Didirri Peters had a problem telling the truth. Like many teenagers, he used to embellish his life with non-existent stories. “Part of that was driven by me wanting to be interesting,” says the musician from Warrnambool, a coastal town on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. His debut EP, Measurements, was released in July to almost immediate acclaim.
Peters’s early insecurity is hard to understand when you meet the frank, articulate and confident 23 year old. But it’s soon clear where his desire to stand out comes from. His father is a travelling childrens' entertainer, and his mother and sister are artists.
It’s interesting to juxtapose Peters’s self-proclaimed fibbing with the unwavering and frequently illuminating honesty of his brother Lachy, an autistic man. The slow but eventually dramatic creep of Measurements’ second-last track Jude is, in part, about the way Lachy struggles with small challenges in life, but how he can also see simple solutions to grand philosophical quandaries.
After spending time with a suicidal friend one day, Peters returned home deeply worried. “I spoke to my brother and said, ‘My friend is worried about the meaning of life and whether it’s worth anything’,” says Peters. “Lachy said, ‘What are you worried about the meaning of life for, Dids? Find the thing that makes you happy and don't get in the way of other people finding the thing that makes them happy.’”
Peters’s pursuit of that advice led him to abandon three years of formal jazz training and move towards guitar. He likens his interest in jazz to his teenage obsession with the Rubik’s Cube – but jazz was an academic puzzle he couldn’t quite solve.
Still, the compositions on Measurements aren’t simple. There’s experimentation behind many of the tracks he wrote with producer Hayden Calnin in a shed in Northcote, Melbourne. On the EP opener Blind You, the pair experimented with more than 30 objects – ranging from a toilet roll to strings of pearls – to disrupt the sounds traditionally made by a grand piano’s strings. Rather than dominating the song, these experiments add texture, almost acting as backup singers to the lilting, pastoral vocals Peters employs on the track.
Peters has moved away from the science of jazz but still approaches his music analytically. His songs are like his mum Rachel’s abstract paintings of middens – the layers of human by-products archaeologists study to make sense of ancient people’s daily reality. Peters makes music to sort through the strata of life and uncover his own truths. “Mostly my music is a bit of philosophical problem-solving for myself,” he says. “I like finding golden rules for my life, and they've really helped.”
Many of the tools Peters employs in his song writing and performing were learned from his dad Barry. The duo toured rural Australian kindergartens together from the time Peters was in primary school up until just a few years ago. As a fedora-wearing teenager he filled dual roles as sound engineer and opening act, performing a juggling and magic routine learned from Youtube tutorials.
“I think he taught me how to talk to an audience like it's one friend, rather than a thousand people,” says Peters. “He doesn't talk to kids like Yo Gabba Gabba or The Wiggles, he talks to them like they're real people.”
Now, rather than telling tall tales, Peters wants to connect honestly with audiences in a live setting. He’s performed intimate shows in living rooms, busked on Swanston Street in Melbourne and recently played at Splendour in the Grass. In September he supported Vance Joy in massive venues including Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne and Hordern Pavilion in Sydney.
“[Humans] are a weird animal where we like to be in a room and watch one person do a thing. You go because everyone wants to feel something together,” Peters says. “I love seeing people’s eyes. They don't just look at you, they look around at each other and there's this moment of everyone kind of being like, ‘Hey we all shared a thing’. How awesome is that?”
Diddirri plays Summersalt festival at Glenelg Beach, SA on Saturday December 8. Tickets are available online.