Recently, I checked in with Nate Donmoyer, drummer of Passion Pit, as he took a break from their current tour through Europe. Since the release of their album Manners, Passion Pit has seen rising numbers at each of their shows both in Boston (nearly swept the Boston Phoenix Best Music Poll) and nationwide. For more information and for music, check out their website at: http://www.passionpitmusic.com
WC: Let’s ease into this by telling the story of your musicianship and your perspective on the genesis of Passion Pit.
ND: Well it’s funny because I’ve seen both sides of the band, from helping booking them play one of their first shows at Basstown at the Great Scott (which i was a DJ at) and interviewing them for my blog to a few months later being asked to join the band. Who knows Will, maybe you will be playing bass in Passion Pit before the New Year.
WC: Who would you pin as the primary musical influences for yourself? For Passion Pit?
ND: Personally, any and everything influences me, from music I completely copy to artists I listen to in order to learn what not to do. Right now though, I’m obsessed with dance music and most of it comes from Europe. The band is more heavily influenced by all things “Pop”, while there’s a heavy synth based element really, we are aiming for The Beatles and Beach Boys and all other pop that has stood the test of time.
WC: What is the writing process for Passion Pit?
ND: Michael is the songwriter of the crew, and he brings it to us to flesh out in the full band live setting. In the studio, him and I work in a little bit [of a] risky way by not really having finished songs walking into the session, like say a rock band would do. It’s expensive but we got a pattern down with Chris Zane, the producer, and Alex Aldi, the engineer, where we built the album like a Lego building. Each song is a room and we built every piece of furniture one Lego piece at a time. While one of us was grouting the tile in the bathroom another was picking out the matching bath towel set.
WC: How has your approach to writing and drumming evolved in a band that employs a lot of electronic textures in it’s sound?
ND: It’s kind of a dream come true for me to be in a band setting that allows [me] to program and sequence a lot and still get to play behind the kit. I always practice to either a click or dance music so doing it on stage is actually more comfortable to me then playing click-less. It’s kind of a crutch actually, where I start getting paranoid about speeding up or slowing down, all I have to do is wait for the next click.
WC: I find that your music lends itself well to hip-hop. Can we expect any cross-genre collaborations in the future?
ND: Actually, there [are] quite a few projects in the works. Maybe not all as Passion Pit, but there are a few MCs we are getting in the studio with very soon…but I don’t like to jinx things, so we’ll see.
WC: Through your experiences with Passion Pit and The Peasantry, what tips can you give for generating buzz?
ND: Oh man, those experiences have been so different, we worked really, really hard to just scrape by in The Peasantry. We put tons of our own money and time into that. Which [is] why I can appreciate how lucky we have been in Passion Pit. While I can’t explain why the experience was so different, in both cases we found it most beneficial to not shove it down everyone’s throats that we are in a band and have an EP, but to make friends, honest genuine friends. And they are the ones that spread the word, if it is good music, which is the most important factor.
WC: How has the rapid rise to fame affected your ability to hone a successful live show?
ND: I would not say we are famous, haha, but we have been thrown into situations way over our head, and with a lot of luck and a lot of anxiety we somehow have risen to the occasion. It’s crazy how long you will hole yourself up in a rehearsal space when you know you have to headline the first night of Bonnaroo in a few weeks. We still take time out on tour to rehearse in different cities and work out new versions of songs and tweak instrumentation, even though we play with each other two hours a day including sound check.
WC: In past interviews, Michael Angelakos has mentioned his falsetto style of vocal performance as the most divisive element of the band’s sound. Passion Pit had to cancel a show in July in the Netherlands after he lost his voice. Is this style of singing a struggle to maintain night to night? Is he sticking with this signature sound or contemplating a change of style for the next album?
ND: I think his voice is one of the most defining elements of the band, however he has been messing with using his chest voice again, there are a few radio sessions floating around where I don’t think he uses his falsetto once. In the end, the band’s goal is good songs, so it shouldn’t matter how you sing it.
WC: How have you been received in Europe? How does that differ from how you are received in America?
ND: It’s surprisingly similar somehow. American crowds do dance more as a whole, but while we have played cities two or three times stateside, we just played Holland, Belgium, and Spain for the first time and when we look out in the crowd, it’s impossible to tell where you are, save for the occasional euro-mullet. Oddly enough, Ireland by far brings out our best crowd. I got strangely emotional watching the crowd react to ‘Sleepyhead’ (there is a Gaelic sample in it) at Oxegen Festival. My middle name is Patrick, to give a hint, so it was this bizarre overwhelming feeling of acceptance, almost like coming home for me, which is completely absurd seeing as no one in my family has lived in Ireland for 30+ years and I’m 22…
WC: Passion Pit has been hailed as one of the most successful bands out of Boston in recent memory. How do you represent the city and its music?
ND: While we love Boston, Mike is the only one who still heads back there on days off. I’ve moved home with my parents in Maryland, and the rest of the guys have scattered; but there is no city I feel more comfortable in than Boston. Honestly, I feel as though Boston can be found in the dance element of our sound. While the common believe is that Europe is the dance Mecca, and for the most part this is true, there is no scene in the world like Boston’s Dance/DJ scene. I feel it’s because there is so much heart put into every event, and nights like Make It New, and Heartthrob, Thunderdome, and Bassic are full of people who genuinely love the music that’s being blasted there. And one more important detail, the DJs are really good…like massive in Europe and Japan but play Middlesex Lounge good. One day I hope I can afford to move back.
WC: Would you say Passion Pit is part of a greater musical movement? If so, what does that movement represent? What does Passion Pit represent?
ND: This is a big question I don’t know if I can answer alone or so lucidly. I think our generation as a whole has embraced simultaneity. You can get whatever you want from where ever you want all the time. The deciding factor in choices is no longer what scene or genre but whether something is good or bad. I think our album reflects that in that we go through a wide range of styles and influences so hopefully there is something in it for everyone. That movement is Pop.