Friday, August 19, 2011


Coming Of Age:
Growing Up With

An EXCLUSIVE Interview with Pat Grossi

By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

     Somewhere between ethereal and earthly, there is a peaceful place where our minds drift away to find inspiration and our souls go to relax. And, there, in the corner of this dream-like destination, there is a jukebox that provides the soundtrack for our visits there. The music it plays is haunting and heavenly, melodic and moody, and enriching and inspiring. It is music that sounds like it was created by an angel with a slight hangover and a license to chill. It is the music of Active Child.
     Luckily for us, Active Child exists in the real world as well. Led by singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and sole constant member Pat Grossi, Active Child inhabits a musical universe that is hard to describe, yet easy to understand once you experience and absorb the music. Imagine Architecture-era OMD performing a religious hymn as Enya, Jimmy Somerville and Michael McDonald softly harmonize in the background and Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) ties it all together with a warm and sympathetic production. It’s another-worldly sound that many acts have attempted to create, but very few have succeeded at. Instead of falling prey to the darkness of Goth, Pat Grossi and Active Child manage to add optimism to their haunting sound. They know the difference between hopelessness and hopefulness and they offer plenty of the latter.
     The band created a buzz in 2010 with the release of their Curtis Lane EP. Grossi’s angelic, choir-boy falsetto became the emotional focal point for each track while also seamlessly blending in with the electronics, the harps, the percussion and all the other instrumentation that helped to shape the Active Child sound. With the press, the bloggers and radio behind him, Grossi and Active Child became the epitome of cool.
     Now, a year later, Active Child stretch even further out with their highly anticipated debut full length release, You Are All I See. The album is an amazing set of songs that doesn’t stray too far away from the blueprint of the EP, yet builds and expands upon it in ways that are more felt than heard. The atmosphere of the album is still very spiritual and emotional but it’s far more grandiose in parts, sounding almost cinematic without a hint of pretentiousness. It is a piece of audio art that has so many melodic layers that you discover something new with each spin. It is, without doubt, one of the finest albums of 2011.
     Stephen SPAZ Schnee caught up with Pat Grossi to discuss the album and all things Active Child…

SPAZ: Your album You Are All I See is about to drop. How are you feeling about the album and your career up to this point?
PAT GROSSI: I am incredibly proud of the album. I have been anxious to release something that felt complete since the EP came out. And as far as my career up until this point, I mean, I don't think I could have asked for anything more. I never ever thought my music would take me this far and who knows where this album will lead? It's funny to me think of it as a career, but that’s really what it has become in the last year.

SPAZ: While you fall within the Electronic music genre, your approach to your music is extremely unique and emotional. What were the influences that shaped your musical vision, musical or otherwise?
PAT: I think my time spent singing in choirs from a very early age left an indelible mark on the way I write and hear music. I can remember hearing and then singing Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Requiem' for the first time and then bringing the sheet music into school to show to friends. Granted, I was in fourth grade, so not everyone got it, and I don't think I understood it either. But I did know that it made me feel amazing when I heard it or sang it. Films have also been inspirational for me. Sometimes, to write, I just throw an old movie on, put the TV on mute and start playing. It’s a good way to create a mood from the imagery and always helps stop writers block. And of course, I can’t ignore the ever present influence of the special woman in my life that seeps into nearly every crevice of my work.

SPAZ: Listening to the album, words like ‘haunting’, ‘spiritual’, ‘atmospheric’, ‘powerful’ and ‘romantic’ immediately spring to mind. How would you describe your music to someone who is not familiar with Active Child?
PAT: I think all of those words describe my music pretty well, and as a musician you get this question constantly from people. Understandably, I ask the question myself, but I always have trouble really pinpointing what it is without sounding completely ridiculous and pretentious. But, for me, its music that heals. I create these songs with the full intention of making myself feel so full of emotion that it is almost unbearable. I want to make myself cry when writing it. So I think it is a type OF music that people can find solace in, a place of refuge, and reflection. Welcome to the church of Active Child (laughs).

