An Interview with Peter Michel (Hibou)

Having had Beatles on the brain for a while now, specifically the early years of their hysteria-inducing mop tops, I started to think about their early interviews. I looked up some of those early pressers and was taken aback by just how many times the fab foursome was asked about money and marriage, but there were also some gems hidden amongst the clunkers. And so, inspired by the early press conferences of the Beatles, especially their US tour interviews, I decided to ask some of those very same questions to some of the best and brightest making music today.

If you're into stargazing, ethereal bedroom dreampop (or, "80s inspired dreamy guitar pop," as per below), you're probably already familiar with Seattle's Hibou. Peter Michel's atmospheric music is quite special, his shimmy-through-the-darkness kick and breathy vocals give Michel's songs a wonderfully radiant energy that's got a real sweetness to it.  

Having released his third LP as Hibou this year on Barsuk, Michel is currently mid-tour, and bringing his Halve songs (and undoubtedly more) to DC tomorrow night to the Pie Shop. Read on to see Peter's answers to all manner of questions, and if you're in greater DC tomorrow night go check him out up close and in person. And be sure you ask him about the time machine...

What has been your most exciting moment in the last year?

Being on tour right now is the most exciting thing to happen this year. I got scammed by a van rental company and ended up taking my Toyota Corolla on this month long journey across the country with the whole band and all of our instruments - it’s been quite the experience.

Who are your favorite recording artists?

Adrianne Lenker, Little Joy, Sam Evian, Maribou State, John Maus, Aldous Harding…

Do you feel safe riding in airplanes?

Absolutely not.

Does every city look the same?

Negative! One of our favorite things to do on tour while driving into a new city is pick apart all the reasons why it’s so different than the last city that we were in, or how different it feels than our home.

What message are you trying to get across, if any?

I mostly try to convey how important it is to keep the conversation about mental health going. It’s really amazing when my songs connect with people and they reach out to let me know that Hibou’s music has helped them in some way. My favorite artists have done the same for me, so to carry that along is definitely a focal point.

How would you describe yourself in one word?


Where would you like to go that you haven't gone yet?


Do you feel that you're setting a new trend in music?

Not really. The music I write is influenced by a lot of nostalgic events for me, so if anything it’s recreating old trends.

What kinds of guitars do you use?

Gibson Firebrand 4 life. It’s actually my father's guitar, but I’ve used it for everything Hibou and it’s the only guitar that I tour with.

Does anybody ever ask you for advice?

Sure! Mostly about production techniques and gear, which there’s never really a satisfying answer for because I don’t know how to talk about those things in conversation - I just know how to make the sounds I want!

How do you prefer for your fans to act at your concerts?

Whatever they’re comfortable with doing really! A clap and a “woo” when we finish a song is always appreciated.

How do you go about writing your songs?

There’s really no formula. Sometimes it will be based off a melody that I came up with in the shower, sometimes I’ll choose a BPM and work around that. I guess the only constant is that the lyrics always come last.

What is one question you would like to be asked that probably nobody has ever asked?

“Are you ready to initiate the time machine, Peter?”

What do you call your sound?

80s inspired dreamy guitar pop.

Have you ever had a mental block-out on stage?

All the time! I think that’s pretty common, maybe?

What are your unfulfilled ambitions?

Performing/traveling overseas, being able to support myself with my music, never burning out.

What advice do you have for teenagers?

Train yourself to have healthy habits! Both mentally and physically, practice mindfulness and empathy and appreciate time.

What is the closest you have come to losing life and limb?

On tour a few years ago, we slid out on black ice at 3 in the morning in the middle of Montana. Our van spun around time and time again and we eventually ended up in a ditch on the side of the road. If we had gone a little further we would have gone off the side of a bridge.

Do you think of yourself more as an entertainer or a musician, or do you think it's more of a combination of the two?

Definitely a musician. Entertaining is something I still feel like I’m not completely comfortable with even after all these years; it's very hit or miss. However I always feel comfortable diving in solo to the writing process.

[posted 8.6.19]


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