Interview: Passion Pit

Just over two weeks ago, on June 6, I met up with Ian Hultquist, keyboardist and guitarist of Passion Pit, at Stage AE. He is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, where he studied film score composition. We talked about things such as his Batman fandom and his favorite composers. Read the interview transcript below.

Ian Hultquist of Passion Pit

Jess Phoa (WRCT): I know you’ve been to Pittsburgh a quite a few times in the last year, so how do you like Pittsburgh?

Ian Hultquist: I like it a lot, actually. You know, I feel like I didn’t really get a chance to see it until last time we were here [in November 2012]. And I finally started to get a better feel for the city, but I think it’s pretty cool.

JP: Which Batman franchise do you prefer?

[Prior to the interview, I looked at Ian’s Flickr account and I noticed there was a picture of him standing in the middle of Heinz Field, which was featured in Batman: The Dark Knight Rises.]

IH: Well, the one that included Heinz Field. The “Nolan Universe” one.

JP: What did you like about it in particular?

IH: I mean, I thought they were such well-made movies. The Dark Knight, the second one, was like the perfect movie. I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. From a technical writing and editorial standpoint, I thought it was perfect. Then I thought the stories were so good and they finally made real characters out of these people. Where, I mean, I love Tim Burton’s movies – I love every Batman movie. I’m a Batman fan for life.

JP: Did you grow up with the TV show?

IH: Yeah, the animated series and everything. But I just felt like the characters made sense for once, like, I, you know super hero mythology is really funny, like, you have all these universes and all this crazy stuff.

JP: Like Marvel vs. DC?

IH: Yeah, all of that. I wouldn’t say that this is the “definitive Batman”, the real one, but it’s the one [series] that stands on its own.

JP: Do you have a favorite composer? Personally, I really like Michael Giacchino.

IH: Yeah! He’s one of my favorites. He’s up there. I was watching Lost as I was doing film scoring at Berklee and he’s kind of like, one of the composers that really made sense to me. Like, I feel like I could do something like this. I love what Hans Zimmer has been doing lately. Alexander Desplat [the composer for Zero Dark Thirty]. For up and coming composers, Nathan Johnson, who did Looper. Rob Simonson is another one. He works with Mychael Danna a lot, who did Life of Pi. There’s a lot of composers up there that I’m really into right now.

JP: What about classical composers?

IH: I love Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky. You know, I don’t have ones that I shy away from, I’m pretty open to a lot of things. But lately, I’m just so focused on film scoring that that’s what I listen to.

JP: When did you learn to play the guitar and keyboards or piano, [which one did you learn] first?

IH: I actually grew up playing alto saxophone. I played in the school bands and then I think in like the seventh grade, I was listening to a lot of punk and rock music and was like, “I wanna play these songs” and there are no saxophones. So I forgot how to read music completely, and I only knew how to read tabs and I got my first guitar. I think that’s when it started and then of course, when I got to college, I had to remember how to read everything.

JP: Well, you had to audition [for college]?

IH: Yeah, guitar’s definitely my main instrument. I played piano just a little bit, but I didn’t have any training in it. I didn’t really start until Passion Pit started and then I kind of had to teach myself how to play keyboards.

 Xander Singh of Passion Pit

JP: Do you have any lesser-known hobbies? Ones that people aren’t really aware of?

IH: Mmm, no. I’m pretty good about sharing whatever I come up with, like I Instagram all of my photos.

JP: Do you like knitting?

IH: Haha, no. I don’t have any knitting skills. I’m pretty not complicated. I play music, I watch lots of music, I write music for film. That’s basically my life in a nutshell.

JP: It sounds like a good life, though!

IH: Yeah, it’s great!

JP: I previously read about your pre-concert rituals, but do you have any pre-concert necessities, like the room has to be set to 68 degrees Fahrenheit or something like that?

IH: No no no, hahaha. We’re not that anal yet.

JP: Is there an instrument you prefer to play?

IH: You know, because guitar is more comfortable for me, I always go to that. But lately, I almost feel just as comfortable, if not more, on keyboards. So, it kind of depends, but I always like playing guitar.

JP: What would you do for a living if you went deaf?

IH: Oh man…become a silent film maker.

JP: But even those have film scores.

IH: Sure, I’d just have to trust whoever’s writing the music I guess, haha. I would probably just focus on the story.

JP: Really, just the writing?

IH: Mhmm.

JP: Is there a song you particularly like to perform as opposed to crowd pleasers?

IH: We’ve been playing this song, “Where I Come From”. It was actually on the Twilight soundtrack. We’ve been playing it a lot, and I actually like it a lot. It’s very, very different from any other Passion Pit song. Mike [referring to Michael Angelakos, the lead singer] and I play guitar on it. So that’s one thing that definitely stands out from the others.

JP: How long have you been living in Brooklyn?
Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit

IH: Three and a half…four years?

JP: What’s your favorite thing about it?

IH: I know that it was one of the first cities that I had gone to in a while, that like, felt right. It felt like home. I had lived in Boston for five and a half years [while at college], but it always felt this is my “college town” this doesn’t feel like I’m going to live here for the rest of my life.

JP: What kinds of things do you like taking photos of?

IH: It’s always different, honestly. Usually it has to do with shapes because I always kind of mess around with colors already. But it’s usually shapes or interesting shadows and landscapes. It’s kind of whatever catches my eye.

JP: Is there something you just HAVE to do whenever you have break time? Is there something you long for while you’re on the road that you have to do when you get back?

IH: My wife has a pasta dish called “Amatriciana” that I ask her to make me when I get home. It’s just tomato sauce, onions, pancetta, basil, it’s like such a simple dish, but it’s just the way she makes it.

JP: If there’s any artist you could collaborate with, who would it be?

IH: I’ve been listening to Ólafur Arnalds, who’s Icelandic, and Nils Frahm. If I could do something with either of them, that would be amazing. They’re kind of like, new classical composers. A lot of piano pieces, but they bring in a lot of ambient electronics at the same time.

I managed to attend the concert later that day and I was far from displeased. It was my third time seeing them live and I wouldn’t hesitate to see them again. Special thanks to Nathan D’Oria and the folks at Stage AE.