Up Close and Perthonal: A Hot Date with Peter Bibby Under a Moreton Bay Fig Tree at Night, February 2015
dear pete. dear old pete. yes, the hot predictions were true and his star has risen over the sky, his perfect songs and own true voice, apprenticed on the streets of perth and in the sheds of midland, taking him further than he could have imagined. last time i brought you an interview with pete he was just about to release a frozen ocean home-job album, with the memory of being a plasterer still fresh and wet in his mind, and the ubiquitous romance dramas hanging over his head. now he’s been overseas as a rock star pretty much, flying through the californian desert in a convertible with his band (johnny and lil nicky), his lipsticked and denimy manager toasting him champagne from the driver’s seat, his songs getting played on the ‘normal radio’, with a lovely photographer girlfriend (shout outs to tahlia who writes for here too <3) back home, and when we reunite he’s just come back from playing laneway festival all over the country. sounds fanciful, but it’s true. see, you can always trust my judgement, friends.
of course, he’s still the exact same pete and we sat again in hyde park at night, under a big old moreton bay fig tree in the night, with wine that a lady gave me that day for finding her purse and returning it, and cheese and mini tomatoes and rocket (that’s arugula if you’re in america) and the sounds of all the night birds, and us giggling, crunching through the leaves, hugging lots because we hadn’t seen each other since america, and talking of music, love, deserts and vonnegut. we get a bit wobbly half way through, so maybe read this while drinking some nice bevvy and you’ll be on the same level by the end…
last time the interview brought our friendship deeper. since then much has happened… this is a little insight into it all, just for you. again, just insert giggling between most things that are said.
p: i’ve missed you amber
p: yeah, yeah, fuck yeah. been super excited to see you
a; ohh that’s so nice
p: when i was there in sydney…
p: bein all lonesome
a: are you gonna sit all the way up there?
p: nah i’m gonna move so we can speak face to face
(sound of leaves crunching under a big fig tree, lots of ‘awwwww’s)
a: we don’t have to start at the start cos we did that last time.
p: wait… let’s stop… i need to light this ciggie.
(much giggling, much crunching)
p: amber. freshie.
a: last time i was preparing to interview you i was writing questions on a plane from france to here via china, i was trying to find my path in the world.
p: i remember then.
a: and since then, you went overseas for the first time. can you tell me a couple of things you liked about america?
p: the first thing that i liked about america was the amazing landscapes. it’s just so amazingly big and varied. like everything you’ve ever seen in a movie or a magazine. flying from l.a. to seattle, it was the crack of dawn so as we were flying up it became light, and you go through mountains and deserts and then it turns into snowy forests and then big snow-capped mountains and then just all these different cities. it was so incredible, and then i found out that the people were really great too. and everything’s really cheap and fun.
a: did you feel good in your body, in that land? i did.
p: i did yeah. it felt like a magic place, especially out in the desert.
a: yeh how good was the desert.
p: the desert was amazing. just felt like you could stay there for a long time. i wished i got to stay there for longer than i did.
a: you should have got to camp.
p: yeah. but i get to go back really soon.
a: when i was away there, listening to music in the car i felt like i understood lots of things in the music in the deep down way because i was in the place where it had been made. did you have any sort of feeling like that? like having listened to buttloads of music made there?
p: can you say that whole thing again?
a: did you feel like you understood music from america differently, or like rock and roll, differently, being in its land of origin?
p: yeah yeah i reckon i definitely did. there’s definitely… i mean it wasn’t even rock and roll that was a big part of it, but then there was every movie you’ve ever seen, well not every movie you’ve ever seen cos i’ve watched movies from all around the world – i’m a very cultured chap – but you know it just felt like, a movie where you’re just not the main character. but i definitely did feel that energy, that inspiration through every city i went to, like you can feel the music that you’ve heard from those places, like seattle i could feel jimmy and i could feel kurt, you could see its influence, from the people that were ridiculously famous. and l.a. and stuff it’s just like…
a: what music do you like that’s from l.a?
p: there’s all… well, like straight up the doors. i’m pretty sure that’s l.a. you know they had a song…
a: i know that song
p: a cracker of a track
a: have you read ‘just kids’ by patti smith?
p: i haven’t no.
a: it’s really really amazing. it’s her autobiography and biography of robert mapplethorpe.