SPAZ: There are so many layers to your sound that it feels as if you create music that should be experienced more than just heard. Do you think that this is a fair assessment of Active Child?
PAT: I completely agree. But I think that is a lot to ask of a listener. People these days, including myself, recycle new music so quickly and with such criticism that I think it’s hard to really ask someone to sit down and soak in your song. But hopefully, the music will speak for itself, and without you really being aware of it, suddenly you are lost deep inside of it, experiencing.

SPAZ: You released your debut, the Curtis Lane EP, in 2010. Were you surprised by the overwhelming reaction?
PAT: Completely surprised. We live in a strange dynamic these days, musically. On one hand, the music industry is in the gutter and on the other, more music is being created than ever before. Everyone has the ability to compose and make what they think is interesting. So for my little set of songs to rise above the fray was just really amazing and unexpected. It really inspired something in me, and I think it gave me the confidence to write this album.

SPAZ: Because of this positive response, was it a bit daunting to go back and create a piece of work that you knew had to be even better in order to satisfy your growing fanbase? Or do you create your music for you in hopes that others like it?
PAT: I was itching for months and months to get back into my little work space and start creating music again. After the EP came out, I toured all summer and fall and I could not wait for that to be over so I could start writing again. The more I played the EP the more I thought, I am so ready to move on from this. And when it came time to write, I tried my best to really focus on what I thought was interesting, not what someone else thought would be cool or whatever was trendy at the time.

SPAZ: A male artist singing in falsetto on a pop release is not that common. Did you choose that approach because it felt like a natural fit with the music?
PAT: I chose that approach because that’s where my voice goes melodically. That is my range and is where I feel most powerful.

SPAZ: There are so many wonderful melodies that float in and out of each track, some of which are immediate while others sink in over repeated listenings. Do you usually start with a certain melody or two but then discover even more melodic opportunities as you build each track?
PAT: Yeah, melodies are a tricky thing. I usually lay out an instrumental of some sort and then just start singing over it, a freestyling of sorts. But melodies are fleeting, you can sing something really great and then forget it two seconds later. So I tend to record these early freestyles and start to pick out the parts that feel the strongest. After that the verse and choruses come together pretty quickly, and I can sample those early recordings for pretty vocal chops or weird sounds.

SPAZ: Some may compare your sound to bands on the 4AD label, yet your music isn’t hopeless and dark. Would you take offence if someone were to label you as a Goth band?
PAT: I wouldn't take offense at all, 4AD is an amazing label, but I think the music is way to shimmering and pretty to fall into Goth territory.

SPAZ: In a musical climate that seems filled with aggression, anger and dissatisfaction, do you want listeners to find beauty and hope in your music? Or is there something more you want your fans to walk away with?
PAT: For me, making music and listening to music has always been an incredible source of reflection, a sort of meditation. So, when making the music, I am reflecting on my life, my worries, my regrets, my curiosities. I am getting lost in the cycle of sounds, almost in a sort of confessional. It has a way of cleansing my mind and I hope it can do the same for the listener.

SPAZ: If you were to take a handful of Active Child songs and throw them on a mixtape with other bands that you feel travel a similar musical path, which bands, past and present, would you choose?
PAT: A few artists that come to mind are Final Fantasy, Enya, Sade, Annie Lennox, the list goes on.....

SPAZ: What’s next for Active Child?
PAT: Just about time to hit the road and start touring the world! Excited and nervous and anxious, feeling a lot of things right now.

SPAZ: What is currently spinning on your CD and/or DVD players?
PAT: I've had the new Balam Acab album, Wander/Wonder, on repeat for a while. It comes out a week after mine and is amazing.

Thanks to Pat Grossi
Special thanks to Adrian Amodeo, Eddie Black, Dan Gill and Jocelynn Pryor




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