"Pain in the ass!" rasps Michael Angelakos as he struggles to heave a Fender Rhodes keyboard onto the stage of Los Angeles' Henry Fonda Theater. Angelakos, 21, is the benevolent dictator of synth poppers Passion Pit, and his band are soundchecking for their slot opening for French electro sensation Yelle. Surveying the headliner's expensively technotronic Lite Briteesque stage set turns the shaggy frontman wistful: "Someday we'll have our own light show..." FREE DOWNLOAD!
Passion Pit, "Sleepyhead (Bo Flex Giantess Remix)"
That day may come sooner than later, thanks to the out-of-nowhere impact of Passion Pit's 2008 debut EP, Chunk of Change, an irresistible mix of gooey hooks, shivering synths, and Angelakos' affecting, Bjork-on-testosterone vocals -- epitomized by their breakout blog hit "Sleepyhead." Passion Pit (the live lineup includes synth/sample artist Ayad Al-Adhamy, keyboardist Ian Hultquist, bassist Jeff Apruzzese, and drummer Nate Donmoyer) proved the hit of October's CMJ festival, and even Rick Rubin was spotted bouncing along with the crowd at the recent L.A. show. Angelakos, on hiatus from his senior year at Emerson College, admits his parents weren't blinded by the hype: "My mom was like, 'I just want to see you walk [at graduation].' I said, 'Mom, you can see me walk across a stage when I'm headlining a show.' "
That Passion Pit happened at all was a fluke -- Angelakos just crafted the EP as a belated Valentine's Day peace offering to his (now ex-) girlfriend. What keeps that backstory from being disgustingly emotastic is the band's blend of high-art smarts with low-art infectiousness. Angelakos cites Matthew Dear, the DFA label, and dance-floor eccentric Arthur Russell as inspirations. "But I also really wanted to write classic songs, like in Porgy and Bess," he says. "Randy Newman and Stevie Wonder are my biggest influences; turning that kind of songwriting into experimental dance pop is my goal."
Indeed, Angelakos promises theupcoming full-length will expand on his already ambitious groove. "If you give me money to go into the studio, I'm going to take advantage -- like, finally we can get a children's choir and horn section! It's pretty abstract, and very selfish." He grins slyly. "It's all about me."
Passion Pit, "Sleepyhead"