Hibou Has No Idea How Twee His Music Is

By Jordan Rosenthal-Kay and Joel Reske

In late July, we caught up with the dream-pop bedroom rocker Hibou at Brighton Music Hall. Peter Michel, who performs under the name Hibou, manages his own tour and personally snuck us backstage before the show. He sat us down on some aged couches and grabbed himself a beer. We had brought him fries – the safest food item from the neighboring Refuge Cafe – but Peter had just finished off some sushi. Someone in the band had put on Sufjan’s Carrie and Lowell.

Hibou’s been around since 2013, but looking online, the name doesn’t surface in 2014. You were silent. Why?

It was a lot of hibernating and writing and recording. Hopefully this year all that work will surface!

You’re touring with a full band now. Were they a part of that process?

No. The whole hibernation was just me hanging out in my room, recording stuff on my computer and keeping quiet.

Was the album entirely created on a computer?

No it’s all recorded, it was record in my bedroom. It’s very much my sound; I got to relax and take my time in recording all the instruments. I got modify it the way I wanted to, but then it was all kicked up in the post-production process in LA.

How would you classify your music?

Whatever.

Trop-pop?

Ha. That was from almost a different band. I wrote music under that genre when I was like thirteen – songs like Shana’s House. People want us still to play those songs. I think it’s just pop though.

Are you comfortable calling it twee?

What? I’ve never heard of that. Whatever makes you happy to call us.

How does it feel to have you album promoted on the front page of Barsuck [Hibou’s label]?

It’s cool. It’s been a lot of waiting and working, super pessimistic at times, but now it’s come together, it’s worked. That’s a good feeling.

To you, what does “success” mean for Hibou?

Touring. Really just being on tour. This is what I like to do most. The spontaneity in the day to day life of touring. I still live with my parents, so the goal for me is to be touring enough that it doesn’t make sense for me to have my own place.

You’ve toured before as the drummer for Craft Spells. How does the experience of touring differ now that you’re the frontman?

It’s stuff like this. Before, Justin [of Craft Spells] would be doing these interviews and I would be coming in asking, “can I get the van key?” It was great just to be able to tour at that age, and see what it was like, because now I’m much more prepared. I was observant then and now I can take the responsibility. We don’t have a tour manager. It’s tricky at times. Eventually, I’d love to just focus on the music. I’d love to just be able to put all my thought into my music.

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How much thought do you put into both your aesthetic and your internet presence?

I love doing that. I love talking topeople and connecting with people. As far as the aesthetic, there are a lot of color themes and smells I associate with Hibou. I think a large part of Hibou is the visuals as well as the music. Throwbakcs to how I see my childhood: Northwestern pastel colors. For example, the inser that’s coming out in the LP is lavender scented. I emailed the execs if they could do this as a joke and they said, “Yes, of course. Is there anything else we can do?” That took me by surprise, but it was cool to add that touch.

Do you feel like you’ve changed your sound over the last year?
That question would be easier to answer in hindsight. I don’t see it now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if what I’ve been listening to in the last couple of months appear on the record and I’m able to say, “Oh, that’s what I was doing!”

Before Hibou, you were a drummer, but now your playing the guitar and singing. How has that experience impacted your songwriting?

I write the drum tracks but I can’t do it live; I can’t give it that particular touch. I used to struggle playing the drums in Craft Spells. The beats were very particular, not a lot of room for improvisation. That’s why I felt like breaking away in the beginning. I wanted a little more room to breathe. I feel like the drums, while they still have a very 80s sound, are very different live. Jay [Hibou’s drummer] just gets to wreak havoc on them live, which is what I always wanted.

Speaking of the 80s, you’ve said before that your influences are bands like The Field Mice, who are hard to come across now. You only really find them as cassettes in people’s homes. Is that what you grew up listening to?

I grew up with my dad listening to The Smiths and Galaxy 500. That’s just what is imbedded in my head now. I couldn’t steer away if I tried. Jangly guitars, man.

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Many groups now are capitalizing on multimedia and their presentation across digital platforms. Is there anything you’d like to do?

That’s something I wish I could get into and think about more, but I don’t have a solid answer now. We toured with Yelle, and her show was entirely based on lights. She’d get there 8 hours early. I wish I could do that.

You’ve put a lot of emphasis on your live sound. How does the recorded album differ?

The album has an electronic drive, electronic drums. Live, there’s no processing. It’s hard to be a reverbed-out band, production-wise, and then to go to a live show. One of my favorite things about Hibou is how I can write a song and record it exactly as I would want people to listen to it with headphones, and then I could take it to a stage and have it be a new song, a new version. People can still hear it and sing along, but it’s a different creation.

How do you feel about comparisons to surf-rock?

I’ve never surfed. I’ve never been around people who surf. It’s that summertime association. Anything that sounds sunny gets blended into surf rock.

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