Interview: Passion Pit — "Tom Waits will never license his music to anyone, but in order for us to hit the audience we want to hit, it is a great way to do it."
Mon, 29 Mar 2010 15:58:20
Passion Pit singer Michael Angelakos was in the UK when I chatted with him, under a gray, rainy sky. Even the soggy, depressing weather doesn't detract from the airy pop that his band makes on their latest, Manners.
While the music has a '70s, almost disco vibe to it, there's a darker lyrical shadow lurking over it, making the music in exercise in delightful contradictions. The singer weighed in on the disco revival and the happy accident that was the formation of Passion Pit
Manners has an old school '70s vibe—did disco ever die? Upbeat, airy!
It's an extension in some way, shape or form! I am computing that question. There was no list of influences that we can rattle off, nor do we go into a process for songwriting or recording and production with a sound in mine. There is a whole disco revival that is happening right now, especially the DSA movement. I think people declared disco dead at some point but it always comes back. If anyone thought it wouldn't come back, they were not thinking too far into the future, since it always comes back in fashion. We have songs that employ that beat that is considered the disco beat, but it's pop and orchestrated electro pop. At the end of the day, it's a pop song, genre or no genre.
It feels good but there’s a darker tone to the lyrical content.
At what point do you sacrifice what you originally do to bring music to people to make them feel joy? I read a few articles, playing acoustic and introspective songs, and I don’t think we, and especially me, ever attempt to create anything particular. The creation of the band was an accident. I thought, "Whatever comes, comes." Sigur Ros was asked in an interview, "How do you write songs?" The answer was, "I don't know, we just do it."They don't have an answer, and I look at it as the music is an antidote to any misery I was feeling at the time, since the music masks the misery in the lyrics. It's a veneer and veil we hide behind. It's an interesting juxtaposition and dichotomies working against each other. Either works or it doesn't.
The accident was a happy one, no doubt.
I played a solo show as Passion Pit and played "Chunk of Change," and Ian asked me if I wanted to hash it out and make it a band. It was a one CD deal and I had seven projects at the time and this one project was made for my girlfriend at the time. Out of boredom, we got booked. I thought, "I guess we will play a show and I'll take it seriously." Then we got signed and it was like, "Ok, now I really have to take this seriously. Then we signed to a major and now really take this seriously." We didn't start off or want or try to be famous or attract attention!
The song "Sleepyhead" has been licensed out for a Palm Pixi commercial. That was obviously not a goal for the band, so how do you feel about that opportunity that most bands would kill for?
The only way to generate money these days is to do these things. I didn't think people were asking why it is in a Palm Pixi ad, since who would want to be associated with that product or a corporation? It was about the demographic that we would not have been able to hit without it, and it was a colorful, pretty commercial that lent itself well to the commercial. Behind the commercial were some great artists working on something corporate, at the end of the day, but still. Tom Waits will never license his music to anyone, but in order for us to hit the audience we want to hit, it is a great way to do it.
It's certainly not that dreaded "sell out" term that kids that aren't in bands throw around to assert their indier-than-thou dominance!
It's not selling out anymore. It's not the '90s! It's advertising your music.
You are from Boston, a major city that has a reputation for being a literary-minded, bookish town! Is it creatively encouraging?
I always feel comfortable writing there, but as far as fostering creativity? One can argue that it could be stifling, since there are not a lot of outlets and it's harder to feel you are part of a scene because of impermeable clicks. We are from Cambridge, a clique-y place. But I loved it and loved writing there! It's not like it instigates creativity, because I can be on the bus and have an idea anywhere.
Tell me something about you that has nothing at all to do with your music.
If I hadn’t gotten signed, I'd be doing media research, speaking of drab and gray. I'd be in an office assisting someone in their research in grad school. I wanted to go straight after college and continue, but I didn't graduate college.
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