Perth born, Melbourne based Peter Bibby is one of my current favourite Australian artists. His album Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician is one of my favourite albums of the summer – the kind that I couldn’t stop listening to for days after I first heard it. It takes a particularly special brand of bastardised Australiana to woo me so.
In town for a couple of Sydney Festival acoustic shows before the big Laneway run, Bibby and I met for brunch at a lovely little cafe near ABC and UTS. After some Nurofen, ordering coffee and what was to be a delicious brunch, we got started.
It turns out that Peter Bibby is a fairly mysterious man. I don’t remember ever struggling that much to research information on an artist before an interview. So it seemed best to start with some basic questions.
Howl & Echoes: What’s your favourite animal?
Peter Bibby: Turtles. I like long neck turtles.
H&E: If you could be an animal would you be a turtle?
P: Nah, I’d be something like a bird. But at the same time, being a turtle would be awesome because you can swim underwater. Turtle’s not a bad choice
H&E: They live a really long time, and you’ve always got your home on your back.
P: Yeah, you could just chill. I really like turtles.
H&E: What’s your favourite colour?
P: I like all the colours.
H&E: Do you hate any?
P: I get a bit sick of black, people wearing too much black, it’s boring. I still like black though, I’m wearing black pants right now. Any colour overdone gets too much, and I think people overdo black a lot of the time. But I don’t hate any, I like them all.
H&E: What’s your favourite word?
P: I like a lot of words, I really like words.
H&E: I can tell! You being a songwriter and all.
P: Yeah, haha. Hmm, what’s a good word. Hmmm.
H&E: We can move on to the next one?
P: Nah, I wanna give you a good word. Um, ‘hysterically.’ That’s a good word. It’s not my favourite but it’s definitely a word I like more than other words.
H&E: I’ve heard that you really like pies. Which are your favourites?
P: Definitely pepper steak, that’s a good classic. I like doing things that aren’t meant to be pies. You know, like bolognaise pies.
H&E: With spaghetti in it?
P: Nah, no way, just the mince. It’s not necessarily a grouse one, but I’ve done it before, it’s not so bad. I’ve also made a sausage sizzle pie with the sausage, onion and tomato sauce all inside. And maybe a veggie Thai curry one too. I pretty much want to make all the pies under the sun.
L: That’s the dream.
P: Well, I’ve made a lot of pies.
L: But you haven’t made all of them yet.
P: not yet. Got a long way to go.
After a while, we did start talking about his wonderful album Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician. The seemingly autobiographical tales range from Bukowski-level bottle love of Hates My Boozin’ to the romantic Cunt, “a love song for hobos,” written back when he was 16.
“There’s a pretty even balance of truth and story,” he says. Some written just before recording, with others written a decade ago, they span Bibby’s life, his loves, his rambling drunken adventures. Some of the fake stories are inspired by reality, while real life can lay foundations for something a little more wild. Either way, he’s a storyteller, through and through.
“The way I write songs is the way I love to write songs,” he says. From living life, and observing it. He could write in another way, but it wouldn’t be authentic. “I struggle to write about things I don’t feel. It feels staged.
Luckily for him, working under the now-legendary Spinning Top Records, also home to Tame Impala, POND and Felicity Groom among others, means that he’s granted nothing but total artistic freedom.
“I got asked to write a jingle once,” he sighs. “I couldn’t do it.”
What he could do, obviously, is write Butcher/Hairstyllist/Beautician. The name itself is an actual store in regional Western Australia. “I was just like, ‘holy shit. That is amazing. That’s a shop.’ A butcher, hairstylist, beautician. All in one. It was a very apt name for an album and I couldn’t come up with anything better. Before that it wasn’t even gonna have a name, just Peter Bibby and his Bottles of Confidence. But it’s the best name.”
H&E: Have you ever considered one of those as an occupation, if music ever didn’t work out?
P: Nah, I thought about getting a job in a butcher once, but I could not do that, hacking up animals all the time would be really gross. I could do it if I was desperate for cash, I guess. I’ve worked in kitchens before where I had to chop up a lot of animal.
