Chris Zane

Jan 1, 2013 9:00 AM, By David Weiss

NYC Producer Is Back at the Helm for Passion Pit's Sophomore Album, Gossamer


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photo of Chris Zane

There are expectations, and then there are great expectations. The latter is what you have when your band is Passion Pit, and you have to record a sophomore album that will compare with your globe-smashing full-length debut, Manners.

Passion Pit’s unpredictable success is due at least in part to New York City producer Chris Zane, who proved adept at producing and mixing the 11 unforgettable tracks of 2009’s Manners: a bizarrely pleasing merger of cacophony, beauty, beats, keyboards, vocals and you-name-it that arrested eardrums the world over upon arrival.

For their 2012 follow-up, Gossamer, Passion Pit—led by vocalist/keyboardist Michael Angelakos—and their label Columbia Records wisely returned to Zane’s downtown sonic cauldron, Gigantic Studios. There, they hoped the band would be able to continue their magic run, and Zane likewise had the outlook to make it happen.

“When it comes to second albums, I’m staunchly against is the idea of the band completely rewriting the formula of their sound,” says Zane, whose long discography includes records for The Walkmen, Holy Ghost, Friendly Fires and Les Savy Fav. “So the idea going in for Gossamer was not to rewrite the sound of Passion Pit. It had worked, people liked it, and the last thing I wanted to do was change that.

“This is a pretty ambitious thing we tried to make,” Zane continues. “The word I’ve been using to describe the record is craftmanship. We’ve been working on this record for months. People ask, ‘Is that a real orchestra?’ Yes, it is. ‘How do you make it sound so big?’ It takes a long time!”

Zane’s philosophy of sustaining Passion Pit’s sound for Gossamer meant opening up Gigantic to Angelakos’ latest arrangements while supplying him with a huge set of tools to achieve anew what he correctly describes as their “extreme” sound.

“It takes something shocking to cut through the noise,” Zane says. “With Manners, it was the combination of drums that were both live and programmed, mixed together in a way that you couldn’t tell what was what. Then it’s the super-vibrant synths which cover everything, and of course Michael’s vocals. Those three things create an exciting sound—whether people like it or not, it captures their attention.”

One of the keys to freeing Passion Pit’s collective mind for Gossamer was the presence of more than 150 guitar pedals and over 50 analog synths at Gigantic—an avalanche of tools that provided benefits psychological as well as aesthetic. “Sometimes knowing that pedals are there makes an artist write and record differently,” Zane explains. “The way it works for us is almost sonic graffiti: Take an otherwise classic sound and put our own little mark on it. Boop. Now it’s not the classic sound, it’s a deviation. It’s the Juno patch, but going through a Wow & Flutter pedal for a detuned effect, or a little filter.

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