His scratchy vocals and slacker drawl have earned him comparisons to Bob Dylan and Courtney Barnett, but Melbourne singer-songwriter Peter Bibby is steadily forging his own path. Since tearing up Perth stages in Frozen Ocean and Fucking Teeth, Bibby split to Melbourne and recorded his debut solo album, Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician, released late last year to critical acclaim. Catching the ears of Spinning Top, home to Tame Impala and Pond, he signed to the label and headed off to gallivant overseas.
One of the main reasons people are showing up early to this year’s Laneway Festival — “Show me the Bibby!” chanted an enthusiastic Sydney punter — Bibby draws audiences in with his knack for lyrical hooks. “My cash flow may be low but my inspiration is wealthy,” he rasps on the autobiographical Hates My Boozin, an anthem for the underdog lush.
Bibby dropped Music Feeds a line to answer questions about the difference between the Perth and Melbourne music scenes, his approach to songwriting, and how to explain goon bags to Yanks.
Watch: Peter Bibby – Hates My Boozin
MF: You’ve had a pretty big 2014, signing to Spinning Top, releasing your debut solo album, playing shows overseas and you’ve been added to the huge Laneway 2015 lineup. Any particular highlights?
Peter Bibby: There were some amazing gigs. The Spinning Top Showcase at Perth International Arts Festival was great; it made me feel very much a part of that beautiful family. I started playing drums in a band called WASP (not the 80’s glam metal band) which has been very fun and interesting. Also, making my first film clip was a great experience.
MF: You joined the Spinning Top family earlier this year. How did that come about?
PB: From years of hanging around the same watering holes, having the Pond boys like my tunes and making Jodie come see me play, and getting along reeeeaaaally well with Jodie. It didn’t hurt that Nick had been playing in my band for near on 6 months either…
MF: Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician is your first solo album. Did you approach the songwriting process differently to your other musical projects, such as Frozen Ocean and Fucking Teeth?
PB: It is completely different to Frozen Ocean, all those songs were written together, 50/50 input kind of thing. Fucking Teeth was kind of the same because they were mostly my songs, but there was a few instrumental tracks that we wrote together.
With BHB, I already had all the songs written and Nick and Johnny were pretty much backing me up, but they still had input. Johnny’s bass lines, Nicks production ideas… But in terms of the songwriting, I did it all by myself on this latest album, and mostly on the Fucking Teeth one, whereas Frozen Ocean has always been a team effort.
I don’t really have a song writing process either, I just get hit by the inspiration sneezes and they just slop out of me.
MF: You cut your teeth in the Perth music scene, but are now based in Melbourne. What drew you to the east coast? Have you noticed any major differences between the scenes?
PB: I came over to Melbourne for a change of scenery basically. I was going through a pretty rough break up and needed a fresh perspective. My older sister was already living in Melbourne and invited me to stay with her for a bit and I just decided to stay indefinitely after a few months.
The major difference between the scenes in Perth and Melbourne is the amount of support in Perth, the tight knit feeling amongst musicians and artists. A good example of this support is my friend Fabian; he came to Perth from Chile and saw a bunch of us playing at Dada Records. It was Frozen Ocean, Doctopus and Mayor Dadi. He told us how much he liked it and we had him playing shows with us within a month or two, whereas it takes a long time to establish yourself like that in Melbourne.
I guess that’s due to the size of the music scene in Melbourne. You can count the venues in Perth on one hand, whereas I haven’t even heard of half the venues in Melbourne. There is so many more bands and it’s just a bit harder to get your foot in the door, but once you do, it’s pretty easy to keep rolling up the mountain.
MF: You’ve just come back from a US tour. How receptive were the audiences over there?
PB: Very receptive, which was a bit surprising to me. I thought they were going to gun me down.
MF: Courtney Barnett has mentioned in interviews that she has to explain colloquialisms and words like ‘Weet-Bix’ to overseas audiences. Did you experience any similar issues, or cultural shock when you were there?
PB: A little bit, with things like ‘goon bags’, and places that I reference. I had to explain a few things before playing songs. I was told that I might get bashed for my use of the C word, but everyone I played to seemed to love it, like a bit of a shock-novelty or something.
MF: America is a pretty boozy place. Any favourite stories from the road?
PB: I was blown away by the size of a standard shot over there. First drink I got was a whiskey and coke and it was actually a tumbler full of whiskey with a little shot glass of coke on the side, that cost $4.
I have to say, despite the low price and massive size of the booze over there, we were pretty well behaved. At least, I was. Johnny, on the other hand, went full crazy a few times, but I don’t think those stories are suitable for the eyes and ears of strangers.
MF: What are you most looking forward to about playing Laneway?
PB: Getting on aeroplanes at 6:30am everyday, free food and drink, all the amazing music and getting to see all my friends in all the different cities.
MF: Besides Laneway, what’s on the cards for 2015?
PB: I’m going to play at SXSW in Texas in March, and I’ll be sticking in the US to do some more shows afterwards. When I get back to Australia I want to knuckle down and start recording the next album. Maybe we’ll do an Australian tour at some point, too.
Peter Bibby plays Laneway Festival in Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle this weekend — details below. Tune in for a special live streamed set direct from Music Feeds Studio Wednesday afternoon from 3pm AEDT — details here.
Laneway Festival 2015
Friday, 6th February 2015
Harts Mill, Port Adelaide, Adelaide (16+)
Saturday, 7th February 2015
Footscray Community Arts Centre (FCAC) And The River’s Edge, Melbourne
Sunday, 8th February 2015
Esplanade Reserve And West End, Fremantle