Boston’s Passion Pit started as the one-man bedroom project of Michael Angelakos in 2007. A few giddy electro-pop songs he recorded as a belated Valentine’s Day gift for his girlfriend began circulating among friends, eventually sparking blog buzz after their release by a small label. The songwriter recruited instrumentalists from the Berklee College of Music to perform his synth-driven songs live, and Passion Pit was transformed from solo project to band.
The quartet’s two full-length albums since — 2009’s Manners and last year’s lauded Gossamer — offer a dichotomy in their marriage of bright, anthemic music with dark lyrics documenting doomed romances and depression. The band’s current lineup features Angelakos on vocals fronting Jeff Apruzzese (bass/synthesizers), Ian Hultquist (guitar/keyboards) and Nathan Donmoyer (drums). They return to Las Vegas to play the Life Is Beautiful festival downtown on Oct. 27.
From a tour stop in Asheville, N.C., bassist Apruzzese told CityLife the band is looking forward to playing an outdoor date here for the first time.
“That’s definitely a weird scene,” he says, “when you’re playing venues that are inside casinos.”
Fans who caught Passion Pit’s last show here, at Hard Rock Hotel in December, won’t get a carbon copy of that performance at Life is Beautiful.
“When we’re doing festival or college shows, it’s the kind of thing where people may not know the band’s entire catalog,” he says. “That definitely influences the way we will design the setlists.”
The band’s most ebullient songs, like singles “Sleepyhead” and “Carried Away,” get more prominent placement when they’re not headlining, as does “Take A Walk,” an earworm that exposed the band to millions last year after it was featured in a heavily aired Taco Bell TV ad.
“When we’re [scheduled] up against other big-name bands, we want to capture the audience’s attention,” he says.
Passion Pit received less welcome attention last summer upon canceling shows timed around the release of Gossamer. Feeling fans were owed an explanation, Angelakos revealed that they scrapped the tour so he could undergo treatment for bipolar disorder. Sacrificing any semblance of privacy, he went on to speak publicly about his hospitalization for depression and a botched suicide attempt in college.
“Mike felt like he needed to be honest about it,” Apruzzese says. “It was either keep making excuses as to why we’re canceling or be upfront about it.”
Angelakos’ candor about an issue still burdened by social stigma only strengthened their following. Via Twitter and other social media, the band began hearing from young fans who feared they also had mental health issues but had been afraid to seek help before Angelakos shared his story.
“A lot of kids who felt something and maybe didn’t know what it was, were scared to talk to someone about it, got encouragement by being a fan of the band,” Apruzzese says. “It’s awesome and rewarding.”
Things have been great since Angelakos’s treatment and ongoing recovery, he says. Now, Passion Pit is equally focused on maintaining physical health. Putting on a frenetic live show takes more of a toll as band members’ average age creeps closer to 30.
“When we first got out of college, we were going through the party mentality of being on tour, but now … we’re definitely more adult about it,” he says. Continuing, he begins to sound less like a party-hardened indie rocker and more like a naturopathic guru. “We try to be responsible and listen to our bodies. You have to force yourself to relax, read, watch movies. If we go out, it’ll definitely be on a night when we know we have the [next] day off.”
Cultivating a laidback vibe must be difficult when visiting a 24-hour town, right? Apparently not. The afterparty following the Hard Rock show last year wasn’t exactly a booze-fueled bender.
Says Apruzzese: “We went across the street to play mini-golf.” CL