The idea of "home" plays a prominent theme in the short history of Peter Michel and his Seattle-based band Hibou. "I actually recorded half of the new album at my parents’ home," says the 21-year-old about Hibou's debut full-length release for Barsuk Records. "There are moments on the record where you hear my dad cooking or hammering," he adds.
From an early age, Peter was inspired to take classical piano lessons by his parents and older brother. From there, Peter’s foundations expanded to drum and guitar lessons, eventually leading him to develop a strong grasp of songwriting and composition as he took an increasingly hands-on approach to making his own music.
Indeed, Peter rapidly developed a desire to do things his own way. He joined noted San Francisco’s Craft Spells as its drummer while still in high school after ditching the traditional brick and mortar institution for an online education. He ended up spending the better part of a year touring throughout the U.S. and Europe, playing shows at night while finishing his studies during the day. He was 18 when he realized he needed to start focusing more attention on his own songs. "Craft Spells was a great time and I had a great experience touring the world with them, but it was taking up all my time," says Peter. "And I realized that I needed to be writing my own music. Besides, I don't love playing the drums." He wrote a break-up letter, and his time with the band was done.
Shortly after leaving Craft Spells, Peter returned to Seattle and began to experiment with soundscapes and varying musical genres, all of which eventually led to the release of his first recordings as Hibou (Peter named the new project with the French word for owl – pronounced ee-boo – a reference to a baby owl that once sat next to him on a log listening to him play songs outside). Titled Dunes, the EP was recorded in the walk-in closet of his apartment. Peter wrote the music, played every instrument, mixed, and self-released the EP. He then set upon self-booking a west coast tour with a loose band he assembled. "We drove around in a minivan owned by my friend's mom, lost a lot of money, came back, and wanted to do it again," says Peter.
More touring followed (including dates in the U.K.), sharing stages along the way with Yelle, Chad Van
Gaalen, Surfer Blood, and Slow Club. Slowly, Hibou began to get noticed by media outlets such as NME,
Pitchfork and Noisey — all from an EP recorded in a closet and self-supported by a tour in a mother's minivan. "It was two years of me fueling Hibou by myself," says Michel. He was only 19 years old but already something of a DIY veteran when he began writing songs for the first full-length Hibou album. "I didn't really know what I was doing at that point, but it was starting to become much more clear where I wanted to take this project."
Written, recorded and played by Peter at home in Seattle, the self-titled debut LP features 11 songs (including four new versions of songs from the Dunes EP) and is a lush, driving mix of '80s inspired pop, fueled by twisting reverbed-out guitar melodies, elegant arrangements, and a love of soda, summertime nostalgia, and trips to Peter’s inspirational point in Seattle: the fittingly-named Discovery Park. "I've written a ton of the melodies for the band there," he says. "It's my favorite place in the world."
Peter also cites Seattle's elusive sunshine as an often-hidden source of inspiration. "It's very summery music," he says. "It's warm. I want people to feel that when they hear it."
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