Q&A: Ian Hultquist, Passion Pit keyboardist/guitarist

Passion Pit takes the stage at the House of Blues on Dec. 9.

This is your first time performing in Vegas, right?

Right. We’ve never played there. We had a day off there during the Muse tour. I believe I went to Hooters and got some chicken wings.

Will you have any downtime this time?

I think it might be a quick in and out, actually. Two days after Vegas we’re supposed to be in Hawaii, and that’s the end of the tour. I am really excited for that.

Almost everyone in the band attended Berklee College of Music. Do you think having that formal background influences the band as a whole?

I feel like at this point everyone’s kind of gelled into one thing. It’s kind of funny, though, because Mike (Angelakos, lead vocalist/keyboardist) is the one that didn’t go to music school, but he’s the one that writes all of our songs. I remember—and this was pre-Passion Pit—Mike was writing a film score and I was playing on it. We asked him to write out a horn line for a friend of mine. We gave him a sheet of paper, and instead of writing out a staff and notes he wrote out letter notes, like B and C. I remember that carrying on, and that hasn’t changed too much. It goes to show the different ways people can think about music and still be successful with it.

I’ve read that you guys don’t write or compose music on the road. Is that true?

Everyone’s different. Sometimes we’ll write on the road—Ayad (Al Adhamyor, synth/samples) and I will work on a side project or something. It’s really difficult to find the right creative space on the road, though. It’s kind of funny how much being able to sit at a desk with a pair of speakers does. I really find it necessary; it’s part of the creative project. We’re almost always sitting at a computer. That is much more our home, so that’s where our ideas start flowing a little better.

One of your side projects is a collaboration with your girlfriend, right?

Aislyn, yeah. We started writing together a little over a year ago. We put together an EP and stared playing shows. It’s electronic pop. We’ve done some remixes. We’re trying different things, sound design. We’ll see what happens.


Passion Pit
Dec. 9, 9:00 p.m., $28-30
The Strip

How important is having a creative outlet that isn’t your main focus and moneymaker?

I think it’s definitely important. We are all in the band because we love the music, but we’re all creative people. So we need more release—and sometimes it’s not even music. I’m really into photography. We all read. We try to find different ways to be creative. It kind of calms you down.

What’s your favorite part about performing live?

Just being able to reach out to people. I get shy, so I don’t really look up, but when I do look up, it’s nice to know there are people out there and liking your music. It’s difficult to be on the road all the time, so seeing that brings a good feeling. It kind of carries you through everything.

Is that shyness unique to being onstage or are you all-around a shy guy?

It carries through my life. My favorite band is Wilco. I’d met them years ago—when I was just a kid—but two summers ago we were at festival with them. Our dressing rooms were right across from each other, and I couldn’t talk to them, even though technically I’d met them before. I just really look up to them but I was too scared.

Wow. So, do you or the band have any pre-performance rituals that help keep those nerves down?

We have a good luck … thing, almost like at a soccer game. We call it “the root.” It started off as this nonsense word and just gets louder and louder before we go on stage. It started off as a joke, but there was one show where we didn’t do it—it was terrible. Now we have to do it.

What are you and the band currently listening to?

I just downloaded new LCD Soundsystem. As far as the rest of Passion Pit, I’m not sure. It varies—punk, metal, Stevie Wonder. I feel like that’s part of us; everyone listens to such different things that we can store it all and put it together.

Does anyone listen to something the rest of the band can’t stand?

(Laughs) Our monitor engineer loves serious country. Sometimes it’s okay, but usually that doesn’t go over too well.


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