H&E: I think the grossest thing I did when I worked in a kitchen was cleaning squids, getting all the mushy stuff out of it.
P: Squid’s so delicious.
H&E: Barbecued squid for sure.
P: It is pretty grouse.
Considering his album name listed a range of occupations, some of my pre-interview research entailed other people, also called Peter Bibby, and their occupations. We went through them together, considering the life and times of the other Peter Bibbys out there. There was a British psychology professor, and a Qatar-based real estate agent who listed “result oriented” and “strategic” in his LinkedIn profile. “I don’t think I’d go very well in real estate,” he says. “I’m pretty sure you need to have a chunk of your soul missing.”
Another Peter Bibby was a playwright, poet and book editor. “I could probably actually do that one!” There was another one who listed his occupation as ‘Global Operations Manager,’ although neither of us could figure out what that meant. There was a corporate lawyer too.
P: That’s actually me, yeah, that’s my actual LinkedIn account.
H&E: What’s your specialty?
P: Corporations. All of the corporation stuff… keep it on the down low though. Nah…. it’s not really me. I think there’s also a professional basketball player called Peter Bibby, and a rapper called Lil Bibby.
H&E: Can you play basketball?
P: I’m pretty bad. A lot of my friends love shootin’ the hoops. I can shoot hoops, but I lack enthusiasm to be a good player.
H&E: What are you more enthusiastic about?
P: Sitting around, making things. Making music, making art, stuff like that. I like to paint and draw, I’ve been a slack with it for the last two years, but I love doing that stuff.
H&E: What kind of painting?
P: Just whatever comes out. I think the best painting I’ve done is of some sunburnt pigs at the beach.
H&E: Haha! I’d like to see this painting, peter
P: One of these days you will. Painting is just so fun. In terms of sports though, I like playing cricket. Cricket’s really fun, I think I’m a mean batsman, terrible bowler, pretty good fielder, that’s more my pace. I hate watching cricket, it’s boring as shit. But playing it’s really fun. I love playing pool, that’s probably my favourite sport. I used to skate a lot, but I haven’t in a long time, I’m too much of a little wuss, I just couldn’t do any really awesome tricks because I was just scared of hurting myself. I hurt myself a lot, and that’s not even doing very awesome stuff, so I gave it up.
H&E: Have you broken any bones?
P: My nose, and that was not from skateboarding.
H&E: How did you break it?
P: Well. When I was a real little kid, me and my cousin were having a running race, and there was this big hall with this big stage at the end of it. We were going for it, trying to prove who was the fastest little kid. But there was this paperback book on the floor and I slipped on it went full head first and landed on the edge of the stage. Blood went everywhere! So that was the first time. The other time I was about 17 and I bumped into this guy who I didn’t like in high school. I hadn’t seen him in a while. He was still really annoyed about some shit we had said to each other, and he had become a big boxer then. He really wanted to fight me and I didn’t wanna fight him, so he left it at punching me square on the face and re-breaking my nose.
H&E: Are there bumps? *inspecting his nose*
P: it’s pretty crooked.
H&E: I guess there’s a little bump but not really.
P: I guess I got away lucky, it hurt a lot though. I don’t like pain a whole lot.
Eventually we go back to talking about music. Peter’s about to hit the Laneway circuit, where he’s really excited to see Connan Mockasin, Mac DeMarco, Angel Olsen and Perfect Pussy. After that he’s headed over to SXSW. “It’s very last minute, I’m just gonna turn up. Pretty much all i know is that I’m gonna fly to LA, and then me and Jodie, my manager, are gonna do a big road trip to Austin (that’s a 20 hour drive without stopping by the way.) I’m going by myself which is pretty awesome and kinda scary. Last time I went to America I had Nick and Johnny playing with me, but this time it’s just gonna be me, which maybe it’ll open up a few more opportunities in a way… It’s just me and an acoustic guitar.”
A new album – or two, or three – will be on its way following the tour. He’s got a myriad songs ready to go, and plans to record on his own, rather than with a hired engineer. Surrounded by his passion, his friends and his ever-growing list of late-night tales, I have no doubt that there’s an incredibly bright future for the wonderful music of Peter Bibby.