Owl & Mouse. What’s in a name? In a just world, the seemingly bottomless talent pool that is the Botting family would be held in the same regard as the Osmonds and Jacksons thanks to their assorted attempts to charm both London and the wider world. Bill Botting, Allo Darlin's perennially pogoing, perma-grinning bassist (and, more recently, solo artist in his own right) has been winning hearts and fans for half a decade and more, but the imminent release of Owl & Mouse's forthcoming début album, ‘Departures’ marks the turn of his siblings to take a star turn in the limelight.
The songwriting vehicle for talented young Brisbanite Hannah Botting, which began as a twosome with sister Jen, those early outings have quickly grown into something altogether more fully formed. “The name was kind of silly,” says Hannah, reflecting on the band's early days. “It came from a song I wrote years ago about an owl and a mouse that go to war together. In the beginning it was just Jen and I doing shows and people would always ask who was the owl and who was the mouse,” she reminisces, before adding with a certain dry humour, “we had to grow the band to avoid that question.” And grow the band has, with the addition of Tom Wade (We Aeronauts) and the prolific pairing of Emma Winston and Dan Mayfield (Enderby's Room, Darren Hayman's Long Parliament).
The extra additions – playing alongside star turns from Michael Collins (Allo Darlin') and Paul Rains (Allo Darlin', Tigercats) – have given Hannah's songwriting an added musical depth, complimenting the record’s overarching themes and ideas. Straight out of the same school of Australian songwriting as The Go-Betweens, Triffids and Courtney Barnett, Hannah's words follow her compatriots' ability to be widescreen and personal at once, infused with an added degree of delicacy and poignancy. “There’s definitely a theme of travel and adventure running across a lot of the songs,” she says. “It’s now been eight years since I moved away from my home town, and it’s getting to that point where you’re not really sure where your home is any more. That feeling of being a bit lost and a bit unsure but at the same time excited, is something that sits underneath all the songs.” The results manifest themselves in an album that's both infectious and joyous – 'Misfits' and its ruminations on family; bittersweet – the brass-laden title track and its tales of airport arguments; and understatedly emotive – the turmoil of deciding whether to hold on to someone you love or not hold them back, detailed in 'Canvas Bags'; and 'Sinking Song's memories of the struggle of making friends in a new town, led by Wade's Stephin Merritt-esque baritone).
While nationality, family associations and honest songwriting invoke comparisons to Allo Darlin' – which Hannah diplomatically bats away by saying “It’s very flattering but not very accurate in my opinion”, while allying the band more with Camera Obscura and early Slow Club) – that ignores Owl & Mouse's own sense of individuality and cohesion belying their relative youth as a band. In their début album they've made music which both swells the heart and conjures quiet reflection. Most of all, ‘Departures’ is, as its name suggests, music to escape into.
Bio by Gareth Ware
“This is an exceptionally beautiful EP and one that should be on everyone’s radar”
“There’s an observational acuity in her writing that’s almost novelish and her singing is freighted with bittersweet emotion, while she builds up her songs with inspired orchestration. In that sense, she’s not another anything…. Constructed of simple but strong tunes, Owl & Mouse’s second offering is a little gem.”
“Botting’s delivery and subject matter are beautiful and sad in equal measure, especially on this EP’s standout track Don and Anna”
“Somewhere To Go comes over as understated, delicate and minimalist, but its honest and melancholic tone and beautiful melodies certainly make it worth checking out.”
--For Folks Sake
“This EP ranges from stunning harmonies and gentle melodies that would soften the coldest heart. The melancholy lyrics are shockingly bold and it is in contrast to the smooth and velvety chime that is produced. It is difficult not to find resonance with Botting in this EP, and the warm nature of the sound and lyrics creates an ambiance that almost makes heartbreak sound beautiful.”
“These quietly energetic and stylish songs remind me of Alan Horne’s description of Subway Sect, that the idea is to “work not with power, but with weakness and introversion”… Somewhere To Go is a very substantial and richly rewarding record.”
--Did Not Chart
“The cover artwork looks like it was a missing piece from Belle & Sebastian’s Books EP, but sounding more like Camera Obscura’s ‘Books Written for Girls'”.
--We Heart Music