photo by paul rodriguez – styling by ton – sleeveless pullover by sir ton
Active Child is Pat Grossi, a former choir singer who grew up listening to rap and now makes synthpop. After his very well-received Curtis Lane EP on Filter, he toured Europe and won fans across the planet. His debut album You Are All I See will be out on Vagrant at the end of this month and he is in residency at the Echo every Monday in August. This interview by Lainna Fader.
What’s something you did on your first European tour that you’ve never done before?
It was great! It was a lot of fun! It was my first real tour so it was a bit of an adventure. We rented a Ford Focus and me and my buddy were hauling ass at 125 mph. I think that’s about fast as a Ford Focus can go.
How difficult is traveling with a harp?
Oh, it’s a bitch. I recently got a new one and it’s smaller and lighter and will be a lot easier to transport. Before I had a harp that wasn’t that much bigger but big enough so that it was a huge hassle. Flying with that thing is not easy. I had to detune it to bring it on the plane and once we got there it wouldn’t stay in tune. I brought it all the way to Austin and I couldn’t even use it! I was so stressed out and people kept asking for it but I only ended up playing it for one show. It was really annoying. Now I’ve got this new harp and it was really expensive so it sounds great. It’s mahogany.
Are people as shocked by seeing a harp player in Europe as they are in the U.S.?
More surprised in Europe, I think. We set up first and the harp rests out there as people trickle in. Sometimes I like to hang out and watch people come in—feel the vibe out for each place. And almost every time there’s like five people who hang out near the harp and take pictures of it. They stand around talking about it.
It’s a little unusual.
Yeah, but that’s what music needs—more unusualness.
What’s the most unusual instrument you’ve seen played live?
I saw a show in the Netherlands where a guy played the saw. They’re supposed to be really hard to play. Do you bow it or something? Is that how it works? They have this festival every year called the Dead Guy Festival, where they take this dead guy and parade him around this little mountain town. It’s pretty weird. People playing saws and walking around with gross dead bodies.
Did you see any more dead bodies on that tour?
Not so much. I think that one Dead Guy Festival was enough for me. We did party pretty hard in London and stayed with our friend who runs Transparent Blog and although no one died that night, there was one girl who slept face down with a few beers and pills in her and that was pretty close!
If you made a soundtrack to that tour, what would be on it?
House and techno jams! We were hauling with Benny Benassi and Solid Oakenfold, Crystal Castles’ new album on repeat. A lot of thumping bass and big hits.
Your dad worked for Priority Records. What kind of things did that do for you as a musician?
It put me in close contact with music—mostly hip-hop. Gangster rap though, which doesn’t really translate into my music in any way. I grew up listening to a lot of rap and I didn’t make the switch into the indie realm until college. I remember when the Up in Smoke tour came to L.A., I met Dre, Eminem, Snoop—that whole crew. I remember I was like 16 at the time and Eminem was even smaller than I was. They were all really cool. I’ve met random people here and there at my dad’s office.
What was Snoop like? When I met him a few years ago he called me Li’l Mama.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure he calls everyone ‘nephew’ even if you’re not related to him, and if you’re a girl you’re Li’l Mama. I’ve seen a lot of pictures of his CD release parties—like barbeques that my dad or my brother were at, and he would just roll blunts out of cardboard boxes and get stoned and barbeque. Pretty good. He’s got it made, man.
What other musicians do you admire? And why?
Animal Collective. They all seem to be really independent. I mean Noah Lennox lives in Portugal and is married. They have their own lives. They’re all friends that come together to make music and I’ve always admired their music.
Brian Wilson thought human voices in harmony was one of the most perfect and important sounds in music. How do you feel about that?
I think whatever Brian Wilson says about music is just about on point. He does whatever he wants and anything that came out after the Beach Boys was influenced by him and his genius sense of harmony. I definitely agree with him—and you know how much I like layered vocals!
ACTIVE CHILD EVERY MONDAY IN AUGUST AT THE ECHO, 1822 SUNSET BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8:30 PM / FREE / 21+. ATTHEECHO.COM. TONIGHT’S SHOW WITH CORRIDOR, ROBOTANISTS AND ELECTRIC GUEST. ACTIVE CHILD’S YOU ARE ALL I SEE RELEASES TUE., AUG. 23, ON VAGRANT. VISIT ACTIVE CHILD AT ACTIVECHILDMUSIC.COM.