[Interview] FEMMEHOUSE DJ LP Giobbi On Empowering Women Through Production, Going 'Tits First' Into Her Career
Los Angeles FEMMEHOUSE producer and DJ LP Giobbi (born Leah Chisholm) is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to her trajectory into present day and without a doubt Some Kind of Awesome. Raised by a couple of Deadheads in New York, she started playing piano when she was in 2nd grade and experimented playing in bands as she grew up. "I was always the music kid. I played in the bands," LP explains, "I was that person." When it came time for college, her supportive parents encouraged her to pursue her passions, and she found herself taking all music classes at UC Berkeley in Los Angeles, California. She graduated with a degree in jazz piano and, drawing inspiration from her upbringing, sought out a job at Another Planet Entertainment, home of Outside Lands Festival, Treasure Island Music Festival, and more. After reading the biography of legendary rock promoter Bill Graham, who worked with the likes of The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and The Rolling Stones, she decided to write a letter to president Gregg Perloff, who had worked directly under Graham for many years.
"I wrote a letter as to why they should hire me and I literally walked down to their office, found their address, rang the buzzer and asked for Gregg Perloff," she recounted. "They assumed because I had so much ignorant confidence that I did have a meeting with him and they let me in." As luck would have it, Perloff actually stepped out of his office around the same time that the APE staff were trying to assess what the then-nineteen year old's intentions were. "I think at that moment they were like, 'There's a stalker in the office'", she said, "but I walked over to him and I said, 'You know, you would really benefit by hiring me and here's a letter as to why'." Completely blown away by her go-getter attitude, Perloff read her letter while she stood in of him and then hired her on the spot.
This is one of the many stories that LP would share with me during our conversation the evening before her set at Brooklyn nightclub Output, alongside Animal Talk labelmates Crush Club and label founders better known as electro pop sensations Sofi Tukker. While her attitude towards life is often more of a "Tits First" policy, leaping into everything assuming that a safety net will appear, it took a while for her to be honest with herself about wanting to pursue music full-time.. "After a lot of soul searching and conversations with the best pals, I learned it was actually fear of not being able to make it as a musician [that] was putting me on the industry side of things," she explained.
By chance, she was approached to be part of an all-female electronic project, LEX (later known as LJ Laboratory), despite not knowing the first thing about making electronic music. "I did not even know what a synthesizer was or how to turn it on," she admitted. In true Tits First fashion, she would spend the next three years familiarizing herself with DAW systems, ProTools, Abelton, and sound design, which helped bring her to her present-day production prowess.
During that time a friend invited her out to catch house legend Tornado Wallace. Entirely unaware of the inner workings of electronic music, the experience blew her away almost instantaneously. She recounted, "I was like, 'Is there a piano up there? Where's all the music coming from? Like how is there one guy playing all this music?'" For the reminder of the set her friend would proceed to break down everything that Wallace was accomplishing on his own on stage, going so far as to pounding on her shoulder during the 2/4 time signatures.
Beyond being impressed by Tornado Wallace's technical ability, LP was wholly captivated by the sophisticated yet simple nature of house music. "What was so interesting about it was that I had spent the last 4 years in college intellectualizing music," she recalled. "When I was at this club listening to this music it was all about the body. It was like meditative almost. It was the first time in a long time that I had a connection with music on a non-intellectual level."
After that encounter she knew that was the kind of music experience that she wanted to curate for her listeners. She explained, "I wanted to understand it. I wanted to know how to make people tick with it. That's what I wanted to be a part of."
LP admits that her "inner music major" can get in the way as she works on new music: she occasionally struggles with over-intellectualizing. "[In college] it was like 'Let me show off and show you how much I can say really quickly'" she said. After graduating college, however, she was challenged by some sage advice from a songwriting partner. "The very first thing she did," she recalls, "was rip up all my music and said, 'I don't wanna hear how many things you can say, I wanna know WHAT you're saying.'
It's something she still battles with in present day. She detailed,
"The note that I get back from Tucker [Halpern (Sofi Tukker)] every time I send him a track that I think is ready to be released, is 'DO LESS'. 'Take things out'. 'Say more by saying less'. My motto in life is 'More is more' so that's been really challenging for me, *laughs* but ultimately it has benefited [me], I think, for like focusing in on what I'm trying to say. It's been a really good challenge for me."
When she's able to achieve the perfect balance of doing less and saying more, the result has been nothing short of deeply impactful. An easy example of this is her debut single, "Amber Rose", which features Hermixalot reciting lines from a poem she wrote 10 years ago about then-girlfriend of rapper Kanye West and present day feminist icon, Amber Rose. When she's not making songs about women reclaiming their agency you can find her making more clever club-filling music. In "These Are Your Children" she pays homage to the history of New York City nightlife by sampling former club kid king Michael Alig’s 1990 interview from the Geraldo Rivera show. Her latest single, "Kupsa Kupsa" features a collaboration with French rapper H3RY LÜCK and is a playful song entirely in French about how making music is akin to cooking and is simply a blend of all the best ingredients.
One of the most admirable things about LP is that despite being involved in the electronic music scene for a somewhat short amount of time that she's already making a point to pour her heart into the community that helped her connect to music on an emotional level. She specifically makes it a point to leverage her white privilege and opportunities to provide a platform for other women, specifically women of color, in addition to the LGBTQ+ community.
Earlier this month, she partnered with Live Nation and launched the first of a series of events in San Francisco at their new August Hall venue under the name FEMMEHOUSE. The events give women the opportunities to take DJing and sound design classes prior to a series of performances of which there will be a few spots kept open for the women to practice the skills they've learned. "I think our whole goal in all of this is to be gatekeepers where, you know, the gatekeepers have normally been white men, she explained, "We wanna give them a stage and we wanna give them a voice and we wanna give them tools to use those things."
For LP, teaching women music production is a way to empower women in music, specifically vocalists, who are often at the mercy of their male producers."I feel very passionately about having women control that narrative and having them control their own voices," she says, "Or at least be able to speak the language when they do get into the room with a producer. That to me is what FEMMEHOUSE is all about."
In addition to FEMMEHOUSE, LP is also responsible for being the driving force behind the Santa Barbara Girls Rock camp being able to expand their course offerings to also have a music production class. Upon leveraging a recently made relationship with Native Instruments, she pressed the company to donate the necessary gear, and then even taught at the inaugural music production camp. "We taught [10 year old girls] how to make a song in Abelton," she gushed, "They used a bunch of like the Native Instruments keyboards and DJ controllers and it was SO FUN." The experience actually ended up inspiring to flesh out her then-initial stage idea for FEMMEHOUSE.
It is no surprise given how excited she was while we talked about her experience at the Santa Barbara Girls Rock camp that she has found a happy home within the artist collective Animal Talk, born from Sofi Tukker members Sofi Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern. According to LP, "Animal Talk is more than a language *laughs* Animal Talk is the best place on earth in my humble opinion."
Born around the idea of tapping into your child or animal, she explained the importance of being a member of the collective,
"Sofi [Hawley-Weld] always talks about how as an adult you go and meet with one of your friends, you sit down and have a beer, and you're like, 'This is what I'm doing with my life', you catch up, and that's it. But as children, we would play. We would build sandcastles. We would play dress up. We would play make believe. We would create things together. That was such a natural state of being and in adulthood that gets killed, so we wanted to make Animal Talk a place, like a physical/spiritual place. Physical in the parties and spiritual, you know, offline. In that reminding people that we can still play, we can still create, we can still be children. A place where they can free themselves and where they can tap into their inner child or inner animal and, you know, remember what it's like to play and to create. I think that that is the key to joy in life."
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarify.