Some bands toil in obscurity for countless years, forged in the crucible of empty clubs and basement rehearsals. Should success finally come, a few diehard fans might cry sell-out, but most will happy to see artists able to finally reap some financial rewards for their perseverance. On the other end of the scale is a band like Passion Pit, who formed in Cambridge in late 2007 and then almost instantaneously had a record deal, a free download on iTunes, and gigs opening up for bands like Girl Talk and Death Cab for Cutie.
There is a tendency to dismiss a band with this experience as the lucky one, but early recognition for a band often means that its learning curve of how to forge a workable existence is on highly public display. As Passion Pit prepare hit the road in support of Manners, its debut album for Frenchkiss records, band member Ayad Al Adhamy took some time to offer his perspective on being young, successful, and only slightly less popular than Kid Cudi.
From a philosophical standpoint, who is Passion Pit?
"Everyone that listens to the music transcends life and turns into Passion Pit." Is that philosophical enough?
How did the band coalesce?
Michael [Angelakos, vocals and keyboards] played a solo laptop show, and Ian [Hultquist, keyboards] thought it could be way better with a live band, so a few of us got together. After various transformations, Passion Pit live was born.
What ideas or artists initially influenced your ideas about music?
Metallica (pre-black album) is the reason I started playing music when I was 12. I've been a student of music since then, and I have gone through many different stages, each with its own ideas and artists. But the first thing was Metallica.
Was the idea always to play electronic music?
Nope. For Michael it was just the easiest format to write in at the time. Everyone can own a laptop and set it up live, so it makes writing that style of music simpler. By that I mean you don't have to record drums or mic amps to sound halfway decent. The essence of Passion Pit is pop, though, and although that is its own genre I believe it also music to be genre-less.
What is the band’s songwriting process?
For Manners Michael sat in a studio with Chris [Zane, producer] and wrote most of it in the studio. Nate [Donmoyer] was there for the sessions to record drums and help in programming and other miscellaneous aspects, with Ian and Jeff [Apruzzese] going down every week or so to add guitars/basses and aid the progress. I could only get down to New York a handful of times as I was finishing up college classes at the time. There was a lot of cutting up stuff and arranging small ideas on top of one another to create a deeply layered sound. We laid down all the music first, and then put in the vocals.
Is the story about Chunk of Change being a belated Valentine’s Day gift true or creative marketing?
It’s completely true. Just ask Christine.
How is Manners different than Chunk of Change?
There will be real drums and instruments on top of computer programming skills. The vocals will be familiar, but in a in a larger setting. The music will still be pop and still be catchy.
Why Manners for the title?
No idea. It just happened.
Is there a part of the album of which you are particularly proud?
The continuity is something that really evolved this time. The entire album flows from song to song in an organic way. I really like "let your love grow tall”; something about it really appeals to me.
Is there something that you wanted to do on this record that didn’t work out?
Nope. This is everything Passion Pit ever aspired to, condensed into one record.
You were recently finished ninth in the BBC “Sound of 2009” poll. Was there a discussion about how to leapfrog Kid Cudi next year?
Was he No. 8 or something? We were just really surprised we were even considered. I believe at the time we didn't have a single release in the U.K. and hadn't even toured there. I felt really damn good the day that list came out!
Having gotten such recognition, and with the positive response to “Sleepyhead,” is there more pressure to deliver on Manners?
I'm sure Michael felt some pressures, but nothing too much at all. There was definitely no feeling that we need to have another “Sleepyhead”-type song or anything. It appears on Manners, though, so anybody who wants to hear it can go ahead and buy the album.
Would you rather that Manners is the first thing a listener heard from your band?
That depends on the listener. I'm sure Manners will bring in some new fans, but we're still really proud of our first recordings.
How do you translate your recorded music to live venues?
We do it with hours of practices and figuring out stuff. We have seven different keyboards on stage along with guitar, bass, drums and laptop (for clocking and pre-recorded drum loops and accents). This just takes some time to put together.
What is the next step for Passion Pit?
You’ve already toured with some great bands. Do you have any dirt on Death Cab or Girl Talk? Failing that, make up something really scandalous about your own band.
That would cost you $5,000...
Photo Credit: Jason Bergman/Prefixmag.com