Piano Bar co-owner and multi-instrumental extraordinaire Andy Pobjoy speaks to Luke Voogt about his love of music, the nightlife and surviving – and thriving – in a global pandemic.
Tell us about you…
I was born and raised in Geelong. My mother, Jan, was a librarian, and my father, Daryl, was a high school physics teacher.
I have two children, Olive and Chet, and I live with my partner Josh in Norlane.
How did you become a musician?
My family isn’t all that musical, however, when I was 10, I decided that I wanted music lessons.
My parents enrolled me in weekly group lessons at Blackley’s Musicland in Moorabool Street with seven other kids. Imagine the noise and chaos!
It was there with my first teacher, Jenny Blackley, that I developed my love of music.
I continued my musical journey at Christian College Highton, playing the oboe, flute and saxophone in school bands.
When I turned 16, Darren Holroyd gave our band Resurge our first Saturday night gig at The Geelong Hotel.
What an eye-popping experience at that age for a church boy like me!
We started working a few nights a week, with a Friday night residency at The Wild Westcoast Saloon with Stewie Harrison in Geelong, and gigs all over regional Victoria.
So many road trips, dodgy country motor inns, hangovers and hilarious mishaps along the way.
How did Piano Bar come about?
In 2014 I began performing on cruise ships, which opened my eyes to the potential of a “true piano bar”.
The audience was so diverse in age, background and taste, but what really brought them together was the songs, and the memories they bring.
When I first pitched the idea of Piano Bar to friends and family, there were plenty of nay-sayers.
However, once we opened our original tiny 50-seat venue, the floodgates opened and I realised we had stumbled onto something massive.
Since then, we have expanded twice in Geelong, and opened Piano Bars in Colac, Ballarat and Bendigo.
What are your favourite things to do locally?
My local café is Bear and Scoobs in North Geelong. I love their big breakfast and vanilla slices. A small, strong latte is my daily ritual.
We love taking our two pugs, Roger and Reuben, to Bancoora Beach for a long walk off-leash.
Growing up, we spent every summer at Point Roadknight. That beach brings back many fond memories.
How are you coping with COVID-19?
When COVID-19 hit, Piano Bar immediately pivoted online, and we have since performed in about 400 livestreams with more than a million views.
We also built a portable shipping container bar for outdoor performances.
Whilst I have personally remained very positive, as a business we are growing increasingly weary of the ever-changing and onerous restrictions placed upon us.
We have essentially become ‘mall cops’ enforcing mask-wearing and no-dancing rules while striving for the best customer experience possible.
This places a huge strain on our already-stretched resources.
Nevertheless, our amazing team, led by my business partner Aaron Skinner, continues to face the challenges head-on and we remain extremely excited about Piano Bar’s future.
What’s something about you that people might not know?
Whilst figuring out a career path in my 20s, I studied information systems at Federation University and Deakin University, and later undertook theological training at Ridley College and Charles Sturt University, hence my nickname: ‘The Reverend’.
I misplace my wallet and keys almost daily, and I’m a sucker for a single malt whisky.