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Active Child has graduated to playing major venues throughout this fall while touring with M83. The one-man-show is Pat Grossi, who writes about the delicate space between heartbreak and heartache. The release of his debut album You Are All I See this year found its inspiration in the cross-genres of soul, funk and avant-garde pop through artists like Al Green, Bill Withers and Animal Collective.
Grossi’s falsetto voice caught the attention of How to Dress Well’s Tom Krell, who did a remix for “Playing House” that has generated a lot of buzz. Grossi will be playing a show in Tokyo with Krell’s How to Dress Well following the end of his tour (and post-tour relaxation).
We caught up with Pat Grossi at Webster Hall this week before his performance where he spoke about the influence of singer-songwriter Bill Withers, musical comparisons and being a “falsetto dude.”
ILANA KAPLAN: You’re often compared to James Blake. Do you agree with that comparison or others that you have come across?
PAT GROSSI: I’m fine with comparisons. Comparisons to James Blake come into almost every review and interview. I’m really honored to be compared with musicians of that caliber. When I describe my own music to someone else, I bring up comparisons because it’s natural.
But I try not to read reviews at all. It’s a really personal thing. I make my music because I like it. I hope that other people like it as well. People are saying that you’re trying to be this person or that you’re this imposter. It’s frustrating. I think we have a lot in common as far as our vocal styles and our drum sampling that we use. Comparisons are cool. We toured together as well. I’ve got no beef.
KAPLAN: How did Active Child’s name come about?
GROSSI: I think it really started about three or four years ago for me. I played a bunch of music. I got a job there. It was kind of a change. My parents came out to see me. I played a bunch of music for my mom.
KAPLAN: What are some of your influences?
GROSSI: A lot of old-school funk. Al Green is a huge, huge artist in my life. Bill Withers: the song “Grandma’s Hands” is something I’ll always love and take to the grave. My time spent in the choir obviously had a huge effect on my voice whether or not it was conscious or subconscious. I think it’s just stuck with the way that I sing. A lot of modern artists like Animal Collective. Obviously, M83 has had a huge influence on me. His albums have always been a huge inspiration for me as far as synths and textures. A lot of eighties New Wave stuff like Kraftwerk, Joy Division and A-ha. More poppy stuff like that. It’s a melding of those different artists.
KAPLAN: What’s your touring experience been like with M83?
GROSSI: It’s been great. It’s been fun. This is kind of our last hurrah. There’s tonight and tomorrow. Then we’re done. It’s been a month of pretty intense touring around the country. It’s been incredible to play some of these big venues like Webster Hall. In Boston, we played House of Blues. It’s the biggest House of Blues in the country. It’s nice to get out of the smaller venues and into a bigger space.
KAPLAN: What was your inspiration for You Are All I See?
GROSSI: It was a lot of different things. It was kind of the music I listened to at that point, which was a lot of soul and funk, a lot of Al Green, a lot of Bill Withers and artists like that. It was also kind of inspired by where I was as far as my life, in a moment of heartache and heartbreak. Naturally that album has a lot of those subjects and tones in it. I think I was inspired by the last year of traveling, touring, seeing a lot new places and meeting new people. Basically, spending my time being in a lot of special churches: playing in churches.
KAPLAN: I know that You Are All I See is about a romantic relationship in your life. Does the person you have a relationship with during the recording of this album know it was about them?
GROSSI: Yeah. They do. For sure. We’re actually still together.
KAPLAN: Why did you decide to become a musician?
GROSSI: I think it was kind of a combination of where I was living at the time, in Denver. I had a lot of friends making music.I think I rediscovered my voice and rediscovered my love of just making music. I went to school for art and I didn’t do much music in college. It was during that period where I started to feel like I wanted to make something concrete, record something, have finished pieces instead of just sitting down and playing some chords or learning some songs. Once I went out and bought a few basic things, like a microphone and keyboard, I recorded some stuff. I felt like I had something that I wanted to get out. I started playing for the people around me. They were responding to it. There were a lot of popular thoughts and feelings. It spurred me to continue and get better. And here I am.
KAPLAN: Would you be an artist if you weren’t a musician?
GROSSI: I’m much better at audio art than visual art. I don’t know. I was looking to work somewhere in the visual art world before the music started happening, so I might have ended up in this direction. Now that I’ve had some success on this path, I’m not going anywhere. I don’t plan on going anywhere yet.
ACTIVE CHILD WILL PLAY WITH M83 AT MUSIC HALL OF WILLIAMSBURG IN BROOKLYN TONIGHT.