NAME: Active Child
PROGRESS REPORT: Harp enthusiast and dream pop impresario Pat Grossi puts the finishing touches on a full-length debut
It would be easy — and understandable — to lump Active Child in with all the other chillwave and nugaze dreamboats that floated into everyone’s iTunes over the past two years. Like a hybrid offspring of M83, Animal Collective, and Washed Out, Active Child’s spectral choir music is a decidedly ephemeral affair — a gently plucked harp, layers of hazy, hyper-manipulated guitars and synths, and falsetto-ish vocals that sound as if they are being broadcast from some other, more heavenly plain. Still, there is something about Active Child’s particular brand of blissy drone pop that sets it apart from the pack. Essentially the work of one person — vocalist, harpist, and bedroom recording whiz Pat Grossi — Active Child’s repertoire is equal parts naïve recording techniques and classically informed musicianship. On 2010’s Curtis Lane EP, Grossi splits the difference between shimmery, atmospheric numbers and songs that are meant to make you dance, albeit in a modest, harp-inflected kind of way. Now that he’s putting the final dollops of sonic glitter on his debut full-length, Grossi is ready to kick things up a notch.
“Hello? Hello? Sorry, I’m at the beach in Malibu,” says Grossi, “I’m taking a little break today. Cell phone service at the beach is limited.” For Grossi, the beach break is well earned. He spent the better part of 2010 on the road, touring with the likes of White Rabbits and School of Seven Bells before finally heading back to Los Angeles to begin work on a new album. Having spent the past two months locked up in an Echo Park studio, Grossi is excited to talk about his new music and the unexpected weirdness that comes with being a working musician.
“We’re about 75% finished with the record,” he says, “Now we’re into the fun part. The songs are basically completed, structure-wise, so now it’s just about playing around with weird sounds and adding layers of vocal harmonies and stuff. Making this record, especially the studio experience, has been a whole new experience for me. In the past I was just working alone, trying to make things sound the best that I could. I wanted to maintain that same spirit in whatever I did next, but I also wanted to be able to make things sound better — bigger.”
For the new record, Grossi enlisted the help of producer Ariel Rechtshaid (also known for his work with Cass McCombs and Glasser) to further expand his sound. “He has this amazing room full of toys,” says Grossi, “All these old synths and weird percussion instruments. It was great for me to actually twist knobs for a while and get away from the laptop. I really wanted to make a more ‘vocal’ album — to just my voice as an instrument more than I have in the past. I also wanted to work in more harp this time. It seems like a lot of people really latched on to the harp element in my work, so it seems like a good idea to expand on. Plus, you know, I actually know how to play a harp — which is kind of a weird skill — so I might as well showcase that!”
According to Grossi, months of touring helped to both shape his new material and hone his skills as a performer, while also giving him a crash course in what it means to be in a band. “The live shows have always been a rollercoaster for me. There are times when it’s amazing and you feel a lot of love from people, and then there are those nights when it goes badly and you don’t sell any merch and you find yourself standing in a rock club in the middle of the night questioning what you’ve done with you life.”
“Now that I’ve been home for a few months, and now that these new songs are nearing completion, I’m really excited to be out on tour again,” says Grossi. “In the past the live setup has been very basic: me on harp and a friend of mine playing bass and keyboards, with both of us singing harmonies together. It’s a lot of loops and backing tracks. This time around I want to be able to give more. We’ve been working with a drummer here in LA, which I think will give more energy to the whole thing.”
Grossi might not be giving up too many details about the new record (at press time the tracklisting, release date, and song titles were still pretty amorphous), but he seems genuinely excited about what the future entails.
“Believe me when I say, I had NO idea that people would be so receptive to my music,” he says. “It wasn’t until I had people that I didn’t know at all contact me and ask to release my songs that I honestly believed that anyone would or could be interested. Once signing to a label and playing shows suddenly became a viable option, I decided to put all of my energies into it and see where it would lead, but before then this was all something that I had been doing just for me, usually alone in my room with no one paying any attention. One day you are just a person making some sounds and posting them on the Internet, the next thing you know you are dealing with a label and publishing and, if you are me, you just constantly have to stop and say, Dude, what the fuck is happening right now?”
Active Child’s full-length debut will be out this summer on Vagrant.