Feeling fine, Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos is ready to revisit ‘Manners’

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/file 2017
Michael Angelakos

Michael Angelakos is in a better place these days.

It’s been a turbulent decade for the Passion Pit frontman since he first recorded “Manners,” the giddily glimmering breakout disc that transformed him from dorm-room DIY project into arena pop monster.

Like Passion Pit’s best songs — sky-scraping synth fantasias with shadowy depths — Angelakos’s past 10 years have been distinguished by euphoric highs and harrowing lows, from selling out Madison Square Garden to struggling through bouts of suicidal ideation.


The Cambridge-bred musician, who’s been open about his bipolar disorder, believes the music industry nearly killed him. But as he prepares to revisit “Manners” on a 10th-anniversary tour (including a sold-out House of Blues stop Thursday), Angelakos says it’s possible, even probable, he’s never felt this good.

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“I’m in a comfortable position,” says Angelakos, stepping out of rehearsal in Los Angeles last month to speak by phone. “I’ve generally started to feel myself even out more this past year than I ever have.”

Now 31, the frontman’s happily past his 20s, a notoriously dangerous decade for people with bipolar. Angelakos went through it right as his career was taking off; he’d been diagnosed at 18, a year before making “Chunk of Change” at Emerson College. When Angelakos uploaded the sugary 2008 EP — which started as a Valentine’s Day gift to his then-girlfriend — to Myspace, it promptly blew up. Record deals followed. Within a few head-spinning months, Angelakos was in New York, crafting his major-label debut.

“It was very confusing, flattering, and also kind of gross,” he says of the sudden interest from executives. “At the same time, it’s one of the best parts about popping. You get to be the of-the-moment artist for a second.”

“Manners” materialized at the end of an era where young upstarts could take whatever money their label offered, disappear into studios, and indulge every creative impulse. From November through February, Angelakos spent more than 14 hours a day working on his debut, sleeping at the studio.


By phone, producer Chris Zane calls it “the craziest album I’ve ever worked on.” Starting from scratch, Angelakos would bounce off the walls, playing every instrument in sight and emerging with half a track within an hour.

“It felt like a party every day,” says Zane, who later worked on Passion Pit’s second album, “Gossamer,” and third, “Kindred.”

“I’ve often described making any Passion Pit album, but certainly ‘Manners,’ as ‘Iron Chef,’ ” he adds. “You have 60 minutes to make all these dishes, and it’s total chaos, and you’re like, ‘They’re not going to finish in time,’ and then in the last 30 seconds, Bobby Flay puts down seven Michelin-star meals.”

Executives and labelmates swung by, intrigued by Angelakos’s process. On the outside, his star was rising thanks to “Sleepyhead,” a prismatic hunk of electro-pop off “Chunk of Change” that had become a sleeper hit by fall.

But the go-for-broke energy put toward making “Manners” took a toll on Angelakos’s health. “I was swinging up into a really overly active mind-set that I couldn’t shut off,” he says. Soon after, the band flew to Austin, Texas, to play South by Southwest. Angelakos, exhausted and over-extended, experienced a psychotic break. He went directly to a Houston clinic, where he spent five weeks.


“I remember being in the hospital, not knowing whether I’d get out in time to release the record,” he says, though these memories are fuzzy. “I maybe got out a week before; we didn’t even have time to rehearse.”

‘It’s clear now that I’m protective of myself in a different way than I was before. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be able to do another Passion Pit record. I might have just quit altogether.’

Passion Pit’s career blossomed in the following years, but Angelakos’s mental health vacillated, dangerously. “I was not under the impression I’d live very long,” he says. “I’d been through so much, or was going through something, to the point where I was conditioned to believe my life had a pending expiration date.”

The music mirrored this. “Gossamer” (2012) explored Angelakos’s tempestuous headspace; its tracks discussed suicide attempts and alcohol abuse. Three years later, “Kindred” struck a tone of resilience and hard-won joy while meditating on fame and failed relationships. Angelakos came out as queer in 2015, divorcing his wife.

He pulled away from the music industry. Two years later, Angelakos self-released “Tremendous Sea of Love” and founded the Wishart Group, emphasizing mental wellness in providing legal, educational, and health care services to artists.

“Until it is safer and healthier for us to be advocates, to be writers, producers, and performers, I simply cannot continue making music,” he wrote on Twitter before releasing that album. “To raise awareness one moment and announce a show the next doesn’t help me. It hurts me. And others.”

So decisive was his wording that news of the “Manners” tour, this past February, came as a surprise. Angelakos acknowledges this, but says he couldn’t have done things differently.

“I laid out how I felt,” he says. “It’s clear now that I’m protective of myself in a different way than I was before. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be able to do another Passion Pit record. I might have just quit altogether.”

Personally, though, Angelakos has reached a point where making new music and going back on tour feels feasible.

“What I’ve been trying to do the past year and a half is make a record that front to back feels cohesive,” he says. “Revisiting a record I made when I was 21 years old made me realize, ‘Oh, right, if I could do this back then, I can probably do it again.’ ”

Much of this tour will commemorate the album that launched Passion Pit. For Angelakos, doing so feels like closure, a chance to reflect on how far he’s come as he plots his next move.

“Reclaiming it felt like the best way to be creative again,” he says. “It was the only way I could make sense of another tour — going into it as a celebration.”

Isaac Feldberg can be reached at, or on Twitter at @isaacfeldberg.