“I go down the rabbit hole…” – hmv.com goes deep with Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos
He’s a man who makes such uplifting, euphoric and incredible catchy pop music, but the process Michael Angelakos, a.k.a Mr Passion Pit, goes to get there is one that’s damn near torture.
2012’s Gossamer saw Angelakos trying to tackle the biggest of issues, writing songs about immigration, alcoholism, economic disparity, suicide, mental illness, drugs, domestic abuse and more besides. The process left him exhausted and broken, promotion duties and tour dates were scrapped while Angelakos, already diagnosed with bipolar disorder, went home to recover.
But recover he has and he’s back with Kindred, a new, much brighter, much bigger and downright incredible collection of songs. We met up with Angelakos to talk about working through his issues and why this album is all about letting people in…
When did you start on what would become Kindred?
“I find it hard to quantify exactly how much time I spend on a record. There are always multiple stages, songs come and go, I spend a long time collecting and filtering stuff before a record takes shape.”
Where did you make a start on it?
“We ended up going to the Berkshires, me, Chris (Zane, producer), Alex (Aldi, Engineer), to this quiet little place. It was basically like camp, we were there for three weeks and we just worked and worked. It wasn’t all that fruitful, but it wasn’t like Gossamer, where I was driving myself crazy all the time, this time I just realised that I cannot work outside New York.”
So you went back?
“We ended up at Gigantic and we started there. I’d also be over at Benny Blanco’s studio working on bits. It doesn’t matter how much I try to escape New York, I always end up back there.”
You must have wanted to avoid a repeat of what happened during the recording of Gossamer?
“It was hard to create, but only in that what it was about was really difficult. Things were all over the place during Gossamer, I was trying to recall how some of those songs were written and I can’t even bring them to mind, it was just a really rough time.”
Is it fair to say this is a much happier record?
“No, I don’t think it’s a happy record, I did want to make a much more positive record, that’s for sure. But there’s duality in everything I do, nothing is ever just one thing or one emotion."
Are you still touching on difficult personal stuff in your lyrics?
“I’ve realised now that the way for me to use Passion Pit is as a filter, I can run all these uncomfortable and difficult things through it and the music falls into place around it.”
How much do you lean on your producers during the recording?
“They’re like shepherds, they guide me along. Benny is more the overlord type, he’s this weird genius. The others I take pieces from, they lend me parts of themselves. It’s not that I can’t do this without them, but it seems to work better this way.”
Do you need a lot of guidance?
“Oh yeah, I go right down the rabbit hole, I need guidance, I need push and pull, I have to feel like I’m fighting for stuff and I need someone there to say ‘Stop, you’ve been playing with this pedal for an hour now’. It’s scary, because although you get camaraderie from them, you also want to impress them and earn respect. I need that too I think.”
Where do your lyrics come from?
“I write lyrics to sounds, quite often I work with a phrase, something that works with the music. I never sit down and think ‘I’m going to write about this’. I do end up going back through my work and going ‘Oh, that’s about this’ quite a lot. But I never pick topics ahead of time and focus on them.”
Finally, why did you settle on the title of Kindred?
“This record is about gratitude. It’s about people, the people who help you and love you. A lot of the last couple of years has been about family for me and finding a new family in my friends. I’ve spent a lot of the past few years really hating myself, but this album has been there while I’ve been a lot more accepting of other people and what they can give you. So that’s why.”
Passion Pit’s new album Kindred is released on Monday (April 20th). You can pre-order it in store now.