Full disclosure: I was a little weary about interviewing Passion Pit, not because their music isn’t amazing (it is), but to talk to a band at the career-point PP are at can be a little trying. They’ve spent over a year touring the same record, the golden debut Manners, and have probably answered whatever questions I can cook up countless times.
However, I find that opposite attitude in frontman and main creative force Michael Angelakos [pictured above]. Instead of being weighed down by time, he seems to be invigorated by it, eager to get some choice words off his chest about press, hype, and the journey of his band.
We also got some of the first words on new Passion Pit material, so read on.
Q: I saw your Toronto show about a year ago, and I was surprised by the audience reception. They weren’t just into it, they were loving it. It was very euphoric.
A: Where was that?
Q: Lee’s Palace.
A: Oh, wow. A lot’s changed since then.
We have a really fantastic fan base, and the music is by nature participatory. Audience members should feel like they’re a part of the music right off the bat. If people are singing along to the music, sonically that works really well, because that’s the way it’s supposed to sound; there’s almost no vocal effects on the record, but my voice is layered - anywhere from four to 40 layers -- so that lends itself it to that kind of euphoria. Like everyone is playing along.
But I wasn’t a very big fan of that Lee’s Palace show. We had a lot of sound problems. I couldn’t hear myself at all. And there was a backstage area that got stormed afterward.
Q: You seem to have a pretty good memory of individual shows.
A: I am very keenly aware of how this band has blown up. People think things have just escalated, but it did at the worst possible time, when I was not ready to do it. It reared its head and demanded we work and perform and tour, and we weren’t ready for any of that. It was around the time of that Lee’s Palace show.
Q: So has 2010 been functionally easier?
A: Yeah, I think that’s about growing up. Coming to terms with the fact that a side-project got a lot of recognition. Everyone demanding all these things from you...and I’m talking about indie labels. We have to strike while the iron’s hot, we understand that. But we also felt like we had to grow up. We were in the limelight, everyone was paying attention to us in a gestation period. We hadn’t really learned the songs or come together as a band.
In my head (Passion Pit) was fully developed, but it takes time to live up to hype. That’s the problem with bands these days that get tons and tons of hype, but they just can’t deliver. It just happens so quickly, and you have to work really, really hard. Vampire Weekend is a great example of a band that faced a lot of adversity, but they did well. They came out with a great second record.
Q: They seemed to be fully prepared for backlash.
A: I think they really wanted it. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted it. I think they loved the hate, people talking about them. All that comes with being a buzz band, and they embraced it.
I didn’t embrace it. I took it personally, I felt like I was in high school. Bottom line is, we’ve come a really long way, and I’m really proud of the band. People can say they don’t like our music, but they can’t say we can’t perform it anymore. We’ve learned, that’s for sure.
Q: All the adversity has made you stronger, as a unit?
A: It’s at least put everything in perspective. We are extremely fortunate, with over a year into our record, and we’re still making a living doing what we love to do. And now we’re pretty good at it [laughs]. I couldn’t be more excited about the future, about the next record.
Q: What is the word on that?
A: I have a lot of personal work to do, a lot of “me time.” I need to decompress, and re-evaluate the things I need. And the band has a bunch of side-projects to take on full force. But we’ll start pre-production pretty soon. I’ve noted November 1 as when I’ll really, really start writing.
The great thing about Columbia and major labels, though you hear horror stories about major labels, is that they were really very relaxed. Manners, they came into the studio once - “Sounds great, keep doing it!”
Q: Will the studio recordings again rest mostly on your shoulders?
A: Yeah, that’s how it works. That’s how we operate.
Q: What direction do you think the new material will take, as opposed to the sound we heard on Manners?
A: It’s not going to contrast that much. It definitely will be less giddy. I’m not going to think about it too much, I just want it to be the prettiest, most gorgeous record I could make. Live, we’ve tried to see what works and what doesn’t, but unfortunately, a lot of stuff works! We could go in a bunch of different directions. It will be much longer as well. I’m just really excited to stop touring and get into the studio.
Q: I look forward to seeing where the sound can go after your debut.
A: See, to me, Manners wasn’t a debut record...
Q: You had the Chunk of Change EP out.
A: But I feel this will be the third record. I don’t have that sophomore-slump fear. I’m not scared. It’s going to be an awesome album. I’m going to love making it, and I hope everyone that loves our music loves it, and even people who didn’t like Manners.
Q: I’m sure that self-confidence will feed into the music.
A: You have to have self-confidence. People are like bees. They smell fear.