Interview: Passion Pit’s Hultquist and Donmoyer talk about the band’s origins

Ian Hultquist, right, and Nate Donmoyer, middle, discuss their band.

By Lana Lagomarsini, News Staff

Passion Pit may seem like a household name among college students today, but just a few years ago, the members of the band known for songs like “Sleepyhead” and “Little Secrets” were college students in Boston themselves. Four of the five members are graduates of the Berklee College of Music: Ayad Al Adhamy (synthesizer), Jeff Apruzzese (bass/synth bass), Ian Hultquist (guitar/keyboards) and Nate Donmoyer (drums). The lead singer and keyboardist, Michael Angelakos, attended Emerson College. Passion Pit’s hallmark is electronic pop music with organs, guitars, and piano added in.

The band recently performed at the Nateva Music and Camping Festival in Maine alongside Further, Lotus and The Flaming Lips. Before the show, The News sat down with two members of the band: Nate Donmoyer, the 23-year-old drummer, and Ian Hultquist, 24, who plays keyboard and guitar. Both Donmoyer and Hultquist said they were surprised with the success of the band, calling many of their songs, including “Sleepyhead,” “a happy mistake.” Donmoyer lives in Brooklyn, and Hultquist resides in New Orleans. They plan on coming back to the Boston area in the fall.

Huntington News: How did Passion Pit get started?
Ian Hultquist: We all met when we were in Boston at school. Us four were at Berklee, and Mike was at Emerson down the street. Mike and I were playing in a couple of bands together, just for fun, and Jeff and Nate were in a band together and Mike kinda started this project …he played one show, just him singing by himself with audio tracks running, and I said maybe we should make this the next project we should do, should be fun, let’s see how it goes, and it was the first time we really got invested.

HN: Why the name Passion Pit?
Nate Donmoyer: Mike decided on the name Passion Pit. It’s kind of a joke a little bit, he just liked the sound of it, but it means the back row of a drive-in movie theater, where kids made out. I don’t think it [was] ever meant to be too serious, but it’s a good alliteration and I think it works.

HN: Why did you decide to be a mostly electronic band?
IH: I don’t think it was a really conscious decision, Mike got some software that he began to use and got a formula down that works. He didn’t really own real instruments, so all he could do was electronic music because all he had was his laptop … I wouldn’t say that it’s all electronic now, we try to bring in real sounding things like organs and pianos and guitars and such.

HN: For the song “Little Secrets,” where did you sample the children’s voices saying “higher and higher”?
ND: They actually came in the studio and sang. The record producer threw out a lot of lofty ideas at the beginning, like ‘let’s use strings and let’s use a children’s chorus’ … then the next year it all happened and a lot of it was Chris, who did a lot of research and found this amazing children’s choir from PS 22 [in New York City] and they had this amazing director. …It was just this massive group of 52 fourth graders who just came in and sang their hearts out, and we actually have them on three tracks on the album. They came in and we gave them the day off of school and a pizza party.

HN: What are your thoughts about all of the media exposure your music is getting, e.g. via TV commercials and the Internet?
IH: I don’t mind it. I think it’s great that people can hear us through different medias [sic]. It’s always a little weird. Yesterday I was a restaurant across the street from my house and our song came on, and it’s strange when you hear that out of the element of being at a show that I’m playing. But it’s a good thing.
ND: It’s good advertisement for us. People might call us a sell-outs, but if they were us I don’t think they would care.

HN: What was starting a band in Boston like?
ND: I think it’s a great city to be a growing band in. There is a surprisingly loyal local scene there that we owe alot to. And there are a lot of great cities that are close by that are not hard to get to, like New York, which is an industry city and where you have to go to get to the next level. But it is great to start and play through the whole Boston circuit … there is still a lot of great underground music there.

HN: Where do you get your musical inspiration?
ND: It’s kind of like my freckles, where they have been collecting over my entire life and everything I’ve ever heard is still swimming somewhere in the back of my head. So right now, even what we are listening to, it will influence me later on.

More to Discover