A packed crowd of students clapped and sang along with the caped members of Breathe Owl Breathe during the professional Cat Cab on March 11.
“It was totally not my type of music, but it was super good, and I really want their music now,” sophomore Lindsay Holmstrom said.
Breathe Owl Breathe had students make hand motions and sound effects as the band sang folk songs about saber-toothed tigers, walking dogs and playing wiffle ball.
“I love their quirkiness: They sang about saber-toothed tigers, and I felt like I was four years old again,” sophomore Rachel Coffey said.
Breathe Owl Breathe united as a three-member band in 2006, but the musicians began preparing for a life of songs and storytelling long before then.
Moreno-Beals grew up listening to her mother play piano and chose the flute as her first instrument before becoming a cellist.
“I was a bit over-eager when I went to my first flute lesson,” she said. “I actually didn’t breathe enough and fainted. When I woke up, I was so scared by the experience that I didn’t want to play flute again. Eventually the strings teacher, a beautiful blonde cellist named Aria, convinced me that I was supposed to play cello.”
Middaugh lived near a pasture with a white horse when he was young. He said his dad would take him to the field to play music while watching the horse.
“The line between music and stories has always been blurred for me,” Middaugh said. “It’s like when you’re around a fire telling stories: It’s not about if the voice is a sweet voice or a rough voice; it’s about the kind of story that is being told.”
Hobbs spent a lot of time on the kitchen floor as a child, pounding pots and pans together while his mother cooked. He said he eventually switched to a real instrument when he found his father’s 1950s-era, sparkly, red drum set.
Moreno-Beals said she and Middaugh recorded their first songs together on a cassette tape in a small, messy room.
Several months later, Middaugh said he met Hobbs when they were invited to a party and didn’t know anyone, so they decided to make a movie with a VHS camera.
“The movie was about zombies who were getting to know each other,” Hobbs said. “Everyone at the party had parts by the end of the night.”
Hobbs said he joined Breathe Owl Breathe in 2006.
“We’ve evolved as a band a lot since then,” Moreno-Beals said. “It started out simple, and even though we still treasure simple moments in our songs, we’ve gotten more excited about experimenting with different instruments.”
Hobbs said the band has played with things such as plastic toys, a wooden box and an old karaoke machine.
“We go to garage sales on the way to shows,” he said. “It’s hard to pass them up, and we’ll even be late for the show because we’re looking for new instruments.”
Breathe Owl Breathe is working on its fourth full-length album.
Middaugh said he remembers decorating their first CDs with white stick-on labels and crayon art.
“We were getting more and more into layering the labels with crayon drawings until we slowly realized some peoples’ CD players were starting to smell like melted wax,” he said. “We’ve learned from our mistakes since then.”
Hobbs advises aspiring artists and musicians to pour themselves into creating their music.
“It’s about never forgetting why it feels good to make music,” Middaugh said. “You can record when you want to record and have great ideas, but it is just as important when you don’t have any ideas and don’t feel like recording.”
Culture reporter Joanna Peterson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org