Magnetic, Majestic: Active Child
Upon hearing Active Child’s debut album, You are All I See, listeners have immediately detected something distinctly spiritual behind the harp and choir-skilled falsetto vocals. While the sound is arguably more heavenly than say, Joanna Newsom’s sound, there is a noticeable air of presage and remorse. “Sometimes I’m scared to admit it,” the man behind Active Child, Pat Grossi, concedes. This is his response when I propose that, much like Sparkadia’s album The Great Impression, You are All I See is as much about questioning the consignment to a religion as it is about the worship of someone in a relationship. Grossi continues, “I think the strong emotional aspect of the album is reflective of a specific woman in my life, but it’s a combination of things. A lot of the songs are a confession for me.”
Apart from his emotional honesty, Grossi’s elevated sound is informed by his agnostic curiosity. “I don’t know if I consider myself very spiritual. I definitely didn’t grow up as a religious person, going to church with my parents, or anything like that. But I can’t deny having a really strong curiosity for…” Grossi pauses thoughtfully, “the mystic world. I get wrapped up in it pretty easily. What I love to do, when I’m on the road, is go to churches and places that have some sort of spiritual history to them. I find them captivating. When I write music I’m intrigued by those sounds: organs, vocals, harps… All those things lead into the direction of the lyrics. And the lyrics and instrumentation have respect for one another.”
Grossi’s childhood may explain why he associates music with the transcendental world. Grossi’s discovery of music was portentous and seems to have drawn him to it, rather than the other way around. Grossi’s father worked for Priority Records (a rap label) and worked with artists like Easy-E and N.W.A. In his youth, Grossi met Snoop, Dre and Eminem. And his hunger for music extended beyond rap. “I played guitar when I was young, but I always had a latch onto any string instrument that came my way,” Grossi says. “One day I went with a musician friend of mine to the music shop form him to return an instrument. There was a harp in the show room and I sat down and started tinkering on it. Then the woman who worked there offered to rent it out to me for a month for free. Eventually, after months and months of playing and practicing, and paying the monthly rent, I owned the harp. I fell in love with it from the moment I first played it.”
Grossi’s musical mastery seems like it may even broaden beyond these early roots. He has expressed an involvement in rappers’ and electronic artists’ music lately, and he hints at production as he tells me that with the debut album, “it was a big step for me to work with someone else and have them in front of me, manipulating these programs. I wanted to learn these production techniques to make myself a stronger artist.”
Regardless of what else Grossi becomes involved in, he’s already got something special going on as Active Child. The match of harps with his adolescent experience as a choir boy for the Philadelphia Boys Choir delivers on the familial and emotional. To see Active Child live would only further unveil what he has to offer. Fortunately his headlining at the Laneway Festival, along with a few side shows, will provide us with an Australian-first opportunity to see him perform live. Wait a minute, not Australian-first… It turns out Grossi has actually been here once before, at the age of twelve with the Choir, to perform at the Sydney Opera House. “I remember it well actually,” Grossi says. “While there we went to Ayres Rock and visited an Aboriginal village… We did the classic tourist stuff. It was a pretty great trip so I’m looking forward to returning now that I’m an adult!”
Apart from playing the Laneway Festival, Active Child is also doing sideshows in Sydney and Melbourne. Which is great for those of us who can’t make the festival (wah!)!