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, that 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 a bit excited too, 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'; '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.
Contact: Press: Chris Stone: stone [-at-] stoneimmaculate.co.uk Label: Tom Ashton: info [-at-] fikarecordings.com Bookings: Owl & Mouse: owlnmouse [-at-] gmail.com
"Modest quintet bring a shadowy sweetness to delicate debut: A London-based 5-piece, centred on Brisbane songwriter Hannah Botting (sister of Allo Darlin's Bill), Owl & Mouse have courted comparisons with The Go-Betweens and Triffids. Structurally, there are similarities, but the delicacy of Botting's voice adds a tone of vulnerability. They can sound cute ("Misfits", with Botting accompanying herself on ukulele) but there are dark notes (the self explanatory "Sick Of Love"), made darker by the occasional intervention of Tom Wade's baritone (on "Sinking Song" and the duet "Octopi"). You might call them twee, but modest is more accurate. The songs are hardly there at all, but they linger sweetly." Uncut [7/10]
"Exploring themes of travel and adventure and the mix of anxiety and excitement they bring, there’s a pleasing feeling of whimsy, but, given titles like Sick of Love and Worst Kiss, that doesn’t mean there isn’t also a quite melancholic streak behind the sweetness of Botting’s often lovelorn lyrics. Cases in point being the ruminations on family in the rippling Misfits, the brooding Basic Economics with its view of love as a question of supply and demand and the rather lighter musical mood of Canvas Bags where she sings about having to hang on to someone you love or let them go to spread their wings. There’s an optimistic side too, the latter number being counterpointed by the scratchy, uke-strummed Louie where, adopting a short delivery somewhere between Lily Allen and Emmy The Great, she sings about keeping the flame burning even though she’s waved her lover off." Folk Radio
"Fans of Emmy the Great will find much to enjoy, and occasionally bassist Tom Wade drops in to add Lee Hazlewood-ish charm, growling shyly on songs such as “Misfits” and “Sinking Song”. The overall tone is laid out in the titular chorus of “Sick of Love” but Departures isn’t a mordant affair. It sparkles with an observational wit that lifts it, even on the violin-tinted hopelessness of “Louie”, about keeping the flame alive for a lover who’s leaving, a theme that reappears throughout. Every song sounds as if there’s a story attached, making the listener want to know more. It’s not an album that has any attack – except, perhaps, the two minute brass-fuelled bounce of the title track – but Owl & Mouse’s simple, understated odes to a heart-worn sadness eventually have bite." The Arts Desk
"Departures gives a good account of the band and shows the indie pop buying public what an asset to the genre Botting is as a vocalist and lyricist. Production wise there’s a really strong start with Keep Your Eyes Open Wide, which features some lovely synth work from Winston that perfectly matches Botting’s vocals. Winston and Botting’s combination is a real strength in the band that is exploited well here. There are other strengths too. The combined vocals of the band, especially the baritone of Wade work really well. Sick of Love is another strong track, with guitar added to the mix and the vocal arrangement on Misfits is wonderful." Neon Filler
"Simple ukelele-led tales of boy meets girl are at the forefront of this debut record that will soundtrack your summer romance or have you falling in love all over again with the one you share it with. Ex-pat Australian Hannah Botting's lush vocals and poetic couplets about lost homes, relationships and friendships can't help but pluck at heartstrings, whether it be the regret of single Canvas Bags, "You only get two great loves, and I've wasted one", or capturing that initial feeling of falling in love on Misfits, "And now you're here, I'm certain I have been wasting my days 'til now". The same could be said of this record, quite simply, the best of 2015 to date." NARC
"Both former single 'Octopi' and 'Sick Of Love', which starts off as Kate Nash with a ukulele, build from Botting's raw delivery into something more ambitious as they close with a joyfully mournful chorus of five voices." R2
"the album is beautiful, it contains romantic and loving lyrics with upbeat melodies, but can still pack a punch." Muso's Guide
"Opener, ‘Keep Your Eyes Open Wide’ has a hint of Belle & Sebastian’s ‘Boy With the Arab Strap’ about it and there are perhaps unconscious nods to Camera Obscura and early Slow Club, but to focus on that do them a disservice. There is an assuredness to the playing and an attention to detail lyrically, that ensures that repeated listening is rewarded." Americana UK
"This is an exceptionally beautiful EP and one that should be on everyone’s radar" Folk Radio
"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." SoundsXP
"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
"There’s a tone in [Hannah's] voice that’s both tender and vulnerable and reminds you of Allo Darlin’s Elizabeth Morris - and she also plays the ukulele. Her songs might be small and pretty (especially ‘Streetlights’) but they’re bold too; one fillets the best bits of New Order’s ‘Temptation’ while another hymns the delights of Mariah Carey and Jens Lekman." SoundsXP