An interview with Passion Pit’s Nate Donmoyer and Ian Hultquist

Just hours before they hit the big stage last Wednesday, Passion Pit drummer Nate Donmoyer and keyboardist and guitarist Ian Hultquist sat with the Aggie on the blue benches outside Freeborn Hall. Passion Pit, whose music has exploded in the electronica, indie pop and alternative dance music scenes, played a sold out concert in Freeborn Hall that night, presented by the ASUCD Entertainment Council. Despite their relative success, it appeared that these were just two completely normal guys ready to have a good time doing what they love.

According to some sources, ‘Passion Pit’ refers to “drive-in theatres because of its privacy and romantic allure to teenagers.” Do you agree? What’s the significance of the band’s name?

Nate: Sure, that’s a nice way to put it. [laughs]

Ian: There’s not much significance behind it. It’s really just kind of like a word that you just like the sound of; the alliteration and syllables are pretty easy to remember. And I guess we really like the whole story about the drive-in theatres, too.

Nate: We also get confused a lot with an adult film of the same name. My grandpa was like, ‘I Googled your band’s name the other day and you wouldn’t want to know what I saw.’

Ian: Yup, that was us, grandpa.

How did the band get started?

Ian: It all started as a half-joking thing between Mike [Angelakos, Passion Pit's lead singer] and his girlfriend. He was writing songs just for fun. The band started because I saw one of his shows that he did by himself where he was singing along to backup tracks and walking around on stage. The songs were good but it was just kind of lame. [laughs] So, we had already known each other and played music with each other before. And he said we should try doing songs as a full band, and learn how to play keyboards and add other instruments.

Was it difficult to find musicians for the different instruments in the band?

Ian: Yeah it was hard, because we’re all guitar players. So we had to figure how to use synths and play keyboard well – which are things we’re still working on a lot. It took us a year or so to get the right players that everyone was comfortable with; like Nate and Jeff [Apruzzese, Passion Pit's bassist] joined in June and August of 2008. We had been together for a year and did some shows, but we didn’t really start touring until they joined the band.

How does it feel to play at venues such as Freeborn Hall where the demographic is predominately a focused college-town?

Nate: They’re some of my favorite shows. The last one we did was at Penn State – a town that is nothing but the school. And we did another show in Oregon – in Eugene. They’re all college kids and they’re all having a good college time, with plenty of drinking and dancing. It makes for a fun and livelier crowd. I mean, we’re only a few years out of college so we love having these kinds of crowds at our shows.

Any favorite song to perform on stage?

Nate: Mine is “Let Your Love Grow Tall” because it’s the fastest song, and it’s closest to a punk beat that’s just really fun.

Ian: I like “Little Secrets.” I do a guitar solo at the end. Always good. [laughs]

Any signature dance moves you guys do on stage?

Nate: I don’t really get to do anything on stage; I’m kind of stuck behind the drums.

Ian: Jeff does some weird dance moves, which I don’t really approve of [laughs]. Mike has some kind of footwork he does. Ayad [Al Adhamy - Passion Pit's keyboardist] does the wiggle and I just kind of nod.

Nate: Jeff has the most interesting moves I think. He’s a funny guy.

Some electronica or indie bands sometimes prefer to stay small and low-key. How do you feel about that?

Ian: It’s crazy, and kind of scary. It’s like whoa, people are listening-better watch out.

Nate: I don’t get those bands that say they want to stay small. I mean, how do you eat? If you want to keep doing this, you want to be successful. Or when a fan chooses to like a band for that reason, then they don’t really like the music; they like the social circles. I guess there would be some people would say that we’ve sold out since we’re playing in bigger venues or put our music in commercials, but that has nothing to do with the actual music itself or being a fan. But I totally know what they mean though, like when you’ve discovered something on your own before it blows up and you see everyone loving it, you’re like “aw, man!” But really, you should still like the band and the actual music.

UYEN CAO can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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