CARS HOMES JOBS

Synth pop, rock meld

Indie band Passion Pit on the rise

Thursday, February 7, 2013
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Passion Pit — from left, Nate Donmoyer, Michael Angelakos, Ian Hultquist and Jeff Apruzzese (not pictured - Xander Singh) — play the Houston Field House at RPI Monday night. Matt & Kim open the show. (photo: Jason Nocito)
Passion Pit — from left, Nate Donmoyer, Michael Angelakos, Ian Hultquist and Jeff Apruzzese (not pictured - Xander Singh) — play the Houston Field House at RPI Monday night. Matt & Kim open the show. (photo: Jason Nocito)

Drummer Nate Donmoyer is still a bit shocked by how fast things have moved for Passion Pit.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based electronic indie quintet first hit nationally in 2009 with their debut full-length, “Manners.” Thanks to catchy, dance-heavy rhythms on singles such as “The Reeling” and “To Kingdom Come” — plus some well-placed songs on TV shows such as “Skins” and “Gossip Girl” and Canadian video game “FIFA 10” — the band has taken off in the indie world. Their sophomore album, “Gossamer,” released in July of last year, debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200.

“It’s kind of surreal how quickly everything moves,” Donmoyer said recently from Brooklyn, where the band was gathered to rehearse a week before the start of their U.S. tour with Matt & Kim.

The tour heads to the Houston Field House at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Monday night.

Passion Pit

with Matt & Kim

Where: Houston Field House, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1900 People’s Ave., Troy

When: 7 p.m. Monday

How Much: $38 (door); $35 (advance)

More Info: 276-6262, www.ticketmaster.com, stepuppresents.com

“Four years ago we were throwing tracks together to get insurance for the van — we used to have it. It was in and out. We were borrowing other vans from other bands because ours was broken.”

The band doesn’t have to worry about details such as shoddy transportation anymore, and this couldn’t be better for Donmoyer and the rest of the group — vocalist, keyboardist and songwriter Michael Angelakos, keyboardist and guitarist Ian Hultquist, synthesizer player Xander Singh and bassist Jeff Apruzzese.

“When a lot of those responsibilities are relieved from us, we can concentrate on the performance, and people react really positively to that,” Donmoyer said. “They can really read it all on the stage.”

Playing the songs off “Gossamer” has provided some new challenges for him. On “Manners,” he recorded drum parts and programming, while Angelakos handled most of the other instrumentation himself. For “Gossamer,” Donmoyer was not involved in the recording process at all, which essentially made the album an Angelakos solo project.

“It makes it really fun to play live,” Donmoyer said. “We’re playing a ton of stuff, and it’s a completely different experience.”

Making adjustments

In order to re-create Angelakos’ vision for the live show, the band naturally has to make some adjustments.

“We have all the [tracks] from the studio sessions — every single keyboard or guitar that was played — and we take out the ones that aren’t necessary,” Donmoyer said. “I don’t want to expose too much of our methods, but we pretty much go through the studio tracks and figure out what’s most important to play, and prepare it for the hands that we have.”

The band tries to stick as close to the dense productions found on the album as it can. But any sonic changes only serve to enhance the songs, according to Donmoyer.

“The simple fact that Michael is a singer and songwriter — he can play piano and play guitar, but not as good as he can sing,” Donmoyer said. “Whereas when Ian plays guitar — and in my opinion, he’s one of my favorite guitar players alive — he interprets it differently, and plays it a lot better, or more appropriately. And we get into jamming, but it’s more a product of the album — so we can turn around and play different versions of everything.”

This separation of studio recordings and live performance makes sense, considering the band started as an Angelakos solo project. The bulk of the group’s first EP, 2008’s “Chunk of Change,” was originally written and recorded as a gift to Angelakos’ girlfriend at the time, and he started out playing the material by himself with a laptop in the Boston area.

Hultquist was the first to join up with Angelakos, with Apruzzese and Donmoyer joining up in 2008 after the band signed with New York indie Frenchkiss Records. Singh is the band’s latest addition, having replaced original synth player Ayad Al Adhamy last year.

Donmoyer is content with the way the songwriting and performing process happens in the band.

“I don’t think Mike would ever give up the songwriting role; it’s something he loves so much to do,” Donmoyer said. “He’s also just really, really, really good at it. . . . And the band is really good at playing the instruments on it, so I don’t know. It just — it’s more fun.”

The 12 songs on “Gossamer” continue to mix synth pop sounds with indie rock guitar, with perhaps more emphasis on the synthesizers this time out. But beneath the album’s upbeat instrumentation lie Angelakos’ dark lyrics, detailing his struggles with bipolar disorder — struggles that ended up derailing the band’s July tour last year in order for him to seek treatment.

The band is back in full force this year, however. After the tour with Matt & Kim wraps in March, the band will once again hit the festival circuit in the spring and summer. In April, the band will return to Coachella in California after previously playing the festival in 2010 and 2011.

Heading for Hawaii

“It’s two weekends now, so we’re going to head to Hawaii for that week and hang out there,” Donmoyer said. “That’s going to be amazing.”

Following the band’s success with TV, movie and video game placements with “Manners,” they’re hoping to repeat some of that with “Gossamer.” In fact, the album’s first single, “Take a Walk,” has already been Featured in the racing game “Forza Horizon.”

“That might just be enough to get some more people to think, ‘What’s this?’ and check it out, or buy the album or something,” Donmoyer said. “You never know.”

 
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