p: was that in l.a.?
a: she was mainly in new york. but all of those people were around her in the flesh
a: like all the beat poets, all of that music from that time
p: i like all those guys. they’ve tickled my brain with a few enjoyable ideas
a: are you reading anything at the moment?
p: i’ve been really lazy with reading. i started reading ‘hell’s angles’ by hunter s thompson. which is pretty fun to read. it’s a really enjoyable look at the media. i feel like it’s more about the media than it is about hell’s angels.
a: i haven’t read it. what does it say about the media?
p: well it talks about how it manipulates things into a really distorted idea of what it actually is. like there was a few fucked up things that happened with the hells angels but because they were a big intimidating bikie gang it just got so blown up in the media. and it was basically just bullshit. or like, i guess, questionable.
a: what haven’t you been lazy about lately?
p: playin music. i’ve done a fair bit of that. being ‘tour manager bibby’
a: what’s it like playing with nick and lyndon and johnny?
p: it’s pretty great. our friend gumby, young jay, i didn’t hear him say it, but nick was telling me he was saying “how is it that bibby just has a band full of the nicest most reasonable, responsible guys and he’s so fucked?”
a: it’s true!
p: but yeah it really is that, like, me and nick are way more on the path… or you know just we enjoy a beverage and a cigarette whereas those boys don’t. well, they enjoy a beverage and stuff…
a: do you think you’re more scared this time talking because you’ve had to do lots of interviews?
p: yeah definitely
a: whereas last time you were good old pete from midland?
p: that makes me feel a little bit sad. i mean i guess that’s something i’ve been lazy about. like getting my shit together to figure out how i’m going to deal with this shit, you know. like it’s pretty strange world.
a: what’s been the weirdest thing?
p: i guess it’s just people that you don’t know, giving such a shit about what you do and being so excited about it and when they see you on the street or something, just wanting to come and have photos and stuff. it’s like that stuff weirds me out because i’m happy to talk to anybody, i love talking to people but i don’t want to talk about me, you know, it’s a weird feeling people thinking i’m some amazing legend person, when i’m just a bloke. i just wrote a few words and turned them into songs that i have fun singing.
and then through amazing strokes of luck and blessings it just turns out i get to be on stages where these people hear it and that’s what has made it happen. which is just the best thing ever, but i guess i just don’t like the way people idolise musicians. i think it’s a big crock of shit. i love that they come to the shows and love music but i think they should just forget about that they’re different. i feel like these people look up to you in a way that they think you’re a different level. that’s probably not even true actually.
p: i think i’m losing my train of thought
a: do you think its nice in a way too for people to have someone to look up to?
p: yeah it’s amazing.
a: and keep a little bit of thinking your’e a bit special because it’s nice for them as well?
p: yep. and i always keep that in mind when these people talk to me and want to have a photo. i realise that it means a lot to them. and that makes me feel pretty special. i guess i just don’t like it when people seem to lose themselves in being impressed by someone else, or something. it’s just a strange, strange thing.
a: do you think there’s anyone that people should look up to or idolise?
p: michael jackson
a: i mean not even necessarily music, like in the world
p: yeah. yeah kurt vonnegut
a: aww what a man
p: that guy’s a bloody genius
a: why do you like him?
p: cos he writes some of the best words i’ve ever read, based on some of the best ideas ever come up with. so much just stripping the bullshit off and showing the way it is so beautifully and imaginatively. he creates some of the most odd worlds but it’s also like, he’s either just pointing out how ridiculous things are or shows how they should be. it’s grouse. it’s bloody grouse.
a: i like him because of all of that but also because he seems like he was just such a kind nice person
p: yeah, yeah exactly
a: like a boss person, not just a good writer that then goes and selfishly lives their life as an artist holding themself up as something special…
p: yep. yeah i mean i’d have loved to have got to meet that guy. he’s just so real. but then so bizarre and odd. and same as hunter s thompson. that guy’s a menace but just speaks the truth, just talks about how it is. i love that business. i base all my writing on that sort of honesty. you know. real shit
a: you know all the people who you are around at the moment, that have got whatever forms of success they have got do you reckon everyone is being real?
p: i think everyone is. i mean i’ve met some real lovely folk over the laneway thing. but i don’t think you ever get the chance to really know someone because it’s in that setting. there’s lots of nice conversations you get to have. but i guess everyone’s got to worry about getting to the stage or their hotel or catching a flight.
