Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos Opens Up at OZY Fest About Joy and Pain
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because this band brings it all.
By Carly Stern
Rain descends on Rumsey Playfield as Passion Pit takes the stage for the closing performance of OZY Fest 2018. Cotton candy clouds stretch across the backdrop set up behind the band, utterly at odds with the heavy gray sky over Central Park. Music blares and the crowd appears unfazed by the dreary weather. The same goes for lead singer Michael Angelakos, who moves across the stage with an energy the crowd absorbs and sends right back to him. Clear umbrellas bop as festivalgoers in colored ponchos sway back and forth, blowing bubbles to create a real-life filter for this summer snapshot.
While playing “Carried Away,” Angelakos holds out his mic, inviting the audience to join in as he sings, “We’re all having problems.” Anyone unfamiliar with Passion Pit might wonder why Angelakos spotlights this particular lyric, but it’s fitting for a singer who speaks often about mental health issues. Angelakos has been candid about discussing his experiences with bipolar disorder, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The band started as a one-man project when Angelakos was an undergrad at Emerson College. After he teamed up with Chris Hartz, Aaron Harrison Folb, Giuliano Pizzulo and Ray Suen, Passion Pit took shape in 2007 and has released three albums since its 2009 debut, Manners; the most recent, Tremendous Sea of Love, landed last year. Angelakos sat down with OZY to talk about what’s on his mind — from how to make the music industry safer to what inspires his music. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What do you think could reform the music industry to make it safer, healthier and more supportive for performers?
Michael Angelakos: That’s an extremely complicated question with a lot of different answers. I would assume the first thing that will likely happen will look something along the lines of nutrition programs for artists on the road. I also hope that we can find a way to book tours in a fashion that doesn’t overwork artists. And that’s a very tough thing to navigate.
What’s the opportunity — or on the flip side, the responsibility — of artists to use their platforms to advocate for whatever change they support?
Angelakos: Well, with respect to it being a responsibility, I think that it’s complicated. A lot of artists don’t speak on topics that might mean a lot to them in private. And that’s due to the issue of not wanting to alienate your fan base, which is important, as it pertains to their livelihood. It’s less to do with the individual responsibility of each artist with a platform, because pretty much everyone now — if they have social media accounts, or if they use the internet or the web, if they use their voice anywhere — basically could be as impactful as an artist is.
In your experience or your band’s experience, do you feel like struggle or joy is the more powerful fuel for the kind of music you make? What inspires your music — is it the tough stuff or the joyous stuff?
Angelakos: My music is simply an expression of my life. And I happen to express it in a bunch of different ways. Everything inspires my music. Our memories are amazing, and their database is stored with tons of amazing information that paints a really interesting picture. I certainly don’t romanticize pain, and I won’t give joy too much credit. I think it’s just about being a good observer.
If you could jump back five years, what would you tell yourself?
Angelakos: Save your money. Seriously.