Michael Angelakos is a man who knows how to walk the line. The singer/producer behind the indietronica band Passion Pit is a master of using his music to set up a series of contradictions—sunlight overtaking the dark of night, or the tension between running to escape something and running to move forward—only to leave the imbalance unresolved and the listener craving more. His latest album, Kindred (set to be released next week), is no exception, with its pop dance tracks set against lyrics speaking to Angelakos’ recent struggles with bipolar disorder and alcoholism before finding a note of resilience and persistence that ultimately redeems him.
As we delve into music festival season, we asked Angelakos about the process of creating such a personal album, about how things have changed since he started Passion Pit in 2007, and how he reflects all of this through his own personal style. Check out a few of his favorite pieces and be sure to preorder Kindred now ahead of its April 21st release.
The Window: We’re anxiously awaiting the release of Kindred – can you tell us what the process of recording the album was like?
Michael Angelakos: I’m anxiously awaiting its release as well! I’m in a holding pattern—the hurry-up-and-wait process of recording and releasing an album, which is kind of annoying even though the process of making the record was actually enjoyable.
It wasn’t easy the entire time, but I went into it having already learned so much in regard to producing and recording under severe stress. I’m also probably just growing as an artist and as a human in general. I suppose one thing that I absolutely set out to accomplish with this record was to maintain some element of optimism, or at least general positivity in certain areas. Passion Pit albums end up being these odd, theatrical, sometimes pretty, sometimes overwhelmingly crazy depictions of my real life. There’s no one narrative that leads a song, and oftentimes the person I think I’m talking to in the song turns out to be someone else. The intention and outcome don’t often end up being exactly in line with each other.
TW: Is there anything you can share with us about the overall feeling or vibe of the album?
MA: Kindred is the record that someone makes when they make it through to the other side alive. You see the proverbial light, and you’re there, but then what? You improve. Everything. Making Kindred, I was feeling tired of putting things off, of not owning up to truths or dealing with reality. I had gotten so used to continually living in this world where I had no control over myself. I was helpless and it was frustrating, so I worked. I couldn’t keep returning to fantasy. I slowly started growing up, bit by bit. Instead of incessantly painting myself in a darker light, I still hold up that narcissistic mirror. But it’s a fair reflection—it’s not perfect. And that havoc, that’s the childlike excitement that I’d never want to let go of. On Kindred, I think I found a way to balance it. I found a way to grow up and still make Passion Pit music, which is something I never thought would be possible.
TW: What was the inspiration behind Kindred?
MA: I can never point to any one artist, sound, or style when it comes to explaining what I do. I don’t listen to or make music thinking like that. So, I suppose it was mostly frustration, but the kind that yields positive things: improving relationships that are good, fixing or ridding myself of ones that are toxic, examining love fairly and from all sides, accepting love, finding a way to truly love yourself—things I never really took seriously. Self-acceptance is something I struggle with, and I think you can detect that in almost every song in one way or another. Like a lot of people, I’m still just trying to figure out who the hell I am, and I’m still examining my life and relationships to help sort that out. I think the album shows some growth when it comes to building some sort of healthy self-confidence, and that plays a huge role in being a good friend, even just a good human. I’m still working on it—we all are, I think. Making myself vulnerable and opening up so much is what makes Passion Pit difficult, therapeutic, and then really exciting.
TW: How would you say your personal style has evolved since the release of the first album, Chunk of Change? Has being more in the public eye had any effect?
MA: At the time Passion Pit started, I basically wore a few pairs of pants and a few shirts and sweaters. Simple and basic. I often wore ties, as I did at my private school due to dress code. The blazer, tie, dress shirt untucked, tailored chino, tennis shoes look— that was the look that basically defined [the album] Gossamer for me. Prior to that, I wore whatever. I was a mess. It doesn’t make me cringe too much, because I never claimed to be fashionable or like fashion. I just bought stuff every once in a while, but with absolutely no vision or “look” in mind. None. At all. Ever.
I started finding great pieces around the time that we had real photo shoots with real budgets. I’d find some defining piece that would influence me down the road. For instance, there are these Duckie Brown oxfords—a beautiful leather shoe, cut perfectly—that I still wear to this day! I also started paying more attention to cuts when it came to suits because I finally could. I became really particular with brands that worked and that I felt spoke to me. All in all, I’m pretty simple. I’m not super adventurous. I like highly quality, smart detail, fun takes on classic pieces—less is more to me at this current juncture.
TW: How would you describe your personal style?
MA: I’m typically not even half-serious about the WASP look when I sport elements of it, but I’m always dead serious about mixing formal with casual. I don’t like slick, nor do I like too rough and weathered—if anything, I favor a mix of the two. Playing with textures is fun, but playing with levels of fashion is my favorite.
For instance, today I wore some messed-up Umbros, some weirdly striped and wooly yellow socks, charcoal Margiela suit pants that have been tailored like jeans, a burgundy Lanvin polo, a half-shrunken gray Rag & Bone hoodie, and this great, classic khaki Harrington jacket by Sandro. It’s fun and comfortable, a more casual world for me to live in on a day where I’m running around and having meetings, doing things that are technically “serious,” but not wanting to look too formal.
TW: Do you have any fashion rules?
MA: For myself? Yes. Other people? No. Do what you want.
There are things that I know just work for me and that I stick to. Two-button blazers work for me. Nothing too loud unless I’m mixing correctly and with darker pieces that offset the loudness. Slim-fit does not mean skin-tight, so if it’s getting close to skin-tight, retire it. A tailor who listens is the key—I don’t pass up a piece if all it needs is some tender loving and a little alteration. Colors that are too close, particularly with jackets and pants, don’t hate each other but they just aren’t friends. No walking-billboard pieces allowed on my body unless it’s unbelievable — wait, no, that’s never worked out well, so stop pretending there’s an exception. Also, there’s never just one designer or house. Mixing visions is incredibly fun.
TW: What are your wear-everyday pieces?
MA: My watch is worn every day, all year. In the spring, it’s some type of coat, always. Whether it’s casual or formal, I can never go out without a coat—I hate just a sweater or hoodie. In the summer, it’s sunglasses of some sort. And I’ve been wearing hats again, because I cut my hair really short and am all self-conscious about it. Oh, I almost always wear socks of some sort — I’m not a sock-less guy, nor can I go without boxers. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work.