Interview: Jeff Apruzzese (Passion Pit)

Passion Pit has come a long way since Michael Angelakos recorded a set of modern electronica songs on his laptop in his dorm room as a Valentine’s gift to his then-girlfriend. Those songs ended up getting released on an EP that included the additional song “Sleepyhead”, which became a minor hit.

Since then, Passion Pit has released two popular, critically acclaimed albums of well-crafted electronic pop, the latest of which, 2012’s Gossamer, includes “Take A Walk”, their biggest hit to date. In its full-band touring configuration, Passion Pit has appeared on Saturday Night Live, played at Coachella, and much more.

This interview with Passion Pit’s bassist Jeff Apruzzese was for a preview article for their concert on 10/26/13 at the Santa Barbara Bowl.

Jeff Moehlis: Are you looking forward to returning to Santa Barbara?

Jeff Apruzzese: I found out that there’s really good biking in Solvang and Santa Barbara, so I’m looking forward to checking that out once we get there. From what I remember from playing there [at the Granada Theatre in December 2010], I really liked Santa Barbara a lot. I think it’s been like three years since we played there, so I’m looking forward to getting back.

JM: How does the live band sound compare with the studio recordings?

JA: I think the live band, obviously, is reminiscent of the recordings. We try to beef things up, and try to make it louder, more energetic, and dance-y. Also, we take all the sounds that are on the record, dozens of keyboards, and pare them down into the keyboard playing hands that we have.

JM: How does it differ doing a headlining gig like the one in Santa Barbara versus a festival like Coachella?

JA: When we’re headlining our own shows we definitely have a lot more creative freedom, I would say, in how we’re going to construct the setlist and what songs we’re going to play. When we’re playing at festivals it’s more of a concentrated effort on song placement and what songs we can play in the allotted time slots that we have.

You know, we think about all these things a lot actually – what time are we playing, is it going to be light out, is it going to be dark out, how long are we playing for, can we play this weird song that’s kind of unreleased, do we need to play all the singles? But I enjoy both of them for different reasons. The festivals are fun, where you’re just playing back to back to back bangers. Mike might beg to differ, because on all those songs, if we’re playing a forty-five minute set full of bangers, he’s the one having to sing through all that, and I think it can be a struggle for any singer. I’m only a bass player. I only have to worry about playing one note at a time.

JM: Has it been fun to be touring with The Joy Formidable? I saw them a few years ago and really like them.

JA: Yeah, we love them. They’re actually old friends of ours. We first met them in about 2009, 2010. One of our friends found their music on MySpace, before they were discovered. We really were fans of the band. We were over there, and we saw them at Reading. We chatted with them, and then we decided that we really wanted them to open for us on the tour of the U.K. Then we actually brought them to New York. They opened these shows that we were playing at Terminal 5, and that was really when they started getting some buzz in the U.S. So it’s been really nice.

You know, flash forward three or four years, to have them on tour and see how much they’ve grown, from like a smaller indie rock band into this full-fledged headlining rock and roll machine. Ritzy has a stage presence that’s just out of control. The amount of guitar pedals that she has to make all these crazy sounds, it’s just awesome. It’s been a blast so far.

JM: What’s been the biggest highlight for you so far during your time playing with Passion Pit?

JA: This year has been full of highlights for us. I think the most memorable two have been Saturday Night Live and us headlining and selling out Madison Square Garden. Those two things alone are worth ending your career over. You know, those are such big moments in our lives. I don’t think any of us imagined doing that. Once they’ve happened, those are two things that we will take with us in our memory forever, whatever happens down the road.

JM: Are there particular Passion Pit songs that resonate with you, that really seem relevant to your own life?

JA: I think all the songs really hit me in different places. From the friendship that I have with everyone and with Michael, and being able to hear the songs and read the lyrics and maybe have more insight into the songs than our general fans, having known him for so long and touring in a band with him for a while. It’s one of those things where you maybe open letters or confessions or stories that someone wrote that you might not get firsthand, but through the music you can get more insight into a person.

JM: What are the plans for the near future? Is Michael writing new songs, is there a new album in the works?

JA: Yeah, there’s definitely going to be a new record. The plan is to not take as long of a time between recording this record and the next record. This album cycle is a little shorter than the last one. We toured on Manners and Chunk of Change for twenty-four months. We all needed a lot of time to decompress from all that. This tour is still a good amount of time, eighteen months, but we’re kind of a bit more used to it now. I know Mike has started demoing already, and the plan is for him to get in the studio in the next few months and to start fleshing out new material. Hopefully we’ll be playing new shows again sometime in the later part of 2014.

JM: What advice would you give an aspiring musician?

JA: I don’t know, I don’t want to say anything cliche like “don’t give up”. You know, I think if you’re making honest music, and you’re doing it for the right reasons, then good things will happen. I don’t really know any bands that were planning on making it. I feel like things just happen.

It’s kind of like marrying a woman. It’s very similar to love at first sight. When you meet a person you’re going to marry, do you know instantly? That’s kind of similar with music. I think the bands that try to do it for seven, eight, nine years, they’re hammering their heads against the wall, and they’re working at whatever crappy part-time job they’re working to make their music. Obviously, not to be harsh, but if you’re doing something generic or something that’s not standing out, that’s the reason for where you are.

I think if you’re creating music that’s interesting, you’ll know it off the bat. You’ll gain the attention of people off the bat. I don’t know what that really means, but that’s my perspective and reflection on it. You know, I’ve played in bands my whole life, starting in middle school. There was the one project that I was playing in the summer after college, that I wasn’t really thinking that was the one, that took off.

JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything about the band? Anything you want to get off your chest?

JA: I tend not to go on the internet to research the band too much. I’ve just found in the past it’s a very unhealthy thing to do. We enjoy touring, we love our fans. We have fun doing it and we’re all generally good and nice people. If we weren’t enjoying what we were doing, there’s no hesitation in my mind that the band would come off the road. As long as we’re continuing to have fun and enjoy playing music with each other, then that’s what we’re going to continue to do.

JM: My last question, where are you speaking to me from?

JA: I’m laying in my bunk upside down with my feet on the ceiling, driving from San Francisco to Oakland.

JM: The rock and roll lifestyle.

JA: Yeah, there you go.


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