a: can you tell in people’s music though?
p: yeah. you see the real beauty when you see people on stage. you get them more. there’s been some pretty good shows. angel olsen is great. i haven’t got to talk to her a whole lot. but she seems just so authentic. and courtney barnett. she’s fucking lovely. so down to earth.
a: are you less bummed now that people say that you sound like one another?
p: i’m way less bummed because she’s a bloody legend and we talked about that
a: did you?
p: yeah i brought it up and she was like “yeah, i mean i don’t get it”. i guess we both just agreed that we speak our minds in an australian accent but besides that there’s not much else in the comparison. i’m maybe a bit more of a trashbag than she is. she seems pretty onto her shit
a: did you hear that duck?
p: i did hear that duck.
a: i’m gettin eaten by ants
p: i guess the thing is you’ve heard them and respect their music but like if you went to highschool together you probably wouldn’t hang out with that guy. but the music and the reason why everyone’s there shows the worth of the whole deal. and just shows that everyone’s completely different and everyone’s beautiful. everyone’s got a thing you know that they can do.
a: you really mean it don’t you?
p: i do mean it, i really mean it. i mean it goes back to what i was talking about the people who want to have photos and hassle you out a bit and look up to you in some strange way i’m still coming to terms with i guess, but you know those guys have something in them that they can do really well, you know. and i guess everyone’s just gotta realise that. that’s what makes me feel weird about the whole thing. i don’t feel like i’ve been idolised in anyway but you see that with people who are BIG music band, big artist performer people, and not just even in music but people look at them as something they could never be. And the thing is that every single person has a thing that they could just be awesome at. and it’s not only ever one thing. there’s a bunch of skills in every human, you just gotta figure out what it is and just do it. and love it.
p: like you’re pretty good at stuff amber. i’ve seen you be pretty good at… how’s this fucken tree! look up there!
a: i like that little bit that got lit up. yeah sometimes i’m like, you know i’m so in love with plants, i was walking along, running along mary street the other day and i had to stop in the middle of the street even though i looked like a weirdo and put my hands up and all this energy was coming from the trees and stuff but then at the same time i’m like – they’re just trees, you know, they’re not going to hold my hand and cuddle me at night
a: do you have any love advice for me?
a: oh yeah i was thinking , you’re one of the most romantic people i know!
p: oh man. i’m an arsehole.
a: that might be true but you’re also very romantic.
p: i suppose so but i think that just comes from loving. you know, from love. i love a lot.
a: yeah you’re very full of love
p: yeah i’ve got a lot of love
a: where do you think it came from?
p: i think it came from my lovely parents who still completely love each other. and my whole extended family who all love each other, just growing up in a world of love. i had a very very good upbringing. some of the finest family i’ve ever known to exist. that’s where that all came from. just love. it’s a very real thing.
a: do you ever have spiritual experiences while you’re playing music? or like transcendent experiences?
p: to be honest, not very often. i’m often just thinking about what i’ve gotta say. just trying to remember my words. i mean sometimes when everything’s working well i definitely get on a level but not so much these days
a: what level? why not these days, cos you’ve been playing too much?
p: nah cos it’s like a different thing now. it’s like i feel like i’ve got some concern i feel like i have to do a good job. back in frozen ocean days playing with macca like it was… there was just no fucks to be given but we gave every single fuck about like-
p: playing massive you know. and it was just so loose, there was so much freedom in that band cos it was just me and my bro. that guy.
p: makmak. i didn’t have to worry about anything. we could just stop doing what we were meant to be doing and do whatever we wanted to do, whereas these songs are very written, structured, we don’t get to play music enough cos everyone’s too busy to get to that level where you can just relax and freak out. but i mean we do… i dunno.. we do lock in. i think it’s a good band
a: of course it’s a good band.
p: i don’t think we get to play with each other away from stages often enough to get to that transcendental state. but i get that a lot when i’m playing by myself. certain songs.
a: it’s pretty good hey
p: it’s pretty good, it’s nice, meditation, come out of it feeling pretty great. johnny was telling me at our show our two months late album launch in melbourne that he had a full on out of body experience while we were playing, and i swear i was looking at him when it happened
a: you knew the moment?
