Q&A with Breathe Owl Breathe
East Jordan, Michigan indie band and art project Breathe Owl Breathe recently released its new album and wants to give the world a taste of “Magic Central.” Band members Micah Middaugh, Trevor Hobbs and Andréa Moreno-Beals have also been recording children’s songs and working with a printmaker on a one-of-a-kind fundraiser to benefit kids.
The State Press interviewed Breathe Owl Breathe collectively via e-mail about homemade music videos, its new album and its charity work.
The State Press: The music video for your song “Own Stunts” takes place in a winter wonderland type of setting. How did the idea come about for this video?
Breathe Owl Breathe: Micah has a special talent for involving his friends in creative projects, sometimes without them even knowing it. We invited our friend Weston Currie, who lives in L.A., up for a 10-day visit. We told him the purpose of the visit was to go sledding, eat good food, play darts and watch movies. We also told him to bring his camera to document the experience. He had never really been in snow before so it was quite a learning experience, especially in the context of making a video. He cheerfully realized that you really do have to put your gloves back on after a couple minutes in 15-degree snowy weather.
Ideas for the “Own Stunts” video were born out of our surroundings and props that we had laying around at the cabin, our home in Northern Michigan. The winter wonderland that we shot the video in is pretty much our backyard. Instead of those expensive track runners that high budget productions use to film motion shots, we rigged up an old toboggan with a tripod duct taped to it. There’s an old shed behind the cabin that is more or less storage … things that once lived in the cabin but have since been tucked away live in there now. Some vintage boxing gloves, an old parka that Micah’s grandpa used while hunting Alaskan caribou back in the ’50s, a blue preacher’s robe [that] also [belonged] to his grandpa and a whole roll of black felt [which] was to become the monster-like being with branches for arms, and our dog, Hogan, as its head, [are in there].
So we set out to gather as many interesting shots as possible, trudging through the deep snow, while keeping the idea for the plot wide open. We may have spent the first week just filming epic cross-country ski runs. [After] taking breaks to warm up, brainstorm and reflect on the shots over some homemade pizza and Uno games, we’d go back out into the wintery mix and film six to eight hours a day.
It all came together when, in the last two days of Weston’s visit, Andréa came back from Brazil. She came bearing gifts of Brazilian percussion and dried fruit. She was so brave to just jump right into a yet unrealized character in the film. The whole plot suddenly made sense. Those last two days of filming made up close to 90 percent of the final version of the film.
SP: What are the band’s feelings on being compared to other artists?
BOB: It is interesting how being compared to other music is necessary. It can be discouraging or frustrating, especially when the comparison misleads people. Sometimes we’re terribly mislabeled. There was paper in Toledo that called us indie/bluegrass/rock. But on the other hand, it can be incredibly encouraging to be compared to someone you look up to musically and artistically.
SP: What did the band do the day the album came out? Did you play a show, just hang out, or think “What now?”
BOB: We played two shows, one at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and another in Arlington, Va., later that night. The Kennedy Center show had quite a mixed crowd, from a group of high school kids from Dallas, Texas, to opera-goers in formal evening attire. … Later that night, we picked up a half gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream and did front flips between the two hotel beds.
SP: Where does the name “Magic Central” come from?
BOB: “Magic Central” is a reference to our state of living while at the cabin. Yes, the cabin itself is “magic central,” but so are the songs that make the album. Really, “magic central” is a mood. When there is magic, no matter where, we are in “magic central.”
SP: What do you guys have planned for the rest of the year?
BOB: We’re on tour until Nov. 14. After that, we’ll be back home in northern Michigan hunkering down to work on a few projects. We’ll be putting together a children’s book/7” record, printing, pressing [and] stitching it by hand with the help of friends. The project is possible through a Kickstarter fundraiser that we launched called Something For the Kidz. Those who donate to the project will receive any number of special gifts created in the cabin, depending on their pledge amount. We’re offering woodcut pillowcases with artwork from the book, matted prints, handmade capes, eye pillows, etc. Also, Trevor will be recording a solo piano album to fall asleep to. Other than that, we’re looking forward to epic cross-country ski adventures, making cookies, soup and sleeping.
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