Signing Story: Hibou

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Peter Michel wasn’t seeking a label for Hibou, his pop-surf-rock project, but then his manager, Erin David Tate––who’d been sending demos––blurted, “Let’s go get breakfast with Barsuk.” A fan of the label’s Death Cab for Cutie and Laura Gibson, among others, Michel salivated at the prospect of following in the footsteps of artists he’d grown up admiring. A series of meetings commenced and the Seattle-based label ultimately declared its desire to make the partnership official.

The singer/songwriter had been scoped out for some time before Barsuk made their presence known. Besides hearing music from the band’s self-produced EP, Barsuk spied Hibou’s performance with Surfer Blood at Sunset Tavern, unbeknownst to Michel. On top of the group’s persistence, the label responded positively to the outfit’s ‘80s-drenched, new wave aesthetic.

“While Hibou remains a band, it’s technically a solo project, making the decision all his.”

Barsuk’s artist-friendly perspective comforted Michel into signing the three-album agreement. Beyond repeatedly visiting the label’s offices and having a marketing plan outlined, he was assured no decisions would be made without his explicit approval. “That’s what you really want in a label,” attests the 21-year-old. While Hibou remains a band, it’s technically a solo project, making the decision all his.

Other labels displayed interest, but Michel’s attorney, Vlad Radovanov, tossed them aside on grounds their offers weren’t generous enough. Barsuk Records’ contract exchanged hands an estimated seven times before the 27-page tome was finalized.

Michel offers pragmatic advice to those making their way in the industry. “Be super-careful. There are a lot of people I know who have gotten ripped off.” Also, “Be nice,” as what goes around can often come around.

Hibou’s full-length debut arrives on Sept. 18th.

– Andy Kaufmann