When Coming Out Means Rewriting Your Story
In saying he's gay, Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos shrugs off expectations.
All bands have a mythology around them, and Passion Pit’s begins with a man and a woman. It goes like this: When he was a student at Emerson College, Michael Angelakos recorded a set of songs in his dorm room and gave them to his then-girlfriend as a belated Valentine’s Day present. The sweetly romantic electro-pop made it onto the Chunk of Change EP in 2008, which then made it to listeners and festival stages worldwide.
There’s another chapter of Passion Pit’s mythology, and it’s also about a man and a (different) woman. Angelakos has talked openly about his bipolar disorder, depression, and alcoholism; he has also talked about deeply loving Kristy Mucci, the woman he married. In a 2012 Pitchfork profile, he said that she stopped him from jumping out of a window during one of his manic episodes, and some of the songs on his most recent album, Gossamer, are explicitly about her. “Just believe in me, Kristina / All these demons, I can beat them,” goes one lyric that People quoted when it covered their divorce this past August.
Passion Pit’s latest extra-musical chapter began Monday, when the 28-year-old Angelakos for the first time said publicly that he’s gay. The statement came during a conversation on Bret Easton Ellis’s podcast that began (after a lengthy monologue from Ellis about Quentin Tarantino’s recent controversies) with a discussion of Angelakos’s mental-health struggles and the media’s treatment of them. “It’s pretty amazing how often my life can be condensed into a very-easy-to-rattle-off monologue,” Angelakos said, before any mention of his sexuality.
Whenever a public figure comes out, there are few stock reactions from the Internet-commenting masses. Some people offer congratulations. Some people recoil, either with blatantly homophobic statements or the equally insidious idea that LGBT folks should keep quiet about their personal lives (even though straight celebs aren’t asked to do the same). And some people ask what took the public figure so long to come out, often with a hint of condemnation.
It’s the last question—why now?—that Angelakos and Ellis spent the most time discussing on the podcast. Angelakos said he first felt conflicted about his sexuality around age 20, but tried to forget about it because he was in a world of “dudes in bands talking about girls.” He also talked about having no gay role models growing up, a deathly fear of AIDS, a wonderful relationship with a woman, and a profound amount of self-hatred. In other words, it’s complicated.
More than anything, though, Angelakos talked about stories: the ones he told to himself, the ones that the public told about him, and the ones that belong in both categories. “Also, there was the narrative of the Chunk of Change EP,” Angelakos said when starting to explain why he stayed in the closet. “It’s like, he made it for his girlfriend.”
Ellis broke in with a tone of helpful skepticism: “That’s the myth, that’s the origin story.”
“That’s a very true story!” Angelakos shot back.
Everything came to a climax, he said, this past spring, when his marriage was in trouble and he was getting wound up about his own press coverage. It was Mucci who encouraged him to figure out his sexuality, while also saying she didn’t hold him at fault or think he misled her. He recalled talking to her on his birthday and hearing that she was exhausted from dealing with his issues. “I needed to feel embarrassed about how I was making other people feel, because that was the only way I could understand how I was feeling,”Angelakos said. “It’s kind of like RuPaul saying, ‘If you don’t love yourself how the hell are you going to love anybody else?’ That was quite honestly what was happening.”
Mucci also helped him move past his hangups with the public. “You can’t be buying all these things that people are saying about you, all these narratives,” Angelakos remembered her saying. “You have a very rich and interesting life that cannot be condensed into an article.”
His anxiety about narratives should be relatable to a lot of people who’ve had to come out. In a society where straightness is the default, being gay can feel like a disruption to one’s life story, an unwanted plot twist—when in fact what it means is that it’s dangerous to try and fit into predetermined narratives. “I was buying into these notions that I kind of was receiving very early on: This is the way you live your life,” Angelakos said when talking about his marriage.
As for the future, Angelakos said that he is excited to make music that can be fully honest, something he hasn’t quite been able to do since the early days of the band. And he’s trying not to worry about what this revelation means for his mythology. “Publicly, I came out about [being] bipolar and everyone was, ‘Ohhh that dude is crazy.’ That’s basically overshadowed so much of my work life,” he said. “If I come out what is that going to do? How can that diminish the impact of it? But then I was like, I don’t care! I don’t care anymore. I like girls, I like boys, everyone's fantastic, but you know what? I’m gay. Finally.”