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Meet Lauran Hibberd, a new grunge hero from the Isle of Wight

Rolling Stone UK speaks to the singer-songwriter ahead of the release of her debut album ‘Garageband Superstar’

By Will Richards

Lauran Hibberd (Picture: Steve Glashier)

There’s a joke on the Isle of Wight that the small island off the coast of Hampshire lives about a decade behind the rest of the UK. For singer-songwriter Lauran Hibberd, it rings true. “I recorded my debut album in Brixton, and on the island we don’t have Deliveroo or Uber Eats, so that was incredibly fun for me,” she laughs. “Every day I got something, even if I wasn’t hungry. I just loved the idea of it.”

As a child, Hibberd says she wasn’t “musically cultured” and describes herself as a “late bloomer” into the rock’n’roll world. “I didn’t grow up with Joni Mitchell playing around the house or anything cool and profound like that,” she smiles. “A lot of artists say they were raised on The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, but for me it was just Mika songs while I was doing the cleaning.”

Discovering the likes of Green Day and Weezer off her own back in her mid-teens, and diving into formative movies from Wayne’s World to School of Rock, Hibberd’s story – true to the simplified Isle of Wight narrative – does feel like one plucked from the nineties. “All of those things felt like this one world to me, where I felt really comfortable and excited,” she says of discovering punk. “That feeling is what I’m trying to hold onto.”

Because of “a distinct lack of things to do” on the island, 25-year-old Hibberd and her peers – who include musicians that went on to form Wet Leg, Plastic Mermaids, Coach Party, and more – all started bands as teenagers (previous iterations of Hibberd’s live band featured Ellis Durand, who now plays bass on tour with Wet Leg). “There was always a lack of drummers, so everyone on the Isle of Wight shared the same guy,” Hibberd laughs, painting a picture of a deeply interconnected scene with bands sharing members, ideas, and stages.

Despite the newfound interest in music from the region only having kicked into overdrive in the last year, the new exposure doesn’t surprise Hibberd. In her opinion, there has been a vibrant, exciting music scene on the island for as long as she could remember. “I feel very proud to be part of this Isle of Wight flag-waving movement, and to see Wet Leg kicking off,” she beams. “It makes me feel like anything’s possible.”

Ahead of the release of her debut album Garageband Superstar on 19 August, Hibberd discusses getting her first festival gig in exchange for some fencing, how she loves being out of step with what’s traditionally ‘cool’, and her upcoming ‘Pub Quiz Tour’.

When you started writing songs on the Isle of Wight, did you have lofty ambitions for where you wanted to end up?

Lauran Hibberd: I thought it was going to be a really easy dot-to-dot. Write one song, get famous, sell out Wembley, get a BRIT Award, be on the cover of a magazine. Done. Obviously it was very different to that! I always say that being in the music industry is like constantly drowning, and then just before you quit you get this massive breath that fills up your lungs and it’s the best feeling in the world. And then you go back to drowning again. It’s that one breath that keeps you in it.

The biggest musical event on the island is of course the Isle of Wight festival – have you ever played there?

Lauran Hibberd: My first ever gig was there! My dad lent some fencing to John Giddings, who runs the festival. He was about to pay dad back but then he said, ‘Why not give my daughter a slot at the festival instead?’ So that’s how I got my first gig…

Are you glad in retrospect for this slower paced upbringing, where you had to seek out your own entertainment?

Lauran Hibberd: Yeah, I am actually. I think it’s given me a weird imagination. My first job was at a pretend dinosaur farm, and I used to clean old fossils with a toothbrush. That’s enough to sculpt me into more than the average individual. I definitely spent a long time resenting the fact that I was from here, and when I was 16 or 17, I was so keen to get off [the island]. And then I don’t know what happened. I think I did get off and go and gig everywhere, and then when I came back I was like, ‘Wow, I love it here.’ I realised how much I liked it, and how different it was to everywhere else.

“I feel very proud to be part of this Isle of Wight flag-waving movement”

Lauran Hibberd

Since those early days, how has your approach to your music and what you want to create changed?

Lauran Hibberd: I feel like I’ve massively changed since I first started. I take myself a lot less seriously now, and I feel very confident in terms of this world that I’m trying to create. I used to be very led by what was popular right now, and what people were doing around me. Now, I literally don’t look at that and I’m so focused on this one thing that I’m doing. I think that’s helped me massively, and definitely makes me feel like a better individual.

Your debut album Garageband Superstar is coming out in August – was it the product of lockdown?

Lauran Hibberd: When we went into lockdown, I knew I was going to write the album. All I could do at the time was write songs, so I decided to write loads and loads. I ended up writing three EPs, two albums and my entire career! I had a lot of time on my hands and used it to create my life’s work! There’s definitely a lot of hints on the album of what’s to come in the future, but I owed it to myself to keep this one in a world that I had built and wanted to be a part of since I was a kid. It’s a nostalgic record that doesn’t sound like it should be a thing in 2022.

It’s also interesting because the nostalgia you’re tapping into on the album is for a time 15 years after this type of music was created and considered mainstream…

Lauran Hibberd: It’s why we get a lot of dads at the gigs! I want to be the genre which is dad rock but also for their daughters. The dads and daughters can come to the show together and both get a kick out of it.

I’ve never been a cool person, and I’m genuinely not trying to get a compliment by saying that. I’m very aware that I’m not a leather jacket-wearing person. I grew up wanting to be that person, but then realised that all my favourite bands that I grew up loving have managed to be cool by being so uncool.

Lauran Hibberd (Picture: Steve Glashier)

How was the process of recording the album?

Lauran Hibberd: I worked with Larry Hibbitt on this record and, yes, we have very similar names. I think we’re probably secretly related. It wasn’t easy, but it was easier than I thought it was going to be. I really built up what it was going to be like to record this album, but actually, we didn’t disagree on anything. We had the exact same references and it just became like Guitar World! It was so fun, and everything I hoped it would be. We ate a lot of good lunches along the way, had big laughs, played lots of guitars, sung some dodgy notes, sung some good notes, and then thought, ‘Let’s probably call it there!’

And you’re off on tour soon behind it, with dates including a ‘Pub Quiz instore’ tour. How’s that going to work?

Lauran Hibberd: In lockdown, I did these really dry, boring pub quizzes with really stupid questions that no one could know the answer to. ‘How many steps is it from your house to the moon?’ People seemed to like them though, so I decided that it would be fun to integrate that with a live set and a signing so I give people something a bit more memorable, and some useful (or useless!) facts to take home with them.

“I want to be the genre which is dad rock but also for their daughters”

Lauran Hibberd

With your second album already written, how does Garageband Superstar fit into what you want your career to be?

Lauran Hibberd: When I was writing the album, I wanted to make the soundtrack to a film that no one would ever watch. Now it’s about to come out, I’m like, ‘No, I want to make the soundtrack to a film that everybody wants to watch!’ It comes back to the idea of dad rock for your daughters. I remember going to a show when I was younger, and I was at the front watching Girli and my dad was at the back, and he was like, ‘Oh my god, that was great!’ There’s such a power in getting the kids on board but also having the respect from the parent. And I need a big breath, because I’ve been drowning out here.

Lauran Hibberd’s debut album Garageband Superstar is out 19 August.