Posted by: nick
Our final interview from Brighton’s Great Escape 2010 and this one’s a real treat as we caught up with Pat Grossi otherwise known as one of our favourite new artists Active Child. The interview took place outside Horatios Bar on Brighton Pier where Pat would play later that night. We took our chance to get to the bottom of that awesome harp and a lot more.
So this is your first proper tour?
This is definitely my first proper tour. I’ve played a few shows in LA and a couple of gigs in San Fran and then did the whole SXSW thing. This is my first time over here, I’ve never even been to London.
To us a couple of the tracks featured on your new Curtis Lane EP, ‘When Your Love Is Safe’ and ‘Take Shelter’, sound more like straight up dance/pop than the rest of your songs. Were you conscious of that when making them?
‘When Your Love Is Safe’ is definitely a more straightforward pop song. ‘Take Shelter’ is an earlier song I wrote maybe a year and a half ago. Some of the other stuff like ‘Weight Of The World’ and ‘I’m In Your Church At Night’ was just this past fall so may have a bit of a different vibe to it.
What’s your songwriting process? Music or lyrics first?
It’s almost always music first. Often I’ll start just singing into a mic and feeling out a range, maybe holding a note and creating a couple of harmonies over that. Then I can feel out what sort of rhythm is in my head and some sort of drum beat and then it just builds from there. You add a synth layer, add a pad layer and the more you shape it the more the lyrics start to come to me. But I wouldn’t say I’m too formulaic otherwise you start making a lot of the same shit!
What’s with the harp?!?
Ha ha. It came about two years ago, I’ve always been fascinated by it and had the desire to play it. I was living in Denver at the time and a friend of mine had rented a viola and I tagged along with him to the shop where they had a big harp showroom. I sat down and gave it a strum and it was everything and more that I thought it would be. I was looking for some kind of organic element that would fit with my voice and I think it added a nice touch.
What is your favourite song to play live?
Probably ‘Wilderness’, it feels really big to me and I’m comfortable banging it out. It doesn’t have some of the gut wrenching high notes that the others do!
Did you have vocal training to learn to hit those notes?
I grew up on the Eastside before moving to L.A. and sang in the Philadelphia Boys Choir from about age 9 to 13. They were a really prestigious group and we travelled the world and played some amazing venues.
What is your first memory of playing live?
I was really young and my parents didn’t know I could sing so they were shocked I was accepted into this choir. About three months later the choir was playing Carnegie Hall, which is one of the most famous concert halls in the U.S. and I ended up singing a solo. My grandfather was in the front row and I remember singing and him getting teary eyed. I was only a little guy but it was a moment.
What does live music mean to you as a performer?
To me it’s pretty essential to the music. I don’t feel really my live show is where it should be but I was anxious to show people what I have now. I think a lot of people turn up and think “I wish it was bigger”. But for now as a performer I think it’s important to put my ass out on the line and hopefully people feel it.
… And as a music fan?
I went to a lot more shows before I started playing shows myself. You spend a lot of time at venues and it starts to weigh on you a bit but if it’s a band I’ve been really curious to see perform, I’ll be there checking them out.
What was the last gig you played that sticks in your mind and why?
Club Koko just last week. It was one of the coolest venues I’ve seen or played. In soundcheck I remember playing the harp and just singing with nothing else and the place was echoing. I’d never really felt such a big sound in a space before. Then the very next night I played upstairs at The Garage which was just the worst sound!
What’s the best gig you’ve seen recently?
I saw the Smith Westerns at SXSW and they had a good little rock swagger going on and some good songs. I saw The Drums and was more impressed by the lead singer who’s a bit of a rock star. So I took some tips from him and I’ve started throwing some mic tricks into my game!
If you had to name one (and you do!), what’s the best gig you’ve ever seen?
Probably Nine Inch Nails at a big amphitheatre called Red Rocks outside Denver, Colorado. The sound was amazing and I like the songs but it was the stage props that did it. Trent Reznor had this kind of screen in-front of him that he could touch and move almost like Minority Report. It was psycho! That’s for my stadium world tour that one!
You get to curate an imaginary festival stage. Aside from your own pick five bands, two old and three new, to play alongside you?
I’ll take the Jackson Five in there as an old band and maybe just get some soul with it and take Al Green.
Then maybe for the new stuff maybe The Knife, then a crazy metal band like Gwar and maybe throw The Walkmen into the mix, I’ve been dying to see them live.
And my festival’s going to be free with unlimited drinks and free glasses because the whole thing’s going to be in 3-D!
In olden times people weren’t thought to be geniuses, they ‘had geniuses’. A genius was a spirit that attached itself to an artist (often animal, human or otherwise) that helped him or her create. What would your genius be?
Now that we’re looking out at the ocean I think it would be some kind of liquid spirit, some kind of plasma spirit that could phase out to where it wanted to be at that moment. Maybe the Silver Surfer covered in plasma!
Active Child’s Curtis Lane EP is out through Merok Records on May 24th in the UK and June 1st in the U.S.