By Luis Gomez
February 20, 2013
Michael Angelakos would rather not discuss topics he's been asked in other interviews. Specifically, the lead singer of the electro-pop band Passion Pit doesn't like repeatedly being asked about his band's admirable decision to give up alcohol.
I learned this lesson the hard way when I asked, not about the actual decision, but how the band members now fill the void on the road (after all, national music tours aren't exactly known for their sobriety). The clearly frustrated Angelakos pointed out that there are plenty of people who don't drink. And when I rephrased the question to ask what he and his bandmates do to pass the time while touring, Angelakos mocked the follow-up question.
The 25-year-old Angelakos — to his credit — apologized at the end of the interview. He explained that he had grown tired of the subject matter and felt burned by an interview he did in July with National Public Radio.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to be a jerk," said Angelakos, whose band will play Friday at the UIC Pavilion, over the phone last month. "I get asked about alcohol all the time. NPR did a piece on me before I had opened up about being bipolar and made me look like an alcoholic. I was so upset. All they did was ask about alcohol. I've done other things. I've made a record."
(In July, Passion Pit released "Gossamer," a follow-up to 2009's "Manners." The album debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and ranked No. 39 on Rolling Stone's list of the 50 best albums of 2012.)
Angelakos has been open about his struggles with bipolar disorder and has helped shed some much-needed light on mental health issues. After canceling a string of shows last July ("I am going to take the time to work on improving my mental health," he posted on the band's website at the time), Angelakos reemerged publicly to perform at a Lollapalooza aftershow at the House of Blues in Chicago Aug. 2 and then at Lollapalooza in Grant Park Aug. 3.
"That was a pretty big deal for us, and not just because it was Lollapalooza," Angelakos said. "It was basically the first show after I had been hospitalized. I had canceled a number of dates. After that happened, a lot of people I guess read about what happened to me, and there was a lot of anticipation in that sense. We were scared to walk out on stage. That was probably one of the biggest crowds we've played. That's a bit jarring going from four weeks in a hospital trying to calm down to walking out on stage in front of tens of thousands of people. It was both reassuring and terrifying. But I had fun in the end."
The band's latest album includes the single "Take a Walk," and the most recent single, "Carried Away." Those unfamiliar with Passion Pit's synth-heavy sound and falsetto singing — another topic Angelakos includes in the list of subjects he gets asked about way too often — have likely heard "Take a Walk" in Taco Bell's Doritos Locos Tacos commercials.
(Want more proof of Angelakos' openness and blunt nature? Look no further than his Twitter page, where last week he tweeted about Taco Bell: "I don't hate it. I just won't eat it. Some of my friends do. I don't care.")
Angelakos has made it clear in interviews that he is much prouder of "Gossamer" than "Manners" because, as he's put it, it's smarter. He also said he and his bandmates — including Highland Park High School alum Ian Hultquist — who play live with Angelakos but aren't part of the album making process, are now in a better place when on the road.
"We've developed our friendship over the course of this healthy touring cycle," Angelakos said. "We didn't have that during the last record. We were all in strange places. We've all straightened out our issues on our own and come together. We work as a community to make sure we're healthy and happy. That's become an important part of the touring process."
Since he was in preschool, Angelakos said, he has been telling his parents he wanted to become a musician. His parents were supportive of his love for music and bought him his own acoustic guitar after he wrecked his father's Gibson guitar. Angelakos grew up listening to both older bands such as The Beatles and The Beach Boys and more current bands, such as, at that time, The Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, Blur and Oasis. While he knew he wanted to record music, he didn't anticipate everything else that came with it.
"I never wanted to be a rock star or anything like that," Angelakos said. "That didn't appeal to me. I wanted to make songs. That was it. I didn't fantasize about becoming famous. The whole thing is a bit jarring."
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine Ave.
Tickets: $34 at ticketmaster.com
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