The making of Grand Champion, the second record by Peter Bibby, has certainly come with its fair share of trials and tribulations. Completed in his home city of Perth in late 2015, a split between his label Spinning Top Records and Warner caused the LP to slip under the rug for a few years. “By the time they were ready to release it, I didn’t actually have any artwork for them so that took another two months,” explains Bibby over the phone.
After moving back to Perth, Bibby decided to help his girlfriend-at-the-time join him, a journey that was initially meant to take two weeks. “Due to my car being fucked it took two months,” he says. “Basically we’d drive a little bit and then the car would mess up some other way, and we’d have to stay somewhere till it was fixed.”
Most of the songs were written during a deeply troubled time in my life; recorded during an even more troubled time; postponed by a disaster of a trip; completed during one of the worst times of my life.
They ended up camping along the Nullarbor, visiting the sights and playing a few gigs along the way.“I learnt a lot more about fixing my car,” he says. He’s nonchalant and matter of fact.
“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster,” he adds. “Like, I’ve definitely grown to hate it at times, but I guess I’ve found a new love for it again.” He defers to Grand Champion affectionately, calling it his “little baby.”
The album’s title then is, perhaps quite obviously, a little tongue-in-cheek. “Most of the songs were written during a deeply troubled time in my life; recorded during an even more troubled time; postponed by a disaster of a trip; completed during one of the worst times of my life, and the fact that it was ever completed at all felt like a feat only achievable by a grand champion – while I felt like anything but. I suppose it’s a somewhat facetious title,” he says.
Watch the clip for ‘Work for Arseholes’ by Peter Bibby below
Peter Bibby often merges the punk chaos of acts like Swedish noise freaks Brainbombs with the poetic folk-storytelling of his early inspirers, Paul Kelly and Bob Dylan – but at its core, his artistry stands out for its unwavering sincerity, albeit one that’s tucked in alongside a sense of absurdity and playful silliness.
He’s had a pretty slow morning in Sydney: sleeping in late, doing a bit of yoga, and shooting off a few emails. The night before our call, he’d gone on the Tonightly Show With Tom Ballard to play with his band. “Yeah, it was fun, but they found out they were getting axed the day we went in to play. It was kind of fitting to play ‘Work For Arseholes’,” he says, followed by a laugh.
For work now, he’s doing a bit of handy-manning, furniture making and the odd job as a builder – “your labour-y sort of stuff,” he says. But after high school Bibby was making bank, working as a plasterer for over seven years. “The money was not good enough for how shit the people were,” he explains. “You can ask most people who know plasterers; there’s not many good plasters out there in terms of character. Pretty rough around the edges, the old plasterers. And we’re talking about solid plastering as well, not chip-rock – they’re very different.”
As I got more and more deeply involved in [the music industry], I began comparing the disgusting elements of it to those of foul politics and cults of the past.
His songs often speak for themselves and don’t need too much unpacking: when it comes to Bibby, you get what you’re given. ‘Medicine’, the debut single pulled from the record, was written eight years ago. “The doctor just told me to be better. So it’s a song of frustration,” he laughs. The fact that an eight-year-old track translates so well today is a testament to the idiosyncratic craftsmanship of his songwriting; Bibby doesn’t bite into trends.
Watch the clip for ‘Long Baby’ by Peter Bibby below
His track ‘Fuck Me’ features striking vocals eminent of the B-52s, brought to life by Cosima of Melbourne band Jaala while the two lived together in Melbourne. “When I was writing that song she was sitting around next to me doing that little vocal line,” he says. And another roommate from the same house inspired the irritable track, ‘Hippies’. “There was just a hippy guy there who was just a bit ridiculous, and delusional, and annoying. Sometimes you’ve just got to get it all out,” he explains.
But ‘Big Chook’ is Grand Champion’s stand out. “The song is inspired by the music industry. As I got more and more deeply involved in it, [I] began comparing the disgusting elements of it to those of foul politics and cults of the past,” he says. “[And] all the mental health issues that can come as a result of regular touring which are ignored, and all the fashion trends that have more importance placed upon them than the actual happiness of the artists themselves. In short, it’s a song about me being fed up with [the industry].”
While it certainly doesn’t go without a mention, alcohol’s presence seems to have dimmed a teeny tiny bit in this record in comparison to 2014’s Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician. “I feel like I’ve reined it in a little bit; I still love a bevvy,” he says.
His favourite track to play off of Grand Champion is ‘Wangaratta Gazz’ for it’s “longwinded story” and “nice meaty jam at the end.” He adds, “I also love the opportunity to rhyme ‘fucker’ with ‘fucker’ multiple times in a row.” Asked what drives him to make music, he says, “I guess just a burning desire to speak my mind and also, I just love tunes.”