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Active Child

Active Child

Friday 26th August, 2011 12:58PM

Pat Grossi, aka Active Child, was one of the most talked about ‘break through’ artists of 2010, with his EP ‘Curtis Lane’ making big waves throughout the indie music scene.

Grossi, a former member of the Philadelphia Boys Choir manages to successfully meld a diverse range of musical style together, from harp to hip-hop, to form soaring orchestral arrangements that still retain a gritty, urban feel.

Grossi talked to Under the Radar ahead of the release of his stunning debut album, You Are All I See.

Well, this is a beautiful album. Are you happy with it?

Thank you. Thank you so much. I’m very happy with the way it turned out. During the recording process and finishing it up, naturally I think I was still thinking ‘This can be better’, but sometimes you just need to live with things for a little bit to appreciate what you’ve done. So yeah, I’m happy!

This album feels like a natural progression from the EP, but at the same time the sound is more refined.

It definitely builds on the EP, but I took the recording process a lot more seriously this time around.

The EP was more playful. It bounced from poppy songs to songs that were more mysterious and dark.

You Are All I See has a cinematic quality to it, so I’m wondering what kind of imagery and experiences influenced you during the creative process?

At the time I was living at home with my parents. They live up on this hillside in Pasadena. L.A. winters tend to be grey and it doesn’t really rain a whole lot, but we had a really wet winter.

I spent a lot of time inside watching really old movies on TV and listening to a lot of the scores and the orchestral compositions.

The last song on the album is actually in reference to an old movie from the 40’s, Johnny Belinda.

I ended up hitting a wall one day creatively, so I turned on the TV, and right when I turned it on there was this crazy, powerful orchestral movement in the score.

It really hit me because I’m so inspired by cinematic scores and that feeling of being lifted away by strings.

Is film scoring something you would like to try?

Yeah, I’ve had people approach me about doing score work here in L.A., but it just hasn’t worked schedule wise because I was trying to finish the album and didn’t really want to split my time.

But yeah, in the future I would really love to score a film.

For you personally, what grabs you in song and captivates you?

I think for me vocals are a huge part of whether or not I’m going to be inspired by a song... and lyrics can be a big turn on or turn off, it can go either way.

The music I make tends reflect the music that moves me.

It’s usually synth-heavy and atmospheric. Recently I’ve been into a lot of darker stuff, like the witch house or dark house stuff with pitched vocals and dense reverb… it all reflects that kind of ‘cathedral-esque’ sound that I try to capture.

How did you approach recording You Are All I See and does that differ from the way you recorded Curtis Lane?

I guess when I wrote the EP it was more me exploring just making music in itself and not so much exploring my own personal expression.

(Grossi and producer Ariel Rechtshaid) just kind of went demo by demo and recorded all the vocals fresh, then we dissected different parts and tweaked to get them perfect.

The vocals are mostly double tracked, but using a vocal harmonizer you can get four or five or six part harmonies. I like experimenting with distorting harmonized vocals that are sort of pitched around and twisted.

I think a lot people record in a straightforward, lead vocal fashion, which is just one massive take of a single person singing. I tend to lean towards layering my stuff three or four times until it starts to feel heavy and thick.

Did you work with other musicians during recording?

Musicians wise, no one really. We did a little bit with the drummer from a band called Fool’s Gold who is based in L.A., but other than that it was just me and my producer Ariel Rechtshaid.

So who is the guy who plays bass when you perform live?

Oh, that’s my friend Stratton – he’s really a multi instrumentalist. He’s actually been there since my very first show.

Just recently we’ve had a drummer join us who does some samples and plays some live parts, so yeah, we’re adding fixtures to the live set to make it as big as we can.

Do you have a general approach when translating songs from recorded version to live performances, or do you just kind of take each song as it comes?

I think I have a general mantra as far as doing it live is concerned. I try to be as true to the recording as I can as well as creating a good live performance that is sincere.

I want the audience to feel like they’re watching something they’ve heard a lot come to life in front of them.

I’ve been to a lot of live shows where artists play songs you love and it’s just not quite there.

You’ve had a summer residency at the Echo in L.A., how has the audience responded to your live set so far?

When we played out first show at the Echo people were going nuts and screaming, and then the show next week was a lot more somber - people seemed to be absorbing it more and be in their own heads a little bit.

Maybe they were less drunk?

(Laughs) I guess it does depend on how inebriated they are.

Even if it sounds good and you’re playing a great show, it might just be complete silence when you’re done. And then other times you get rabid applause and you’re like, ‘Wow, What is going on right now?’

So you go on tour through September right?

Yeah, we have a few more shows at the Echo and then we’re off. Our first show is on the 30th and it runs all of September. I get three or four weeks all across the US and Canada.

Any plans to come to New Zealand?

No plans as yet to come Down Under. I would love to get down there, but it depends on whether someone will finance it!

-Natalie Finnigan

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