Best of What's Next: Breathe Owl Breathe
Hometown: East Jordan, Mich.
Album: Magic Central
Band Members: Micah Middaugh (guitar, vocals), Andréa Moreno-Beals (cello, vocals), Trevor Hobbs (percussion, keys, vocals)
For Fans Of: Bowerbirds, Smog, Shel Silverstein
Until she turned 18, Andréa Moreno-Beals’ life revolved around classical cello—private lessons, hours of practice. But in 2004, six weeks into her studies at Oberlin College, she met Micah Middaugh at a Dairy Queen in Northern Michigan and decided their chance meeting was more inspiring than a life spent reading sheet music. So she dropped out, sequestering herself with Middaugh and now-bandmate Trevor Hobbs in what they call “magic central,” the small log cabin in the Michigan woods where they live and play.
There, by the heat of a wood stove, they became Breathe Owl Breathe and honed their sound—a wild rumpus of harmony and rhythm—and named their debut after its birthplace. While some peers have reveled in reinvigorating the old, weird side of Americana, the band’s flare for pop-addled melodies flips the contemporary folk aesthetic, eschewing freakiness in favor of charm. It’s a dynamic built on coupling clever arrangements with lyrical whimsy.
On Magic Central (out Sept. 28 on Hometapes), shadows tint the sunshine, a frailty that plays out with oblique narratives and ghostly vocals. “We kind of like the haunted vibe with the fun playhouse vibe,” Micah explains. “[…] A lot of people just notice the fun part and I think a lot of it comes from that darker place where things can go.”