Michigan trio Breathe Owl Breathe is a band that, over the past decade, has made a name for themselves by writing and recording big, nearly indescribable, and certainly uncategorizable, sounds. Next Tuesday, October 15th, their latest album, Passage of Pegasus, drops and I was fortunate enough to recently get a chance to chat with Micah Middaugh, songwriter and one third of Breathe Owl Breathe. I ask him to describe the band’s latest work and he gives me some insights to the intellect behind Passage of Pegasus.
“I think we travel through a lot of space and time more so on this album than the other albums. I mean, we’ve recently spent a good amount of time in Joshua Tree; Portland, Oregon; and Northern Michigan. I also think maybe it’s more cinematic than the other albums. There’s a feeling of shapeshifting, like a voyager, like a character that’s being followed by something.”
Everything Middaugh tells me adds up. Passage of Pegasus sounds a bit like a soundtrack to the journey of a curious loner. It’s sound is quite organic, but a little more postmodernly sublime than I would feel comfortable associating with Americana. It’s quite ethereal and other-worldly, like if the most profound songwriter was trying to find his way, artistically, post-Apocalypse (A very-composed Tom Waits, playing with electronics, comes to mind.) I tell Middaugh that my favorite track is “Hologram,” the album’s third song, that it reminds me of Nick Cave at his most minimal and least terrifying, to which he replies, “Wow, Wow. That’s a huge compliment.” When I ask if he has a particular favorite track, he tells me that that’s far from static.
“All these songs each represent something different. These songs are like characters in a graphic novel. Each day you feel like you like a different one the most. Right now it’s ‘Cliff Ledge,’ which we’re gonna make a little VHS video for this evening. So today that’s what’s most on my mind.”
The players behind Passage of Pegasus is also a notable change for Breathe Owl Breathe. As opposed to Middaugh, Andrea Moreno-Beals, and Trevor Hobbs creating music on their own, they invited a number of other musicians to join them: “We played with some great friends on this album, while the last one was just the three of us. Being able to make this album with Eric Johnson was really exciting. We’d previously toured with his band, Fruit Bats.” In addition to Eric Johnson, contributing “friends” include Michael Hurley, Jim Becker of Califone, Victoria Williams, and Kyle Field (AKA Little Wings).
In addition to their latest album, Middaugh has been recently pre-occupied with a letter press that he’s had in his possession for the past year, that he spends a noteworthy amount of time discussing with me, and which seems to be, in some way, an existentially profound comment on Middaugh and Breathe Owl Breathe’s approach to creating.
“I picked up a letter press, around a year ago from right now, from the Upper Peninsula. It’s from sometime around the 1890s and I’d been gathering some printing equipment over the past year, so we recently started to get to print some stuff, which has been really cool. We’re doing a number of these limited releases in the future. I love the idea of the print world, where a certain amount of something are released and then that’s it…”
However, as far as the immediate future is concerned, Breathe Owl Breathe have a handful of live dates at the end of the month and in early November that have them trekking through Colorado, Iowa, and Michigan, and, from what Middaugh tells me, it’s something that would be well worth experiencing.
“We’re touring right around Halloween, so we were thinking about every show being a costume party. Maybe we’ll shapeshift into each others’ costumes. Expect the unexpected. All shapeshifters welcome.”