Saturday, January 17, 2009

The PS22 Chorus Records Vocals for Columbia-signed Passion Pit's Full-length CD Debut!

Friday was a dream come true for the PS22 Chorus. To begin at the beginning, last week we received an e-mail from Chris Zane, who was producing a new CD from a New England-based band that's been getting a whole lot of buzz, Passion Pit. Passion Pit is the brain child of Michael Angelekos, the lead singer of the group and writer of some of the catchiest material you've yet to hear! His song, "Sleepyhead", was used in a PSP commercial and the group received a lot of recognition at the CMJ Awards, a ceremony which carries a lot of prestige in the music industry. This got them noticed by Rick Rubin, co-head of Columbia Records who is now in the process of getting ready to distribute the group's debut album. This leads us back to the e-mail from Chris.

Chris was contacting us to try to get the PS22 Chorus to appear on the album! It seems they were looking for a specific sound, and the PS22 Chorus fit the bill! So the kids were rushed into the studio the following week after Chris's initial e-mail, to sing background vocals on three tracks on the CD!

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Passion Pit drummer Nate Donmoyer and friend Paul. They took us into Gigantic Studios. The soundbooth was fantastic with all sorts of high-tech gadgetry beyond comprehension! The chorus didn't need any help from fancy equipment however! They were in top form singing their hearts out under the careful and pressure-free guidance of Michael, who knew exactly what he was looking for. The rapport between Michael and the kids was unmistakable, and the kids worked extra hard to deliver. And no doubt they did!

Michael even sat in as a guest soprano and sang with the group during the recording of a harmony that the kids were having a little bit of difficulty with at first. I know the kids felt very proud to be getting all this personal attention from the band's frontman. And you could tell Mike was loving every second of it as well!

Also in the studio were people from Fader Magazine, who there doing an exclusive feature covering the band's time in the studio. Chris timed the visit of the magazine so that they would come when the kids were recording their parts, so it's safe to assume we'll be seeing some footage of the kids on the Fader website, and possibly in hard copy form as well. After being seen in The NY Times, NY Daily News, and USA Today, it's thoroughly amazing for the kids to be getting exposure in a magazine that's relevant to the music industry.

For the last song, I took off the director's hat and offered it to Michael, and he was a natural with the kids. The kids felt completely comfortable following his lead. Michael infused his own vitality into the chorus and achieved remarkable results.

Some of the most memorable moments occurred while just hanging out during the downtime. Michael was on the floor sitting with the kids, talking to them, taking the time to try to reach out to each and everyone as much as possible. He even took the time to cheer Eric up when he was having a bit of a hard time, and managed to put a smile back on his face in no time at all. Elijah got to talk to Mike about his comics and his knowledge of classic horror films from the 30's. These were the moments that truly made the day special, the ones that showed there was a whole bunch of heart behind the amazing music of Passion Pit.

And speaking of the music, wait until you hear it! Passion Pit's hooks are wonderfully infectious while at the same time sounding completely original and fresh. It's rare to find music out there that's pushing boundaries, and Michael is definitely operating outside the perimeter of pop music. That's what makes the band's sound both memorable and compelling.

The perfect day was punctuated when I got home to a fantastic e-mail from Michael, that detailed the depth of inspiration he felt being around the PS22 Chorus children. It is truly one of the nicest messages the chorus has ever received. In his message, he says, "Your kids are so wonderful. They have such talent, they were so attentive and respectful." He goes on to say, "It's been a tiring, draining process these past few weeks, but today was reinvigorating. You really made this record THAT much more incredible."

In addition to his extremely kind e-mail, Michael posted his account of the day's festivities on his blog. It makes for a jaw-dropping read. Here it is below, in it's entirety as it should be seen:

"Then, there was this. The monster. The PS 22 chorus, consisting of 55 amazing, wonderful, talented, wide-eyed kids that love pop music, that love to sing, and have remarkably good ears. Their harmonies were spot-on after, let’s say, 2 or three tries. They were so quick, so professional, just unbelievable. Keep in mind that these are tired, over-heated, thirsty fifth graders, pumping out take after take after take for something they hadn’t even heard before. It took a monstrous amount of planning, but with the help of the Chris, the amazing and inspiring Greg B (who directs the chorus), a few very nice chaperones, and the help of the Gigantic Label and Tell All Your Friends PR firm, we got the whole floor handled — 15 devoured giant pizzas and all.

"To properly convey how moving this experience was for us is virtually impossible. I have been waiting to do this since I began this project. The character behind the Passion Pit voice modeled a euphoric, blissed-out children’s choir — that youth and energy. It was all there. We were so afraid that we were going to be unable to obtain a chorus, or that we were going to get a choir that was overly professional, that didn’t get pop, have any feel, that didn’t get the real sing-along feel that we were going for. Greg B’s energy was amazing, and he even let me direct the kids for one of the hooks in a song, and as I punched the air to signal the intensity of the parts, the kids began to follow me. Take after take, it got tighter and tighter. It felt so unbelievable to have the exact sound that I wanted coming through the headphones, directly connected with my movement and my idea for the songs development. It’s just always been a dream of mine, really.

"The kids sang on three songs, took breaks, hung out, we talked, I answered some questions, I asked some questions. I couldn’t believe how mature they were for their age, how well they were behaved (55 kids!!!), and how much they loved singing songs by Bjork, Keane, Coldplay, you name it. So. Cool.

"We were exhausted by the end of the day, and so was Greg, but these kids made the record what we had been dreaming it to be, as they are integral parts of three songs. At the end, the kids sang the Mary O’Hara sample in Sleepyhead as I belted out the first verse into the chorus. It was a really fun way to end our session together - it made me like the song a hell of a lot better, actually. Everyone clapped, smiled, shook hands, hugged, and we ended the session knowing that we not only got the best chorus we could possibly have asked for, but we made some new friends that will more than likely being showing up in the near future on a stage in NYC ;)

"But most importantly, with the school systems having virtually no music programs whatsoever, seeing a program like this exist at all made me feel like there was some hope. We need more Greg B’s in this world. Until this situation, it had not occurred to me how seriously bad the arts are suffering in public schools. This, of course, makes the PS 22 situation even more impressive."

All of our thanks go to Michael Angelekos, Chris Zane, and everyone associated with Passion Pit for giving the PS22 Chorus an experience they'll never forget! (And their director too!!) Thanks also go to Miss Lisa (as always!) for filming the event and taking some of the pics you see here. We also were lucky enough to have Mrs. Johnson along for the fun who also snapped most of the pictures day. Having the two of them and Miss Sassano along helped to make this day extra-special! Below are some more pictures of the chorus from inside the studio with Passion Pit.


Anonymous said...

hi mr.b it is maya the pics came out great.that day was really fun.

Mr. B said...

i must completely agree with you on that one maya! can't wait until they let me post the video footage. i'll show you guys on tuesday! it was truly a blast! glad to hear you enjoyed it! :)

Anonymous said...

itwas hot but it was sooooooooo much fun
i had a great time!

Mr. B said...

so much fun indeed!! :)

Anonymous said...

hey mr.b wat up dis is april i like the video it was sooo kool and the pics were awsome !!!!!!!!it was fun 2 i agree wit maya & allie !!!!!

Mr. B said...

i agree with EVERYBODY! :)

umamah said...

i did not know that ms.johnson is a singer

Mr. B said...

ha!! mrs. johnson is ALWAYS full of surprises..... ;)

Anonymous said...


Mr. B said...

hey wessede!! i miss you muchly!! so happy to know we can look forward to a visit soon!! we'll be waiting!! :)

Unknown said...

When are you guys going to make an album?