Harps by and large are pretty unpopular instruments. Why? Well, it's not easy to rock out on a harp. They're hard to play with your teeth. You can't pound on them, and there is no chance of an Air Harp Competition starting anytime soon. However, if you're not looking to start a band, it's another story. This is where Pat Grossi comes in.
When Grossi began his project Active Child a few years ago, he had no interest in starting a band whatsoever. It was just him, a harp, and his laptop. To his utter surprise as soon as he started posting his unique blend of choral music and electronic pop on the Internet, people really dug it. All of a sudden he had to find musicians, deal with record labels, and grow into the idea that he had a band. We caught up with Active Child to talk about this whirlwind experience and his residency at the Echo which begins this coming Monday night and continues through August.
When did you start playing the harp?
One day I followed a friend over to a music store because he wanted a viola and there was this whole room full of harps. The store was owned by a really nice old lady who told me I could sit down and play any of them. They had this deal where I could rent to own one for $30 a month. And I thought, “Uh, okay.” So I walked away with a harp and at the end of the year I had paid it off. Then I sold that one and got another nice one and kept upgrading my harp status. But it was just curiosity, really.
Are you nervous about your debut album coming out next month?
Are you trying to freak me out?
No! I'm not.
Yeah there are some nerves. I put more of myself in this next album. There is more of my personality in it then the EPs. However the few songs we've put out there have gotten really positive reactions.
How did you write “I'm in Your Church at Night”?
That one was a pretty straightforward. I was studying abroad in Italy in college and there was this old church up the street from my apartment. The whole time I was there it was under construction. Then one night my friends and I were coming home from the bar late at night and we climbed the fence. The ceiling was ripped open and you could see the stars. It was the most amazing experience I've had with a bunch of people.
Were you worried about turning the EP into a live show?
That was the unsettling reality. After getting some attention people started asking me when I was going to play a show and I was like, “What show? I'm not playing any shows.” How do I recreate this thing? I had no idea how to put it together. Actually I'm still trying to figure it out. I want it to sound honest and authentic and have it still sound like the album. I think every musician deals with this.
Well that's what a residency is for, working out the kinks.
Oh man, that's what I'm most nervous about, playing new stuff live. I'll just have to go out there guns blazing.
Just book people who are terrible to go before you.
Good idea! I'll book some mediocre bands and then I'll just be a little bit better than mediocre and look okay. Strategy.
How did you end up with Ariel Rechtshaid producing your album?
I really wanted to work with a producer for this next album who could tighten up loose ends and help me sound a certain way. I didn't want to recycle the same shit. I wanted to develop and do something new. Ariel came to a show and we clicked right away. I sent him some tracks and we were totally on the same page. It was a perfect fit. Even when we disagreed we came to good compromises.
Okay, last question: If you were on the last space shuttle launch and you could bring three albums on board what would they be?
Oooh, that's hard. I think I would need some sort of classical album. Probably Wendy Carlos, she wrote the soundtrack for a Clockwork Orange. She does a lot of cool creepy electronic music based on classical stuff. I'd probably take Lennon's Imagine album because it's perfect. And … Daft Punk.
Which album or doesn't it matter?
It definitely matters. Not the last one, probably Discovery.
Good choice. Thank you for talking with us.
Be sure and catch Active Child at the Echo every Monday in August. It's free.