Squeaky drone

Passion Pit brings falsetto to UC Davis

Passion Pit charms the college kids.

Passion Pit charms the college kids.

Freeborn Hall

1 Shields Ave.
Davis, CA 95616

(530) 752-1915

During the ’80s, high-pitched cartoon characters Alvinand the Chipmunks released songs that captivated their American listeners. But most falsetto vocalists cause listeners to cringe—or get enraged—but fans of Passion Pit, the Cambridge, Mass., sampling synth-pop, MGMT-meets-Donna Summers act, might argue that serenading siren Michael Angelakos’ choir-boy style is exactly what makes the band’s music so charming.

Originally formed as a solo project in 2007, Angelakos started by writing songs about his relationship with a then-girlfriend, putting everything together on his laptop while attending Emerson College. Then Ian Hultquist, who plays synthesizer, approached him after a solo performance. They were soon joined by another synth player, Ayad Al Adhamy, then Thom Plasse on bass, and eventually Nate Donmoyer on drums. Passion Pit formed.

Angelakos has been writing original music since the age of 6 and had an affinity for pop music from the beginning. “I was thoroughly obsessed with the Beach Boys,” Angelakos explained. “I had this karaoke tape player, and it came with a Jimmy Buffett tape and a Beach Boys tape, and I just listened to the Beach Boys tape over and over and over.”

Passion Pit released its debut EP, Chunk of Change, in September 2008 on the popular indie label Frenchkiss Records. It almost immediately received accolades for its danceable beats and cool choruses—along with Angelakos’ self-described “really loud, piercing, prepubescent squealing.” Blogs posted the album’s music videos like crazy. And the album’s most popular track, “Sleepyhead,” which contains a Mary O’Hara sample throughout the song, instantly became a favorite among mixheads.

“You get some [remixes] that are just so funny, where they slow the vocals down and it’s almost like a joke,” Angelakos said. “Diplo did a toad remix, and it’s just a bunch of frog noises. I kind of like the funny ones more than I like the serious club mixes. They’re a little boring.”

Passion Pit finally released its first full-length in May 2009, Manners, which included background vocals by popular children’s choir PS22 Chorus.

Angelakos describes the experience as wonderful, saying it was “just me watching kids just be kids, singing in a way I have been trying to make vocals sound like.”

One song with the kids became a commercial success, rising to No. 34 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. The song also infected most indie-club nights, sharing the deejays’ favorite playlists with the likes of Phoenix and Hot Chip.

“What drew me to the children’s chorus is simply that my vocal sound has always mimicked that [sound]. That’s why we used PS22 instead of, say, a chorus choir for a church, because this choir in particular had a keen sense of pop.”

Passion Pit’s live set isn’t exactly the same as its studio work; they tried that at first and discovered it felt too rigid and stifled recreating the album’s sound. Instead, the band fills more space with its live set by adding a two-synthesizer setup.

The band promises to tour until they tire of the songs, then head back into the studio. “We’re happy to say that our record has been doing well, and people have been coming to shows, and so long as that’s happening, we’re going to make sure we do this record as much justice as we possibly can,” Angelakos said.