How LP Giobbi Became the Queen of Piano House
LP Giobbi exudes an air of breezy swag as she bounces effortlessly from the decks to her keyboard. She's bright, effervescent, and carefree on stage. It’s a reflection of her infectiously joyful personality. As each layer is built and deconstructed the pieces fall into place with such ease. It’s almost as if she was naturally built for the life of a musician.
LP was raised by Deadheads. Hippies who followed the Grateful Dead around the country selling grilled cheese sandwiches at shows to keep themselves afloat. By the time LP was born they were settled into life in Eugene, Oregon. They raised her on a diet of piano lessons and Sunday morning dance sessions. “Every Sunday, instead of going to church, we would put on the Grateful Dead as a family and listen to music and dance. And that was that was my spiritual practice.”
She began to contextualize music differently when she attended UC Berkeley to study jazz piano. “I spent the next four years really intellectualizing music. I had to do a lot of playing in front of people to get judged for a grade and it [was] very theorized in my head.”
College was a critical crossroads for Giobbi. She continued to study music and took advantage of UC Berkeley’s activist culture with classes on power and privilege. She began to wonder if a music career would have enough societal impact. “I remember talking to my mom. I remember telling her is it important enough work? Should I try be in politics or change things that are maybe more tangible?”
Her mom's response was a perfect encapsulation of Giobbi’s feelings on house music and rave culture.
“My mom said to me, Listen, going to see the Grateful Dead are the happiest memories that I've ever had. And I would leave those shows and feel like I was part of something greater than me. I would feel loved. I would feel whole and secure. And that's all people want, they just want to feel loved. And if you can be a part of that for somebody that work is important. And you know, really like taking it took me a while to really understand that. But man, I have been on dance floors, I have changed my life and that have made me feel loved and whole and I think it is really important.”
When she experienced her first DJ set in San Francisco, house music reawakened a spiritual practice she had lost sight of. She stood on the dancefloor shocked that all the sound was coming from one person. Her friend explained the basics of DJing to her. And more importantly, the philosophy of house music.
“He stood next to me and broke down what he referred to as body music. Talking about the kick and where the high hats hit and how it makes your body feel. It's like a meditative thing. And after studying music and intellectualizing it for four years, I was blown. This is not to like to intellectualize, it's to feel? And what's so sad and scary is that I had stopped doing that as I studied music, for a grade. And I remember [it being] very cathartic, like sobbing practically on the dance floor, like this is what I want to be a part of.”
It’s remarkable how things fell into place from this moment. She was playing a solo gig as a jazz pianist in San Francisco when Daft Punk’s studio engineer Peter Franco approached her to join an all-female electronic band. At the time she didn’t even know how to turn on a synthesizer. She was completely unqualified for it, but she decided to make the leap. Giobbi moved to LA and spent the next three years learning how to create electronic music.
She quickly became obsessed due in part to her visceral connection to some of the most legendary artists in dance music history. “The first synthesizers I ever touched were the one from the Daft Punk pyramid Tour,” she says. “Which pretty much sucked me right in. All their notes, what settings to use for which songs were still on there. And I think that was like a huge drug for me. And I got addicted.”
She soon found herself as the producer of an all-female electronic band. Even though she was brought up to believe she could do anything, it took time to realize she could sit in the driver’s seat in the studio. “I remember the first time I heard that Grimes produced her own records. We were always in the studio with male producers, which I had great experiences with. But I truly didn't even conceptualize myself in the role of the producer until I heard that Grimes did it herself. And I thought I was raised by hippies who were like, you could do anything and you could be anything. And I still didn't even think I could go for that role because I just subconsciously never saw myself.”
So much of her career has been defined by diving headfirst into the unknown. Even the story of how she first decided to be a DJ is a nod to the colorful name a friend gave to LPs fuck-it I’ma go-for-it attitude. “The first CDJs I bought, I called her and I was like, ‘Hey, this guy is selling these CDJs on Craigslist. He called me to buy them.’ And she was like, ‘What are CDJs?’ And I said I don't really know but I think you need them to DJ. And she said you are so tits first! You have no idea what you're doing and you're just gonna dive into it!”
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It’s a philosophy that led to one of her most important relationships. In 2017 her band got booked for a festival. Sofi Tuker was headlining the after-party, LP knew she had to be in the room with them. Her agent called and said they needed an opening DJ for the night. LP wasn’t exactly a DJ at the time, but she took the opportunity. She played to an empty room while her mother fed her chicken nuggets. It was one of her toughest gigs. A moment when she almost considered packing it all in. Regardless of how bad LP thought she did, Sophie Tucker recognized LP’s skills as a selector and invited her to tour with them.
The tour was a period of tremendous growth she says, “I failed night after night after night in front of people learning how to DJ and really understanding what the art is. That it's really about a full journey. And it's really about getting them to trust you and then pushing them.”
She says she also learned an important professional lesson. “Belief is the is the biggest currency that you need for doing this line of doing this work. You have to believe in yourself, you have to have belief it's possible. And Soph and Tuck gave that to me. There's truly no reason they should have believed in me. I barely understood house music or dance music. And they just saw something in me that I didn't really see in myself at first. And they saw it so clearly that I had no choice but to see it also. I started believing it. I started thinking this is this is maybe possible.”
She’s paying that forward with her non-profit organization Fem House. A collective that aims to make it easier for women to break into the music industry. They run a series of free monthly workshops on everything from sound design to engineering. It’s all part of giving back the same belief that her community has instilled in her. “I just became hell bent and obsessed on becoming the visual representation for somebody else. And [to start] a space that would help that feedback loop and the education piece of it. Hopefully a decade from now we see more and more women running the gear.”
The pandemic was a window of opportunity for the Femme House brand. Moving the operation completely online allowed it to be discovered by a laundry list of impressive sponsors including Coca-Cola, Roland, Native Instrument, Ableton, and Guitar Center. These sponsorships mean that Femme House can now offer scholarships to women of color who want to produce but may not have the resources to do so.
Giobbi feels lucky to be in a position to give back in this way. For all the worry she placed on making an impact as a musician, she’s changed the lives of so many people in such a short amount of time. And she’s grateful to be a change-maker, “I think that I've come to this realization that my gift is actually being in a place where I can be a conduit of joy. And that's it. If I can tap into that, than I'm doing right, and that's going to be enough.”