Michael Angelakos founded the musical project Passion Pit as a college student in his dorm room at Emerson College. A decade and four albums later, Angelakos is more than just a musician: He has become an advocate for mental health, too.
In February, Angelakos founded the Wishart Group, which aims to provide support services for musicians. One of its priorities is improving mental health services — something Angelakos, who has bipolar disorder, has found particularly lacking in the music business over the course of his career.
“If you read any book on the music industry, if you talk to anyone in the music industry, it’s like, ‘Well, this is just the way it is,'” he tells NPR’s Scott Simon. “There’s no healthcare. There are no benefits. There’s no one taking care [of you].”
In March, Angelakos offered free downloads of a new Passion Pit album, Tremendous Sea of Love, in exchange for tweets in support of the #weneedscience Twitter campaign. Four months later, the album was released to streaming services. Angelakos is also donating royalties from the sales of Tremendous Sea of Love to the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at Broad Institute of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Angelakos joined Scott Simon on Weekend Edition to talk about how his childhood and his mental illness inform his music. Hear the conversation at the audio link, and read an edited transcript below.
Scott Simon: How did you find music?
Michael Angelakos: My dad recalls me singing in perfect pitch when he was changing my diapers. My father was a musician [and] a music teacher for 15 years at public schools — when his son suddenly becomes a professional musician, and you were always trying to be a musician — he’s not the one who’s going to give me that for free. I love my father, I love him to death, but it naturally came to me. [My father] tried to pay for lessons, and I would go to lessons and get my hands slapped because I didn’t understand why I needed to learn other people’s music when I could just write my own. And I also thought that, with my obsession with The Beach Boys around four or five — I thought they had annual tryouts!
To be in The Beach Boys?
Yeah, I just wanted to be a Beach Boy, really. I thought I would impress them if I wrote songs. So I was a little bit of a brat, but it was encouraged. My family…