In 2008, Passion Pit won Best New Artist in our Best Music Poll. After having played just a handful of shows together as a band, they performed at the BMP concert that year. (They play the concert again this Saturday at City Hall Plaza.) Some might wonder about such a meteoric rise for a young band, but frontman Michael Angelakos seems to be adjusting well. Some might also wonder whether listeners aren’t getting saturated with the hype, but Passion Pit swept this year’s Poll on the strength of their infectious Manners (Frenchkiss). And they did it without having to disown their Boston roots and move to Brooklyn. We sat down with Angelakos at Shay’s in Harvard Square to discuss this and many, many other things.
So, how’s it going?
Awesome, actually, I have time off right now – it’s the best thing ever.
Do you still have a place in town?
Yeah. It’s so nice coming home because I can hear birds, and I can sleep in, and it’s just…..
Are you guys from here around originally?
No. I went to Emerson, everyone else went to Berklee. We try not to talk about the schools, but we met through just mutual friends and it just kind of fell into place. That’s kind of the way most of these things work out.
Did you go there for…
I went there for media studies, but I took the media criticism route, instead of just going to film classes. Most people when they do media studies they’ll take – they’ll do CGI stuff and that’s not really media studies. I tried to make it as media studies-centric as possible, which is kind of difficult at Emerson actually, not many criticism courses.
It seems pretty geared towards doing.
Yeah, but that was why I liked the situation I was in, because here I am working on critiquing and consuming all this different media and here are these kids at first base really, and it’s interesting to see how they develop. It ended up being pretty cool because, especially as a musician, I could score all these films - because there wasn’t a real musical side, except for musical theatre.
That’s a very specific area.
Yeah. I just felt like I benefitted from the program to a certain extent. After a while it got pretty redundant.
Did you do stuff like that? Did you score films?
Yeah, oh yeah, I scored a lot of films, I scored some plays. When I was producing anything it was mostly outside of school, though. School is pretty academic and everyone is kind of like a film maker.
You just have to accept that you’re just not going to see your friends for weeks at a time while they do their film projects.
My roommate and best friend was a film major and he was so consumed in editing and working, I’d never see them. But at the same time, I learned a lot from them and didn’t have to really go to film classes to learn those things.
You get the education by proxy. . .
Yeah, and I think that was a much better way of coming across it when you see these people who are actually working and developing stuff. It was a good situation
Did you study formal criticism?
It began as literary criticism essentially and then it developed more like the feminists and Marxist theory. I wasn’t really particularly tied to any sort of frame of mind. I just went with everything because, frankly, they’re all pretty interesting. But at the end of the day it was like, I’m now part of the machine that I was so adamantly against. It actually makes for a pretty interesting time, especially when dealing with a major label and all these publicity agents. It’s like, it’s never going to be something I can just stomach. It’s always going to be difficult. But it makes it really fun because you’re kind of like always playing with it.
Can you think of any example where you found yourself in a situation where you’re like, oh my god, I can’t believe I’m doing this or that you sort of saw that and try to react to it?
I think what it is mostly is just the way we’re exhibited or put on display. It’s just so not what I ever wanted to be, and it starts a certain way and just keeps going – it’s like a snowball effect and you can’t really change it, and, even when we were working strictly with Frenchkiss, it was still completely out of my hands. And you generate an idea, you generate something new, and it’s no longer yours really. It becomes everyone else’s. I’m so used to being so insular, and keeping everything to myself. Finally I break and I stay with the band for longer than two shows and people are buying the album and it’s like, you’re never going to work out the way you want it to, I guess. So here I am trying to make sense of all of it but there’s really no way to make sense of it, you just have to let it go. It’s a question of endurance, really, because you’re constantly fighting these urges to quit or do something because it’s so far from what you originally thought. But it also makes for an interesting way of living. It’s just that healthy balance that you have to strike.