Active Child is the musical vision of one man, American singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Pat Grossi. Starting off making music in his bedroom with his laptop computer, Grossi has developed his sound and style remarkably over the space of his debut EP, Curtis Lane, released last year.
Grossi’s musical style has a very epic and wide screen style and reach to it. Good musical comparisons would be some great 1980s bands such as The Waterboys and Echo & The Bunnymen. However, it is also incredibly intimate at the same time. This year, he has released Active Child’s debut LP, the hauntingly beautiful You Are All I See. Featuring great tracks like “See Thru Eyes”, “Playing House” and the gorgeous title track, the album shows off beautifully the sense of vision and style Grossi brings to what he creates musically.
Lyrically dealing with joy and heartbreak in equal measures, while still dark and intense, there remains a sense of hope and positivity in the music that Active Child creates.
“I guess I was at a crossroads point in my life,” begins Grossi. “Music had always been a hobby in my life in some way, shape or form. I had the experience, like many others throughout the world, where I was laid off from my job. I definitely experienced feeling down and a bit depressed about it. Music helped keep me sane through that initial period. I started to get a good response on a local front in regards to my music and things sprang from there.”
Grossi continues a trend that has happened a bit over the last few years. Namely, that of solo singer/songwriters creating a moniker for themselves other than their real name. “The name Active Child comes from my mother,” laughs Grossi. “This was when I was laid off. I went home and visited my mother. I was still a bit down at the time. She was telling me all these stories of when I was younger, and how I was such an active child. Hence the name.” Indeed, Grossi was an active child. His musical career began at nine years old, as part of the Philadelphia Boys Choir. That fragile sense of being and voice comes through quite strongly in Active Child’s music.
One can hear a vast array of influences in Grossi’s work, everything from classical music to the works of modern composers such as Vangelis. “I was a bit of an audiophile when I was a kid,” confesses Grossi. “I used to love lying on the floor and listening to music for different sounds and trying to work out how what you heard was achieved in the studio. My father worked at Priority Records when I was a kid. As a result, I discovered hip hop.” Grossi also cites a great deal of 1980s bands such as New Order, Echo & The Bunnymen and artists such as Peter Gabriel as formative points of reference. “I was a huge fan of Echo as a kid, and just loved what they achieved with sound in the studio. Same goes for Peter Gabriel.”
Why the decision to work alone? “I have played with other people as part of a band, especially when I was a teenager,” replies Grossi. “In regards to Active Child, I found that working on my own was more beneficial on a personal level. It was a case of having ideas that, for one reason or another, I found I couldn’t flush out or explore with other people. The great thing about the way that I work is that I can work at my own pace. Via the technology I use, I’ve been discovering some great music software programs that have really helped me take the music of Active Child to some unexpected places.”
What is most striking about Active Child’s music, especially on You Are All I See, is the candid, almost confessional tone of the lyrics and how, when coupled with Grossi’s fragile and haunting sound sculptures, the listener almost feels guilty listening, like they are eavesdropping on a private conversation. “I usually focus on mood and tone on both a lyrical and sonic level,” says Grossi. “What I write definitely comes from personal experience, and has that sense of both romance and nostalgia to it. Lyrically, the music is definitely subjective – it comes from a very personal place.”
After listening to Active Child’s music and how technology-based it is, one immediately wonders how this would translate into a live medium. “I tour with two other people,” says Grossi. “I tend to concentrate on playing the harp. I have another person who plays electronic drums and samplers, as well as physical percussion instruments. Between the three of us, we use synthesisers to replicate the sound I have created on my own as much as we can in a live concert. I try to keep it as organic as possible.” This, one imagines, would be one of the greater challenges for Grossi. “Absolutely. This is where I love touring. Sure, it can grind and exhaust you. At the same time, the sheer challenge of translating what I do to a live format is incredibly gratifying. Sure, it doesn’t always completely work, but that is definitely part of playing live.”
What can people expect when they see Active Child next year as part of the Laneway Festival, as well as a few sideshows? “I try to totally pour my heart out in a live show. I want people to be inspired by what they hear.” says Grossi. “I love the aspect of live shows of that visceral, caught up in the moment, feel of playing music for people.
– Neil Evans
Active Child will appear as part of the Laneway Festival tour, as well as splintering off for a couple of headline sideshows. See full tour schedule below.
Saturday 28 January – Laneway Festival, Brisbane: Tickets
Sunday 29 January – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney: Tickets
Saturday 4 February – Laneway Festival, Melbourne: Tickets
Sunday 5 February – Laneway Festival, Sydney: Tickets
Wednesday 8 February – East Brunswick Club, Melbourne: Tickets
Friday 10 February – Laneway Festival, Adelaide: Tickets
Saturday 11 February – Laneway Festival, Perth: Tickets