HotStar: Passion Pit

Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit is at that awkward stage – halfway between anonymity and stardom. He’s considering changing his phone number. It’s been handed out a few too many times, and he’s finding out he’s very popular.

“Until recently I’ve been coddled,” Angelakos told Pollstar. He’s moved beyond that, trusting in his publicist and his manager. “I’m very sensitive, but I don’t want to be protected anymore. Now I’m comfortable and a lot more trusting. It’s an indication of a team that I can trust. I’m a little more open-minded now.”

On paper, Passion Pit has been around since 2007, but Angelakos made it clear it’s only been a cohesive unit since last May.
“We didn’t really start touring on a professional level until November,” he said. “We still have a lot of learning to do.”

Since then, the band has been playing a lot of sold-out shows, including three nights at New York City’s Terminal 5.

“We were very skeptical about doing those shows,” Angelakos said. “A lot of bands want to ‘own’ New York City. They want to put their stamp on it. It’s a status thing.”

The band has been seeing a lot of packed venues lately. The music – which veers somewhere between disco and electronica – has been getting rave reviews from critics and fans like John Mayer and Kanye West. The songs have been showing up in commercials and at baseball parks. And Angelakos’ falsetto adds to Passion Pit’s distinct sound.

The band raised its profile even higher with a well-received slot at Coachella. And it’s going to play arenas this winter supporting Muse.

All of this came about by Angelakos writing some tunes in 2007 for his then-girlfriend. The songs, created on his laptop, were Valentine’s Day gifts. But the EP-worth of music became a hit at Boston’s Emerson College. Chunk of Change was released on Columbia / Frenchkiss in late 2008. The song “Sleepyhead” notably found its way to the full-length Manners.

The band started in earnest when Angelakos was performing a solo show in the Boston area. He was approached by Ian Hultquist, who suggested they form a band. The eventual quintet is all Berklee College of Music alums – except Angelakos.

Richard Cohen of Team 8 Management joked about the band’s quick ascension. It’s safe to say that the band has moved beyond “up-and-comer” status.

“I mean, they’re playing the big rooms,” Cohen said. “In New York we’re about to do 13,500 tickets for two shows. In Austin, we’re doing 4,400 at two sold-out Stubb’s shows. In Dallas, we just had to move a show into a 2,000-cap room. In Florida, we’re doing 1,500-2,000-cap rooms. So they’re on that level, after touring for less than 18 months. My job is to maintain that and keep pushing it onward and upwards.”

Angelakos gave all the credit to Cohen.

“Rich is like an older brother to me,” he said. “I’m unruly. I’m difficult to manage. He will have a great roster one day. No one else can deal with me except my girlfriend and parents.”

Cohen disagreed.

“Ah you know, he’s putting himself down a little too much,” he said. “He’s a great kid. He’s a talented young songwriter and he’ll be 23 on May 19th. Ask my parents or my friends what I was like when I was 23. And they didn’t put me on the road, throw me in a bus 200 days a year. He’s growing up in front of people. I’ve worked with a lot of young bands and he’s not so different.”

Cohen met Passion Pit through another client.

“It was the first band, I have to say, since Tokyo Police Club that I ‘got’ and knew exactly what to do with,” Cohen said. “I knew exactly how to work it, what angles, what team to put behind it. … They already had a label when I came on board, had a business manager and a lawyer. But everyone needed to coordinate. We needed to be on the same page.”

With that out of the way, Passion Pit started making money on its recorded music, but Angelakos has no illusions about what is the real secret to their success.

“It doesn’t matter if you sell 50 units or 500,000,” he said. “Touring is key.”