Passion Pit's Ian Hultquist on the challenges of emotion-laden pop and remixes
Even as Passion Pit's glittery Gossamer is laden with dark themes, and it dips into some pretty dismal territory -- lead singer Michael Angelakos has been open about his struggles with bipolar disorder and the challenges surrounding making this album -- it's still a victory in the pop category. Not only for its warm, shimmering harmonies and danceable, synth-laden choruses, but for the small vein of hope that punches through the surface. Gossamer is a bruised heart of a black pop album, but when Angelakos sings -- perhaps mostly to himself -- that "someday everything is gonna be all right," you have to believe that one day, it will be.
Ahead of their show at First Avenue on Monday, Gimme Noise caught up with Passion Pit guitarist and keyboardist Ian Hultquist on the new album, the creative process, and the world of remixes.
Gimme Noise: Your music is so dichotomous: There are all these incredibly dark, twisted themes -- really heartbreaking, like "Take A Walk," which is a truly sad song camouflaged by bright pop sounds. Does it bother you that a casual listener might be really confused about what kind of music Passion Pit makes?
Ian Hultquist: Not really, because I kind of make music for myself... It's just doing what you want to do. It doesn't have to be a certain thing. Some of those songs are really sad songs lyric wise, but they sound really poppy, and that's okay.
GN: There's been a lot published recently surrounding this album and what it took to make it. I don't want to sound like a creep or anything, but there is a certain view that when it comes to art and artists, certain hardships and struggles can make for the best art. What are your thoughts on that? Do you feel like personal battles and dark themes can help or hamper the creative process?
IH: A lot of times, when someone is trying so hard to make something, when they're trying and going through a struggle, they can kind of overachieve in a way. I think it's something we're working towards... The recording process is hectic and not easy at all. It's like we're just constantly trying to make it work, and having it in our heads as how we want to be in a band... I can kind of agree and see your point.
GN: Songs like "Constant Conversations" and "Cry Like A Ghost" feel like they're being sung by someone with multiple personalities. This album is so dark and confessional, especially compared to [debut album] Manners -- is it strange for you to think about how your audience will receive it?
IH: It feels better from a musical standpoint. We've all been waiting to play different songs... They're all so much richer, musically. It is kind of strange, when we find out the stories behind all those songs [from Michael], but in my mind it's kind of a triumph that this is the result of those struggles... I knew he was having a hard time, but Michael is someone that can be excited if he wants to be.
GN: How have the shows been going so far?
IH: Good. All the crowds have been crazily overwhelming, overly supportive, really cool. It seems like more people are paying attention and listening than in the past, so it's a good feeling to have.
GN: Switching gears a little bit, Passion Pit songs are in the habit of being remixed quite often. Your songs are almost perfectly geared towards remixes in the dance party sort of vibe, but then again, your songs are crafted so intricately, with such delicacy. Obviously, Passion Pit does a lot of remixes as well. What's your take on them?
IH: For a long, long time, I didn't get it. But then we started doing remixes--and I've actually done a whole bunch -- so it started making more sense to me. I think that [the previous anxiety] died away, and it's kind of calmed down a little bit so I can appreciate it a little more. You can't just play anything, not everything conditions as well. [Making a remix] also brings [our music] to a new audience, which I'm all for.
GN: Do you feel like a remix of a Passion Pit song can sometimes take away from it?
IH: Hopefully it doesn't. I mean, sometimes the remix is terrible, and people don't want to listen to it... At the same time, you can just look at it a different way. For me, when I do a remix, it's like, "What can I make with this?" So I kind of just look at it creatively, not like, "Am I gonna ruin this person's song?"
GN: What really interests you about doing remixes? What do you look for in a song that you would consider playing with?
I think on the first level, I'm interested in different sounds, because I really love sounds in general... I think when something is just a really good song, I don't want to touch it usually, but when I see something where, like, the vocal quality is really great or something, that's basically when I want to get around and play.
Passion Pit will be playing at the First Avenue Mainroom on Monday, October 29 and Tuesday, October 30. 8 p.m. $30. All ages. Click here.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.