The idea of mixing the music of the Grateful Dead with contemporary dance trends sounds sacrilegious on paper, but for LP Giobbi, it is nothing short of a dream. Giobbi, the jazz pianist turned dance star, was raised by Deadheads in her native Eugene, Oregon, and would often work her DJ sets while wearing one of several T-shirts featuring the legendary Dead Bears.
While she had a knack for flipping samples and developing elaborate sonic landscapes in her compositions, the Grateful Dead connection kept coming up, eventually catching the notice of Bob Weir‘s management. Giobbi has been booked as the official after-show DJ of the Dead & Co’s final tour. Earlier this year, she released a remix album built around Jerry Garcia‘s solo debut from 1972 to a hugely enthusiastic response from Deadheads. The estate run by Trixie Garcia is meticulous about handling Jerry’s legacy, so the official nod from them was a huge deal.
What does the Dead mean to Giobbi? “It means home,” she says when speaking to PopMatters. “My parents are huge Deadheads, so Jerry’s voice was like a family member’s in our house growing up, echoing throughout our home quite a bit. My parents are my best friends and some of the coolest people I know, and it makes me think of them and the open, loving, wonderful community they raised me in.”
Yet Giobbi, who also runs the Animal Talk publishing company and a nonprofit specifically focused on empowering women and nonbinary performers to enter the dance space, has spent the last few years ushering in several singles honing in on her own uniquely melodic style. Richly textured while avoiding the stadium grandeur that has become commonplace for so many EDM acts, she’s found a thread that feels like it takes lessons learned from the Chemical Brothers and Groove Armada and fuses them in a style all her own. Light Places might mark her solo debut, but it sounds like the kind of record you’d make after a couple of albums where you have found and are so confident in your musical voice that it’s inimitable.
“When I first started making dance music, I kind of loved the idea of just putting out singles instead of having to build a whole cohesive world that makes up an album,” Giobbi explains. “But then I talked to Pete Tong, and he said, ‘You know, you are an album artist’, and I started seeing myself differently. Around the same time, I wanted to make some tunes that were more B-sides instead of having the pressure to make a single that would do well on DSPs. Making an album allowed me to make interludes and intros and outros and just overall be more musical, and I was just finally ready to take that journey.”
She’s had time to focus on her compositions over several years of touring, opening for the likes of Marc Rebillet and impressing with her mix of beats and live piano work. Like several artists who worked through the pandemic, there’s no denying that playing in more carefully-moderated spaces altered how most musicians approached taking the stage. “It turned out to be a critical learning experience for me,” Giobbi explains.
“When I was live streaming during the pandemic, many of the same viewers were coming back day after day, so I started getting more experimental. I would use one CDJ for just drum loops, another for instrument loops, and another for acapellas. I had everything labeled by key so I could pick and choose within the right keys, and then I would know what key to play on my piano to jam on top of it all. That is also when I started warping Jerry Garcia’s guitars to weave over tracks which led to my Dead House set and ultimately how I got to remix Jerry Garcia’s first album.”
The warm melodies on Light Places are punctuated by themes of love and togetherness, often relayed by guests and vocalists ranging from Sofi Tukker to DJ Tennis to Caroline Byrne. “All of the vocals were written by the singers, so I didn’t have much hand in that. I do think love, wanting love, getting over love, being hurt by love, looking for love, being confused by love … that is just universal human stuff.”
The moody tones of “Feels Just Like It”, anchored by the vocals of Caroline Byrne, were perhaps the quickest creation on the album (“I sent it to Caroline Byrne and within an hour she sent me back the vocal and I didn’t do much to it,” Giobbi explains), while the percolating, slowly-building “Georgia” may have been the track that took the longest time from inception to making the cut. “The idea came to me in a dream (I was jamming on stage with Jimi Hendrix, who was ripping over these tom solos), and I woke up and put together the track pretty quickly. But I had to find a drummer and record real drums to get it close to what I heard in my dream. So recording a live drummer and then editing the drums and layering them with electronic drums took a minute.”
As for the two different Sofi Tukker collaborations? “A lot of credit is due to Soph and Tuck for being the reason I even have a career,” Giobbi notes. “They were the first ones to take me on the road, they started a label to release my first tunes, and they supported me in every way, shape, and form. We were in the studio one day, and I was playing some instrumentals, and Soph just grabbed the mic and started singing, and it was perfect. They are featured on the first track and last track of my album, which feels very fitting and full circle.”
So with two albums out this year, the honor of playing for Dead fans during their last running tour, and operating multiple organizations, how would Giobbi define what a DJ does in the year 2023? “Oooh, that is a toughy!” she exclaims. “In the year 2023, there are so many ways to be a DJ. You can make it more about the show and have all your songs pre-picked so they can be time-coded with a massive LED screen etc. Or you can be a song selector taking people on a journey where it’s more about the dancefloor than you up on a stage. There is joy to be had in both.”
If you go to an LP Giobbi show, that joy is very apparent.