p: yeah i could definitely feel it and i saw him and he was staring off into the distance but holding down the bass so well. and then sort of like came back and just had this big grin on his face.
a: that’s so good. the other night when i was playing, i was playing on my own, i think it is different on your own because… well someone else was telling me about liking watching me better on my own because when there’s other people, that’s your team
a: but when it’s just you you’re joined to the audience as your team
a: but anyway
a: the other night… actually i won’t tell you about that it’s too deep… but one time
p: you can tell me after
a: when i was playing in my room one time i was playing ‘hot date’ and The Big was making it be about us, you know? [backstory. ‘hot date’ is a song i wrote once when pete and i were nearly in love. we went on a hot date. saw a really bad ben affleck movie. pete got into a fight. we remained friends.]
p: yep, the big… what do you mean?
a: like, god.
a: that the ‘hot date’ song’s between us.
p: i’m honored by that. and we had a hell hot date. i got super hot that night. i got so hot i tried to fight that guy
a: but what i mean
p: so pissed off at ben affleck that i took it out on some drunken idiot. ha!
a: but what i meant was, yeah, that song’s about you but like god made it about me and god, not about me and you, no offence, but just that one time.
p: is that the way you see personal relationships that are special all the time?
a: what do you mean?
p: like that idea there, that you know you wrote that song between me and you but then after a bit when, you know, it became pretty clear that
a: that we weren’t meant for dates
p: that we weren’t meant for hot dates together, we were meant for chill fun dates, that that feeling and that connection just goes back to god. cos that makes me think that all the love songs that i’ve ever written, not saying that’s a love song, that’s a raunchy party song
p: but yeah i just suggest that all those people that i’ve written those songs about, they’re actually just god
p: it’s not in that straight up way, of like ‘you are god’ but maybe that feeling that you have is a thing of god. does that make sense?
a: yeah, i think it really is, yep. i mean, for an understanding that you have and i have that the Big Thing is a Big Loving Thing, i think that’s how, like what i was saying about the trees like, between you and another animal or plant or whatever, we’re meant be connected by, i mean we are all connected as one, but love is the thing
p: love is the thing
a: so yeah i think
p: love and honesty
a: yeah i mean
p: i think that’s a great thing to focus on when you’re making art and music and stuff, a good message to tell the people.
a: which part?
p: just things based on love and honesty
a: they’re my favourite things
p: what were you going to say?
a: oh i’ll tell you when i turn it off
a: do you want to say one last thing?
p: umm. i haven’t really been thinkin about it in a way of everyone’s going to hear everything i said…
a: i won’t write all of it up, just all the juicy bits
p: just the juice. did i give you enough juicy bits?
a: plenty of juice.
a: it was more rambly than our first one maybe because i’d written questions last time or maybe because neither of us was nervous
p: yeah, well yeah i mean you had an awkward start to the situation from stephen giving you a grilling
a: oh yeah whoops [trouble from a review i wrote a few weeks ago about a show]
p: a stephen grillin
a: yeah do you reckon i should tell the truth in reviews and stuff even if it makes people upset and more self conscious?
p: yeah i think defintely because you know you’ve got to know the truth. you’ve gotta have the love and the honesty and sometimes that love that drives the honesty might give someone a bit of a sting. that honesty can sometimes fucken hurt, but as long as it’s driven by the love then i think you’ll eventaully just heed the advice and make your best decision. i actually do have a last word. the other night
a: good cos i didn’t want ‘decision’ to be the last word
p: me and lucas had a very large night last tuesday in sydney
a: i read lucas and louie some kafka over skype the other night
p: did ya?
a: yeah, anyway please continue
p: so we came up with the five finger rule, and i still think it’s pretty beautiful
p: and magic
p: i just gotta remember it though. so it’s like… … i think it’s … … be cool. oh fuck. i need to remember. i’ve gone through it so many times to remind myself. it’s something along the lines of be cool… don’t be a dick… … know who you are… … let all of that blossom… and see what happens. i think we had it worded maybe better but that will do
a: i could try and live my life by that.
p: be cool, don’t be a dick… what was the middle one?… know who you are… something along the lines of acting accordingly. letting it blossom
a: ok bye pete.
p: bye amber, i’ll see you in two seconds.
(and then, of course, we climbed that tree)
[photo by stephen bellair or korrin stoney i think]