Peter Bibby: “I never tried to fit the mainstream, my music’s for whoever wants to listen”
Peter Bibby knows a thing or two about grit. Hell, his whole catalogue has enough of it to fill a car park. Take his latest record, for example, Marge: a punch-you-in-the-face, alt-rock opus that deals with every agony life has to throw our way. On a much more conceptual level, Marge is the Grandmother of Dog Act drummer Dirty Dave: a lovely, 90-year-old nanna who spends her time railing darts and reminiscing on the past.
She encapsulates the energy brought by Bibby’s third record, standing as a catalyst of what the Perth local has spent his career crafting. There’s something raw and rough about his music; it’s the burn of the outback sun, coated in red dirt and ferocious hooks. It’s the trailing scent of tobacco and diesel that seeps through the morning air, while the world is caught in a sunrise daze. It’s songs of heartbreak and loss cut from the cloth of splintering Australiana.
Who would know better about these experiences than Marge? Pull up a chair, crack open a tinny, and get to know her.
PETER:Hey, how are you?
HAPPY:Hey Pete, not bad. Congrats on the new album!
PETER:Thank you very much.
HAPPY: How does it feel to have it all finished?
PETER:Oh great. I mean, it’s been finished for quite a while. But it’s really nice to be releasing it.
HAPPY:How long ago did you finish recording?
PETER:Oh, like, three years ago?
HAPPY: Oh, damn.
HAPPY:Is it weird revisiting those past songs after you’ve had them in the bag for so long?
PETER:I mean, we’ve played them live for quite a while before we recorded it. And then, once we recorded, we sort of realised that we’d probably better start playing them. Otherwise, we weren’t gonna be as comfortable with them by the time the record came out. So, we just gave them a spin and thought that’d be fun!
HAPPY:Yeah. Well, Marge is the third addition to the three albums or trilogy that you’ve got going at the moment. What do you reckon this record brings to your catalogue?
PETER:A bit more grit, a bit more sonic spiels. It’s a pretty trashy, heavy album in places, much more so than the past two.
HAPPY:You’ve even said yourself that the record itself is a trilogy. How so?
PETER:Did I say that? I think it was like a trilogy of heartache, sadness, and frustrations or something. I think that’s pretty true. It’s got that tone.
HAPPY:And you’ve even said that Marge is a real person, hey?
PETER:Yeah. That was Dave, the drummer’s, Grandma.
HAPPY:Hectic. Was she pretty stoked to find out that she was gonna get her own record?
PETER:Yeah, she was super stoked. She didn’t really understand what it was when we showed it to her. She just had her ninety fourth birthday, so…
HAPPY:Oh, good on her!
PETER:Yeah, pretty heavy smoker [laughs].
HAPPY: [Laughs] Love it! Do you feel that you have a bit more freedom in the studio the longer that you’ve been releasing music for?
PETER: Yeah, absolutely. Particularly working with Mitch, who’s an old friend, just really comfortable with him off the bat, which is really good to experience. Mitch is a great guy.
HAPPY:Have you worked with him before?
PETER:Not in that capacity. He’s done some mixing for me before, did some demos and stuff. And we’ve jammed and stuff, played in bands and stuff together. A few years ago, Strawberry Pete fell off a bridge and broke his back and he was out of action for six months, so Mitch filled in, he played bass on tour for us. Got a lot of history with Mitch, you know?
HAPPY: Is it ever hard for you to put the plug on a song or record and know when to just finish up?
PETER:Yeah I reckon, being in the studio’s pretty easy to just keep on adding stuff, but I think it’s pretty easy to know when it’s time to stop. But that’s usually after you’ve done way more than is necessary and you end up leaving half the stuff you’ve done to it. It’s nice to have it there.
HAPPY: Did you approach the recording and producing and writing these tracks differently to your past releases?
PETER:Writing-wise, it’s just the same old story there. I guess recording-wise, this one had a pretty hacked-in band, we’d been out there for a little while. The other two; the first record, I don’t think that Nick and Johnny had been in the band for that long. And then, on the second record, I didn’t even have a band. I was teaching people how to play in the studio. So this one was a lot different because we all knew exactly what we were. It made it a lot easier, a lot more fun, and a lot more exciting, I guess.
HAPPY: So, do you feel that the songs kind of bit more naturally because of that?
PETER: Yeah absolutely. There’s a much bigger band, kind of, vibe on this record.
HAPPY: Are these the same guys who you’ve been touring around with for a while now?
PETER: Yeah, it’s Pete and Dave: The Dog Act. We’ve probably been touring for about three or four years now.
HAPPY: Is there a favourite place that you’ve been to on any of your tours?
PETER: We all loved going to Hobart, it’s got such a different pace to everywhere. Yeah, I’d say it’s everyone’s favourite spot in terms of it being a beautiful, strange location.
HAPPY:Are the Hobart crowds any different to the rest of Australia? What’s the scene like down there?
PETER:It’s good, I reckon the crowds are pretty loose. They have a go, a bit of a yell, a bit of a heckle. A couple of mullets sticking around.
HAPPY: [Laughs] Which is always what you want.
PETER: Yeah, I mean, I definitely won’t say no to it.
HAPPY: [Laughs] So, let’s jump into a bit about the tracks themselves. When I started listening to the album, you gave me a bit of whiplash going from I’m On Fire to Oceans, which is such a great transition there. What was the decision to bookend the album with such soft songs? Where did that come from?
PETER: Well, I guess that was what was my intent on the album, lulling you into a false sense of security, keep you thinking that the album will be like that and then chuck you into the ferocity of Oceans. And yeah, just give you a little bit of whiplash really. When you’re getting berated by songs for 35 minutes, it’s nice to have something soft to ease you out of it.
HAPPY: Like you said, the album’s got a bit more of a gritty feel to it. Did any of the songs particularly stand out for you when it came to different styles or ways of writing that you went about the record?
PETER: Maybe the song Craigieburn, that’s a little bit all over the place, chunked into sections, and it finishes with these long, chunky riffs that just throw you right around. But, yeah, just having a tight and capable band, it was fun to experiment with different processes. Knowing that we could do it, why not give it a try? And it worked, in my opinion.
HAPPY: Yeah, I agree. Well, you see a lot of Aussie artists who are able to sell out shows all around the country, pack out rooms, but receive very little radio or mainstream media support. Do you see this as a bit of an obstacle when it comes to coming into the industry and releasing new music?
PETER: I mean, I guess you could see it as an obstacle, I don’t really care. I’m just gonna do my thing regardless, you know? It is frustrating sometimes, I guess. I put a lot of work in and then I don’t get a whole lot back from the mainstream. I don’t think I’ve ever really been trying to appeal to the mainstream. It’s for whoever wants to listen. As long as people come to the shows and buy the records, I’m good.
HAPPY: Well, now that the record is all done, what’s next on the horizon for you?
PETER:I’ve got a couple of gigs coming up in WA which should be fun. And we’re hoping to tour next year around the country, if this damn virus lets up.
HAPPY: Thanks so much for joining us!
PETER: Cheers, thanks for having me!
Marge is available on all streaming platforms. Grab your copy here.