual. She is interesting to talk to, and her music is just beautiful. We’re sharing a van, we’re traveling together, and we’re doing all these shows together. I don’t know quite what to expect, but we’re excited to have a few weeks on the road together to really get to know each other and share that experience.
Does anyone ever confuse you with B.O.B.?
Yeah, a couple of times. I hadn’t really heard of B.O.B. or Bob, but I do know that it is an artist that is kind of popular.
Does the band have any touring traditions?
I don’t know if they’re traditions, but a lot of the time we do fake radio interviews with each other, so we are always traveling with cassette tape recorders, little portable ones that were maybe used to do interviews back in the 80s. We’re making up characters all the time and sort of giving each other roles spontaneously and pressing record to see what happens.
Laura Stillo is the Arts & Entertainment Writer and Creative Social Media Producer for YouPlusDallas. Follow her on Twitter at @laurastillo.