I felt my jaw drop as the lights dimmed and the curtains opened to a humming choir and the sound of strings. The stage filled with romantic statues and flowers provided the perfect backdrop to an Active Child performance at the El Rey. The performance transported the audience to a different place. It was all too romantic and reflected the new EP, Rapor, perfectly. Active Child (Pat Grossi) was accompanied by a choir, a string quartet and a live band. Grossi performed mostly new material from Rapor. The new EP demonstrates Grossi’s ability to blend synths, R&B and classical instruments into a cohesive project. It gives fans a peak of what to expect on the full-length out next year.
mxdwn was able to speak to Pat Grossi after the performance and talked about live performances, the new EP and the upcoming full length.
Your live performances keep growing with every new release. At a recent performance at the El Rey, you were accompanied by a choir, a sting quartet and full band. Where do you see your live performances going?
Grossi: It has definitely been a revolution for me. I think the more I perform, the more I understand the atmosphere of a venue and myself as a performer. It’s a learning curve. You first start out and think it’s enough and you perform and realize that it’s not enough. I read somewhere recently in a book that said something like, the stage requires everything to be bigger, bolder, brighter and exaggerated because you are something bigger than life when you are up there. You have to live up to that perspective. That’s why I wanted to do something that was a little bit bigger and bolder. I’m not sure if I’ll continue down that path, but I definitely would like to continue to push myself. It gets a bit repetitive when you are on tour and performing the same songs night after night. Maybe in the future I would like to do some shows that just features me and strings and nothing else. Just really simple basic stuff.
What would you add to your live performance?
I think I would possibly like to add a more defined production in terms of lighting and set design. The show on Saturday was put together from my mind, essentially. I woke up on a Saturday morning and drove down to the flower market and just bought a lot of flowers and threw it all together last minute. I am realizing more and more that there are so many possibilities when you have a stage and an encouraging audience. It’s a beautiful moment as a group. I have a lot of ideas for performances. I kind of fool around with the idea of maybe doing a masquerade concert. Either you bring a mask or you get a mask when you enter the venue and enter this pseudo Kubrick-esque vibe. I imagine the lights not only being on the stage, but also on the audience. I have a lot of wacky ideas. I would like to be as captivating as possible in front of an audience.
Do you have a favorite song off the EP? Or a particular song you enjoy performing live?
I like performing the track “Subtle” off the new EP. It puts a lot more energy into my body than anything I’ve performed live before. I find myself getting into that point and just not thinking of what I am doing at all and the performance just kind of happens. For me, that is the best possible outcome– just to be on stage and for it not to be preconceived in any way. I also really like performing “Silhouette,” which is usually the last song we perform because it is so epic and has this nice flow. Performing that song is really fun.
The EP’s sound shifts from earlier releases. Where did this influence stem from?
Essentially, I got home from tour and was looking at my collection of instruments. I ended up buying a few different options– Prophet ’08 and a Moog. I had a these new keyboards to play with. I came home from tour feeling more focused on writing things that gave me energy onstage. I wanted to push myself emotionally, as well as the audience, a little with rhythm. I felt the first album was great but I wanted to have a little more movement on the EP. Partially, I think I think I was bored with harp. I think for a long time I was incorporating it into my music. I wanted to step away for it for just a second, but not completely. Obviously, there are still tracks that have the harp featured. Overall, I wanted to create something with more movement.
Speaking of the harp… When were you first pulled toward the harp?
The first time ever was when I was really young. I sang in a choir and we even performed with the Philadelphia Philharmonic at one point. Every year we would preform The Nutcracker during the holidays. There was a section that would play that was just harp. I always remembered being captivated by the shape and the overall sound of the instrument. That was actually one of my first memories, actually seeing and hearing it live. I thought it was pretty incredible.
The EP concludes with “Evening Ceremony,” which features the harp. Did you find the need to incorporate it in some way?
I felt like the EP needed to be balanced in some ways. When I started putting songs together for the EP, I tried to pick things that complimented each other, but also that were distinct and engaged in contrast and not having it feel too one dimensional. I felt like “Evening Ceremony” fit as a kind of bookend to the project.
The song “Silhouette” features Ellie Goulding. I know she covered “Hanging On” on her album. How did you first come in contact with her?
I met her at one of her shows in New York years ago. We exchanged emails and she came to a few shows of mine in London. I began writing the EP and thought it would be really cool to do something. I was singing the melody for “Hanging On” and thought her voice would be perfect for the track. A few months later we contacted her and she recorded it. It caught me off guard because we didn’t hear back from her for a while. We thought she was just too busy or she felt she wasn’t the right fit. She eventually hit me back and said, “Yes, I’ll be there tomorrow. Let’s do it.”
Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
There are just so many. I would like to collaborate with Karin Dreijer Andersson of The Knife; that would be incredible. There is a Canadian guy, Owen Pallet, who records under the name Final Fantasy. I think he is great. I’d love to do something with him. There are a lot of producers I would also love to work with. There are a lot of options, but I think at this point I would like to stick with myself for a little bit. I have been open with collaborating and having features on my albums. Right now, I would like to do me for a little bit.
What is the first song you remember listening to?
I remember my dad playing “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson. It’s one of my favorites. It was definitely one of the first songs I can remember, in terms of the words and melody.
Would you consider Michael Jackson as a musical influence? Who would you consider early musical influences?
Michael Jackson would definitely be an influence, for sure. I never really thought of it that way before. One of the ones that really sticks out to me when I was first starting to write music was Animal Collective. They really changed my perspective on music. They showed me a new angle because it didn’t really follow any format. I found that really exciting and inspiring at the time. Sade is also a big one for me. I remember when I first moved to Los Angeles when I was thirteen and I listened to a lot of hip-hop. Listening to Sade was a pretty sharp turn for me.
What should we be looking out for next?
I recorded a lot of stuff that didn’t go on the EP. I have a collection of stuff to dig into. A full length is coming; I just need to work on it a little more to get it exactly where I want it to be. A full length should be out by the spring, hopefully. I will begin touring again in March and plan on releasing some new material up until then.