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.

Interview: Rubblebucket

On Dec. 9, WRCT hosted a very special guest, Rubblebucket, in our studio. The eight-person ensemble performed acoustic versions of “Pain From Love” from their latest album Oversaturated and one of their best known songs, “Came Out of A Lady” from Omega La La. They came just in the nick of time to promote their concert featuring Reptar that night at Mr. Smalls in nearby Millvale, Pa. Unfortunately, I could not attend the performance but I did manage to snag a brief interview with three of the band members: band leader and trumpet Alex Toth, vocalist and saxophonist Kalmia Traver, and guitarist Ian Hersey. Snippets of the interview are just below the photo.

Jess: I have asked other bands this question before and I will ask you guys as well, can you provide some more insights regarding the interests listed on your Facebook page? “Traveling, eating good food, hiking, rhythmic lock, exotic beats and colors”

Alex Toth: Yes! All of these things are true. We’ve actually gone on group hikes several times and they’re a lot of fun.

(I also noticed that Kalmia was wearing brightly colored socks, true to the band’s professed love of colors.)

Jess: Is there anything you like to do in particular when you have down time after getting back after a tour?

AT: Do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Being on the road is a busy hectic lifestyle, so it’s nice to relax.

Kalmia Traver: I love riding around on my bike and something I always have to do is ride my bike over the Williamsburg Bridge.

Ian Hersey: Eat pizza with lots of basil and delicious cheese!

Jess: Now, I understand that Alex and Kalmia met at the University of Vermont, but did you two originally come in as music majors or what?

AT: No, I actually came in intending to be a psych major.

KT: I was undeclared.

(The two of them decided to pursue their musical interests instead and henceforth Rubblebucket was born.)

Jess: Do you have any favorite books?

AT: We’ve been exchanging books by David Foster Wallace with each other.

The interview was short, as time was running out, but I hope you have learned a bit more about Rubblebucket. They’re rad and definitely a group to keep an eye out for the future.

Interview by Jess Phoa. Photo courtesy of Roll Call Records. Special thanks to Ted and Eden for all of their help setting up and producing this interview.

Interview: Ra Ra Riot

Interview and photos by Jess Phoa.

On Nov. 29, I went to the Passion Pit and Ra Ra Riot concert at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia and had the opportunity to go backstage and interview Mathieu Santos, the bassist of Ra Ra Riot, before the show.

Ra Ra Riot is releasing its third full-length album, Beta Love, on Jan. 22. Here I talk to Santos about the best television shows for touring, his spirit animal, the band’s upcoming album, and more. Check out the full interview below.

Mathieu Santos, bassist of Ra Ra Riot (photo by Jess Phoa)

Jess: On your Facebook page, it says you like “Spaghetti, Scramble, and Planet Earth” is that true?

Mathieu Santos: Milo makes amazing spaghetti

Jess: Is it a family recipe?

MS: He studied abroad in Florence as an architecture student and brought back with him some amazing sauce recipes. So we eat lots of spaghetti as a band, we do play lots of Scrabble, and Planet Earth, so yeah we do love all of those things!

Jess: Do you have a favorite food aside from spaghetti and if you could have a sandwich, what would you want on it?

MS: My favorite food aside from spaghetti, that’s a great question. Well, when I’m home I eat a lot of amazing Portuguese food, and that’s probably my favorite food.

Jess: You’re Portuguese… are you fully Portuguese?

MS: I’m half, my dad is fully Portuguese and my mom is fully French so I’m 50/50 and they each grew up in their respective gene pools.

Jess: Are you multilingual?

MS: Ahh, no… I speak a little French, no Portuguese. My sister, though, is a French major and speaks really good French. Portuguese food is definitely my favorite food and so I would have to say that the cacoila sandwich, which is a Portuguese marinated pork, it’s delicious…it’s unbelievable. That’s like the first thing I do whenever I’m home, go straight to the amazing Portuguese restaurants in New Bedford, MA.

Jess: You watch Planet Earth, do you watch anything else? Do you have movie nights or something like that?

MS: There’s a lot of show trading on tour. I know a couple of years ago, everyone was really into The Wire, we did all of The Sopranos

Jess: I know Breaking Bad is pretty popular right now.

MS: I don’t know if anyone is watching that, but I know Wes [Miles, vocalist for Ra Ra Riot] has been into Game of Thrones, Becca’s been into Girls. There’s lots of TV watching on tour. I usually just watch sports mostly, but I’ve been rewatching The Sopranos recently.

Jess: So I understand you’re a huge Bruins fan, but what about the rest of the band?

MS: Wes is a huge Devils fan, ‘cause he’s from New Jersey. Becca’s also from Jersey, a fairweather fan, “Oh did they win?” [laughs]. Everyone puts up with it, that’s probably accurate. Listening to us talking about it at dinners and stuff. If they win, we’re happy and they’re also supportive if we’re going through hard times too.

Jess: How are you coping with the NHL lockout?

MS: …well I’ve been waiting for somebody to ask me about this [laughs]. It’s been really tough on us. We have our fantasy hockey league, it’s been on hold for a bit. The hardest part is that I’ve been boycotting my Bruins merchandise, which is a good portion of my wardrobe. I’m in just the apathetic stage of “Okay, who needs those bums…” Every night I’m home in my apartment, “Oh the Nets are playing…” then I watch 30 seconds of it and I’m like, “What am I doing? I can’t get into this.”


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