Massachusetts' electropop outfit Passion Pit got fans moving with its full-length debut, Manners, in 2009. The group followed it up this year, with Gossamer, full of the same catchy synth tones, but with much darker undertones. Songs like "I'll be Alright" provide a glimpse into songwriter Michael Angelakos' struggle, and reports surfaced of Angelakos' bipolar disorder making it impossible for the frontman to even get out of bed -- leading to a string of canceled dates -- made headlines.
But according to keyboardist and guitarist Ian Hultquist, Angelakos is doing much better now.
"Everyone is in pretty much good spirits," Hultquist says, "and we made it through a two-week around the world run and everyone came out alive and happy, so everyone's doing a lot better."
Up on the Sun: How have fans been responding to your new material?
Ian Hultquist: Really, really well, actually. It's kind of weird when we play new songs because they may not respond at all, but for the most part, people have been really into them. We've had everyone sing along to the choruses and stuff like that, which is all we could ever ask for.
Tell me about songwriting process for Gossamer.
I can't, because I didn't write the songs. Michael did.
What about the instrumentation?
It's been a long process for the past few months, trying to get these songs ready for the stage and I still feel like we have a lot of work to do. It took us a few years to arrange these songs. We knew what parts everyone was going to play ahead of time, so it would be like, this person is going to do loops, and this person is going to do chords and piano parts, and so on. With these new songs, I think we wanted to expand a little more and we've already started doing that with new members. There's six of us on stage now and I think we're going to continue to do that for the next few months and really trying out these songs live, so everyone is performing the best parts we can be.
How does it typically work, do you start working on the instrumentation after Michael gives you the lyrics, or does it all come together at once?
It all comes from Michael, he comes up with everything in the studio. He goes in, he ends up playing all the instruments, writes the songs, and then he'll send us the mixes and we add the bits and parts and touches of instruments, then we get together and start rehearsing. We have somewhat of an idea of what we're about to do.
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What can we expect from the visuals at your upcoming shows?
We're working on a new lighting design from Andi Watson, he's worked with Radiohead and the Arctic Monkeys. He designed the stage that we started using in Austin in June. It's really a crazy stage setup. We have this giant projector shining visuals at us, but it's not trippy or psychedelic visuals, usually it's really up close shots of fabric blowing in the wind and weird stuff like that. It blends in with the rest of the music. There's going to be a couple of lights that stand behind the screen that shine from the back and kind of all fade together. There's one shot of lightning that I think is my favorite. It looks like the stage is being electrocuted, it's pretty cool looking.
You guys have some really entertaining music videos, particularly for "Sleepyhead." Was that your idea, or did the filmmakers come up with it?
A lot of the times the director or the filmmaker will come up with a proposal, and that idea is our video. We kind of sort through them and pick the ones we want. For "Sleepyhead," that's actually one of my favorite videos, that's one of the ones that came out the best. It's really original and I felt like it works really well with the song.
You guys canceled a string of shows earlier this year because of Michael's health. Are things better now?
Yeah. Everyone is in pretty much good spirits and we made it through a two-week around the world run and everyone came out alive and happy, so everyone's doing a lot better. We're all really looking forward to just kind of getting back home from touring. Going around for all these shows is kind of tough, so we're all excited to be back and get on a normal schedule again.
In light of all of those international shows, what have been some of your favorite places to play?
Singapore was a new one for us and that was really amazing. It's a place I would have never imagined I would go to, and we ended up going and playing a show there and we had a good time afterwards. It was really nice, so many people came to see us and a lot of people said they flew in from the Philippines to come see us and that was something we didn't expect at all.
What have you been listening to lately?
I've been listening to the Little Dragon record they put out last summer. I've been listening to SBTRKT a lot and Hot Chip's newest album.
So, lots of dance music.
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Yes, I'm usually not the guy who listens to all of this dance music. My favorite band is Wilco, so I'm usually not into stuff like that that long, but I've been listening to a lot of dance music.
Passion Pit is scheduled to perform at Marquee Theatre on Tuesday, September 11.