Today’s Feature – November 29-30: Passenger

December 2, 2008 at 2:03 am (Today's Feature)


I like this little one-liner that our latest band feature, Passenger, uses to explain their music (more than any string of lines I can come up with). Their sound is simply described as: “Tongue in check sinister pop.” At first the five words didn’t make sense to me – the first song I heard from the band was a cover of “Umbrella,” and their sweet, angelic take on the hit didn’t sound like anything sinister to me. But once you dive into a few other tunes… ones like “Night Vision Binoculars;” then you start to get that sinister part.

Lead singer Mike Rosenberg dives into a deep and passionate tale all about stalking on this track, and not the way the Police did it in the 80’s with “Every Breath You Take.” This song has details – lots of details. While songs like this exist on the “Night Vision Binoculars” EP as well as on the debut album, “Wicked Man’s Rest,” Rosenberg says “Even my darkest songs have a sense of humor. The worst crime you can commit in pop is taking yourself too seriously… In the end it’s about storytelling – creating characters and sending them off on a journey.”

Overall the record and the EP explore bits of every day life – the kind of stuff all of us see every day. Most of us are too lazy to dive a little deeper into these things, past any superficial exterior. That’s where Passenger excels. They’ve been touring all over, playing with the likes of Kate Nash, Scouting for Girls, Seth Lakeman and The Hold Steady. Check them out for yourself when you get the chance (which may not be for a while – they’re starting work on the second album shortly). So take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself! Get into the XXQ’s for a whole lot more.

XXQs: Passenger (PEV): Was there a certain point in your life when you realized the music was going to be career for you?

Passenger: I don’t know if there was a certain point. I think it was more of a gradual thing. Becoming less and less interested in school work and spending more time writing and playing. Eventually I left school because it was the only thing I wanted to do.

PEV: Hailing from Brighton, what kind of music were you listening to growing up? Do you remember the first concert you ever attended?

Passenger: Well my Dad is originally from the states so growing up I heard a lot of things like Neil Young, the beach boys and James Taylor and when I got to my teens started getting in to people like the Kinks. The first big gig I remember going to was The Stones when I was about 15. It blew my little mind !

PEV: Was music always, constantly around you or was it something that you discovered outside of your home, on your own?

Passenger: Yeah, music’s always been about, as I said my Dad is a big music fan and they were always really supportive about things like lessons and equipment. I was really lucky to have that.

PEV: What was it like for you when you were first breaking into the music business? Before you were getting press, regular gigs and touring around the country?

Passenger: Hard, as it is for most people I think. I had dropped out of school and moved out of home when I was 17 and was working as a chef whilst trying to write and perform on the side. It’s just so difficult to find the energy to put in to music when you’ve been working for hours in a sweaty kitchen.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Passenger show?

Passenger: I think lots of energy. We really go for it live.

PEV: How have your shows evolved from when you first started out? Is there a certain time that you started to get more comfortable on stage?

Passenger: Its something that has slowly been getting better as I’ve gone along. Getting up in front of people and performing is a really fine line to tread and you make a lot of mistakes on the way. I think it just gets easier the more you do it.

PEV: Any embarrassing or crazy live show stories?

Passenger: I can remember one of my first gigs that I played; it was in a bar in Brighton on a Saturday night. The P.A system wasn’t loud enough and I snapped a string after strumming too hard, someone laughed at me and I just completely lost it, saying things like … ‘you think this is f**king funny?!’ over the mic. It makes me cringe thinking about it.

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist out today, who would it be and why?

Passenger: It’s a really tough call but after listening to in rainbows by Radiohead, I think it’s got to be them. I have so much respect for the way they’re constantly challenging themselves with every album. Going in a totally different direction and not only making it work but making it brilliant, music, lyrics, production all outstanding! So Tom if you’re reading….

PEV: As well, is there an up and coming artist right now that you think we should all be looking out for?

Passenger: Yeah a Scottish guy called Alan McKim . He’s a real diamond in the rough and a top bloke!

PEV: Tell us, what can fans expect from your latest release? How is this different from other music you’ve worked with?

Passenger: This is actually our first record and I think you can expect a mix of catchy pop tunes with a dark side to them and some quite depressing (in a good way) slower songs that are hopefully an honest set of stories about everyday people

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for this album? Did you find yourself going back to one feeling or emotion more than others?

Passenger: I think there are a few themes that run through the album. One seems to be about people growing older and possibly regretting what they have or haven’t done. I think as I said I’ve just tried to write all the songs with honesty as I think that’s the most important thing in music.

PEV: When you sit down to write music what kind of environment do you surround yourselves in as a band?

Passenger: All sorts. I do a lot of writing at night as I seem to get a lot of ideas then and it’s quiet. But songs can pop up anywhere to be honest. I’ve started writing quite a lot on the road.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Passenger?

Passenger: That none of us have any teeth.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to all your success?

Passenger: They keep my feet firmly on the ground, so firmly sometimes that I think you could consider it to be bullying.

PEV: When you are not touring and performing, what can we find the members of the band doing in their spare time?

Passenger: Well, I can’t speak for the others and to be honest you probably wouldn’t be aloud to print most of it. I like walking, drinking, reading and watching wildlife documentaries …ROCK AND ROLL!

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Good parts? Bad parts?

Passenger: Good parts: being able to meet knew people everyday. It really makes you feel like your doing something amazing. Bad parts: coming home is always really hard, you go from being really busy to nothing and always takes a few days to feel normal again.

PEV:  In your opinion, is there a certain city (US or International) that you find to be the best city for music?

Passenger: I really don’t know about music scenes to much, but as far as cities go, I love New York, obvious I know, but it is such an exciting place.

PEV: Ten years from now, where do you see the band’s career?

Passenger: Playing holiday camps and cruise ships to old people.

PEV: As well, where’s one place you haven’t played, you would like to? Why?

Passenger: Well, we’ve played quite a few American cities but not Seattle and I’ve always wanted to go there.

PEV: So, what’s next for Passenger?

Passenger: A cup of tea I should think, but long term we are starting on the second album in the next few weeks and once that’s done hopefully coming out to see you lovely people again.

For more information on Passenger, check out:


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