About four hours north of Detroit, Michigan, sits the four-square-mile town of East Jordan. There, on any given day, you can find Breathe Owl Breathe mastermind Micah Middaugh in his rural element, working on his latest screen-print project in between ski sessions with drummer Trevor Hobbs and recording spells alongside cellist and vocalist Andrea Moreno-Beals.
A plastic toy piano and an assortment of outlandish instruments gifted unto them by friends gives you a pretty good idea as to what else you might find in the Michigan trio’s Lincoln Log-style cabin, which Middaugh’s grandparents built more than a century ago. It was from the close proximity of this rustic cottage that the group’s new album, Magic Central, emerged, chockful of the playful yet raw and intimate sound that has become Breathe Owl Breathe’s staple.
While Magic Central preserves BOB’s typical guitar-, cello-, and banjo-driven melodies, an added electronic element thrusts itself into their normally organic and nostalgic rhythms and arrangements.
“We have been picking up a lot of random instruments,” explained Hobbs recently via phone, “at garage sales, or from friends that think we can really do special stuff with them. We would drop and add in different instruments and ask, ‘What else could this be?’ This is when we started picking up the Casio, or the toy piano.”
Maybe it’s the group’s experimentation with kid’s plastic instruments and toys that gives numbers like “Swimming” and “Board Games” the album’s childlike flare. But don’t be fooled by the simplistic nature of these songs’ titles; Middaugh and Moreno-Beals’ lyrical teamwork reveals much deeper themes of nostalgia and heartbreak. They also leave listeners to wonder if the group’s recreational activities—like riding a pseudo skateboard called a “whip-pad” and projecting The Last of the Mohicans onto mounds of Michigan snow—played some larger, throwback-y role in Magic Central’s creation.
Luckily for us, Breathe Owl Breathe will be gracing Santa Barbara with its whimsical vocal duets and fervent string-based tunes on Wednesday, October 27, at Muddy Waters Café (508 E. Haley St.) with opener Little Wings. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets can be found online at clubmercy.com.