Having formed in late 2007 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Passion Pit only played a handful of shows before winning The Boston Phoenix’s Best Music Poll. Soon after, labels came knocking.
They were subsequently signed to New York based, Les Savy Fav associated, indie label Frenchkiss, and Columbia in the UK. Next came a big synchronisation deal for a Canadian PSP ad and support slots with big names such as Death Cab For Cutie.
Now Passion Pit are riding high on the crest of a wave of critical and commercial success that looks set to carry them from hottest band on the blogs to mainstream success.
Capsule, Michael Jackson and classic pop music from the ’60s are cited as the primary influences on this year’s Manners album, Passion Pit’s debut. Other obvious comparisons include The Flaming Lips, Of Montreal and Late Of The Pier, alongside east London electro trooper Max Tundra. Who, it turns out, is set to tour with the band later in the year. “He just like hit us up on MySpace and we’ve ended up touring together. Which should be cool. It’s funny how MySpace works,” says guitarist and keyboardist Ian Hultquist.
One can see how, with the plethora of great bands striving to push the studio technology boat all the way out in terms of texture and production and meet it with timeless song writing. As well as the many great records produced by The Flaming Lips and Of Montreal, there have also been recent hard hitting studio achievements such as the Geoff Barrow-produced Primary Colours by The Horrors and Animal Collective‘s Merriweather Post Pavillion.
Successful ‘indie’ music is still, and maybe to some extent will always be, in debt to the great ’60s pop records. Sergeant Pepper and Pet Sounds’ influence will continue to ring on through the ages. “It was always so cyclical how that would go, going out and going in,” says Hultquist. “Now it’s just like whatever you want. There’s people doing really boring, straight ahead good music though, and there’s people doing really weird stuff, and (others doing) somewhere in between.” Is where you can actually sustain a living? “Yeah.”
Someone else who’s somehow marrying extreme avant garde music to a fine pop hook is Micachu. Not such obvious bedfellows, it’s a pleasant surprise to hear that there’s a musical meeting of these great minds, floating somewhere in the digital ether. “I did a remix for her two and a half years ago, for Golden Phone, and I’ve been trying to meet her for seriously two years,” Hultquist says.
Another aspect that’s helped with the rise and rise of Passion Pit is their incredible live show. A marvellous collision of live electronics and hard rocking band line up, it’s led to a string of festival dates across Europe that’s already included an early highlight, with a triumphant set on the John Peel stage at Glastonbury. “It was everyone’s first time there and you hear so much about it and it was kind of unbelievable to be there,” he says. “At one point during the show I looked over and Bruce Springsteen was standing on stage, watching us. So that was unbelievable, it was really cool.”
A platform for many of these indie bands with more than a slight experimental/psychedelic edge at Glastonbury was the Park. “I went and saw Bon Iver on the Park Stage. That stage was so cool, I hope we can play there at some point.” Animal Collective were another highlight of the weekend; Merriweather Post Pavillion’s experimental indie has certainly paved the way for Manners. “It’s great, incredible, I think it’s like their most accessible record yet,” he enthuses. “If someone doesn’t know them they can get into it easier than their other stuff.” Also, like Animal Collective, Passion Pit are masters of the use of electronics in a live arena. As far as Passion Pit are concerned, using synths and gadgets in this way could well be the future of music.
“There’re so many variables in an electronic set up that it leaves so much more room for someone to do something new that no else has done before,” he enthuses, “whereas with a four-piece rock guitar band it probably has been done before.”
The key to Passion Pit’s huge, warm sound is the array of vintage, analogue synths that they have at their disposal. “On stage right now we have a Juno 60, a Juno 106, an SK 15, plus a Moog Little Phatty”. Not a fan of digital keyboards, the band always, where possible, go for that classic, analogue sound. “It’s almost something you can feel. Like people come up to us onstage and say it sounds better than you’d think that it would. Then they see that most of our keyboards are old analogue synths.”
With a summer all set at some of Europe’s biggest festivals and an extensive UK tour with dates already sold out, it’s onwards and upwards for Passion Pit’s particular brand of innovation.