It’s been a busy road for Passion Pit since the release of their debut album, “Manners,” in 2009 through the release of their latest indie pop smash, “Gossamer,” which hit the Music Unlimited service in July. Their lives have been a whirlwind of recording, promotion and touring, and in the case of Lollapalooza 2012, playing in front of a significantly larger crowd than some of the evening’s headliners. The Music Unlimited service caught their DJ set on the first night of the FILTER Lollapalooza After Parties and singer/keyboardist Michael Angelakos, keyboardist/guitarist Ian Hultquist and drummer Nate Donmoyer took some time to answer a few questions for us about recording “Gossamer,” touring, collaborations and more below!
SEN: It’s been three years since “Manners,” so what would you say is the biggest change in the music landscape since you were promoting your first album?
Michael: Today, synchronizations are the new radio. What “selling out” was even just a few years ago is quite literally what puts food on the table for most artists. Television, film, advertising in general, have all been instrumental in bringing about awareness. It has nothing to do with the product, institution, or celebrities being represented. It has everything to do with getting your music played. As radio becomes smaller–though still powerful–licensing music has become almost the single most important way to get your music heard because people are still glued to their televisions. It’s sad but true. I understand older artists that are absolutely against licensing their music to commercials because they came up during a time when the point was to avoid commercialism and make it on your own. Today, you don’t really have too many choices.
It may be confusing for people to see a Taco Bell commercial paired with a song about my family’s history of struggles with money and familial tensions, but it has nothing to do with the topics being conveyed in the song. It has everything to do with the fact that the song is just getting played. People who would not typically seek out the music hear a snippet of the song and, hopefully, if they like it, dig deeper. It really is essentially the new radio and has not only been instrumental in promoting most independent, young bands in some way or another, but it’s quite frankly one of the few ways artists make money today, be it from the synch itself or the subsequent ticket/album sales that follow. The impact is remarkable and bands/artists really shouldn’t look at it as anything other than another, really quite harmless outlet. I don’t own and television and certainly don’t take television seriously. At the end of the day, we’re just like anyone else in this position: we’d like people to hear the music. Plain and simple.
SEN: What were you listening to as you were writing and recording the new album?
Michael: I was listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell. Also, I was really into some records and live bootlegs of Mark Kozelek/Sun Kil Moon. And given that it was around the winter holidays, a ton of Irving Berlin.
SEN: You produced this album alongside Chris Zane, who also worked on Manners. What advice did he give you and what would you give someone who is interesting in doing the same with their music?
Michael: Chris didn’t necessarily give me advice, per se. We don’t have that kind of relationship. Alex Aldi, Chris, and I collectively worked to achieve a sound that simultaneously catered to the fans that got us back in the studio in the first place and also to the very obvious and unavoidable urge that I had to evolve as an artist. You need to strike a balance, so working with Chris is less of a producer-to-artist relationship and more of an all-hands-on-deck situation. He knows how to finish albums, which is a remarkable quality when you’re dealing with someone like me; I’m someone who has a bit too many ideas and needs to explore but also stay on track. So, really, it was about having fun but also keeping a solid piece of work in mind. At the end of the day, it was really about finishing a project that felt as though it would never be finished. Collectively, we did it. Chris is fantastic when it comes to working with artists, particularly younger/newer artists that are learning about what is too much and what is not enough. During “Manners,” we explored too much. During “Gossamer,” we worked on practicing self-restraint. I know that can seem hard to believe after hearing it, but that’s not necessarily Chris. That’s me. Chris wants artists to be nothing but themselves. Going back to collaborating with him on this production, that is exactly what happened. And it also doesn’t hurt that Alex, Chris, and I are like brothers in and out of the studio. Fostering that type of relationship is really important when you hunker down and make a record, at least for me.
Ian: Being a touring musician is an extremely difficult, but extremely rewarding job to do. Always try & keep your head up, and you’ll be just fine.
SEN: Are there any band traditions before going on stage for a performance?
Nate: We tend to all gather in the dressing room, just the band, and do any final warm-ups and stretches and all that. then we walk together to stage and do a little all-hands-in cheer.
SEN: Who would be on your wish list to produce or collaborate with?
Michael: The list is immense but at this very moment the first person that comes to mind is Andre 3000. I was just listening to a bunch of Outkast the other night and his brilliance really struck me. I just kind of sat there and thought, ‘Please, just give me a day in the studio with this guy, I promise it’ll be worth it.’
SEN: What venue in the world have you not played yet that you’d like to?
Ian: The Chicago Theater