Indie synth rockers Passion Pit reveal inspiration and struggle in their lyrics

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At a glance, Passion Pit seems to be a band of upbeat, dance-worthy songs that get crowds riled up and singing along. While this isn’t incorrect, it’s not entirely the truth either. Hidden behind the glossy wall of synths and drum beats lie troubled lyrics of fighting depression and bipolarism. This juxtaposition of disturbed lyrics and bubbly music is what has launched Passion Pit into stardom and is what Bay Area fans anticipate when the band play the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco this Thursday with Matt & Kim.

Whenever the band hear their songs on the radio, bassist Jeff Apruzzese can’t help but laugh at the polarity between the band’s lyrics and music. “I think it’s funny hearing these songs on the radio and hearing the lyrical content of them but then hearing how poppy and positive the music sounds; it’s a funny noncollinear dichotomy,” Apruzzese said. “I think the two lend themselves into natural integration.”

While the darker undertones were more hidden in their first album, Manners, Apruzzese discussed how their latest album, Gossamer, is a more upfront effort. “In Manners, I feel that the subject of the song is masked more, where as with Gossamer things are at face value in terms of hearing what all the songwriting is about,” Apruzzese said. “It’s very honest and ballsy in terms of putting out what he was dealing with when we were recording the record.”

“The record deals with inner struggle and things going on in Michael’s life,” Apruzzese revealed. Passion Pit’s lead singer, Michael Angelakos has been struggling with bipolarism since he was 18. This was never a secret that the band withheld; rather, the band have allowed Angelakos to cope with his condition by channelling his thoughts and frustrations into the band’s lyrics. Apruzzese said that the band have nothing but respect for Angelakos, stating that none of the other band members — including himself — could imagine performing and touring in Angelakos’ condition. Regardless, Angelakos is still putting his all into each performance, “letting it all hang out,” as Apruzzese describes it.

During the making of Gossamer, Angelakos’ condition took a turn for the worse and was one of the reasons the recording of the album was somewhat prolonged. This was cause for concern from the other band members, who have been friends with each other and Angelakos since college. “For me especially, my mentality was ‘fuck the band,’” Apruzzese recollected. “If you need to get better, then do your thing. You need to take care of yourself — and then we can figure out the record.” However, working on the record seemed to have a therapeutic effect on Angelakos, as many songs on the record reflect Angelakos’ emotions at the time, such as “I’ll Be Alright.” “The two seemed to work simultaneously together,” Apruzzese said. “I think he was able to put out a great record while getting his stuff together.”

While the creation of Gossamer may have been a labor of love, Apruzzese stated that the band’s tour in support of the album has been phenomenal. Aside from a few literal bumps in the road due to their tour bus breaking down, the band have been playing shows across the nation with pop power-couple Matt & Kim as their support. The duo have been friends with Passion Pit for some time now. Apruzzese described them as the sweetest people in the world, who can completely destroy the crowd every night. One such crowd-obliterating night included a headlining performance at Madison Square Garden in New York. As their third stop on the tour, Apruzzese described the event at the iconic venue as one of the most nerve-wracking performances they’ve ever done.

While high-strung shows don’t seem to be the most comforting environment, they’re one in which Passion Pit still manage to thrive. The band have allowed Angelakos to siphon his personal struggles into a dynamic, creative outlet that opens up personal connections with fans who may be going through something similar. Apruzzese commented on how the band has grown over the years and how their friendship translates musically into a passionate performance each night. “This is the realest form of life we know,” Apruzzese said. The band’s life may have begun as a small bubble in college, but they have transformed it into an ever-expanding world for all.

Ian Birnam covers music. Contact him at [email protected].