I Would like to welcome The Active Set to the first Artist Creative Stories!
About The Active Set
With a healthy nod to '80s post-punk and rock, the Active Set offer a high-energy dose of indie, intelligent and upbeat. We love quirky, driven melodies with smart hooks. Then we like to change our minds, and change it up.
Andrea: Could you list every one's name and instrument they play.
Matthew Stolarz: bass and voice
Wayne Russell: guitar
Francis Ramsden: guitar/keys
Andrea: Individually, describe yourself in 3 words.
MS: approachable, considerate, determined
WR: British, stubborn, unequaled
FR: aqueous, middle-brained, palatable
MC: esoteric, compassionate, passionate
Andrea: Individually, what's your favorite book?
MS: Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
WR: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon
FR: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Sue Townsend
MC: Ramona The Pest, Beverly Cleary
Andrea: Individually, name something else that's your favorite.
MS: new recipes! Viva la cuisine!
WR: my dog Koda Scout
MC: surf green
Andrea: Individually, what is your favorite band or musician?
WR: I guess I have to say radiohead
FR: no favorites. Sigur Ros/Jonsi
MC: Frank Zappa
Andrea: Were any of you in a school band or drama club, something that involved music?
MS: Cello for one day, tenor sax for one semester, choir, musical theater for a spell
WR: I was exceptional on the recorder. I'm not kidding. I won competitions...
FR: elementry orchestra - second chair cello
MC: marching band (snare drum), chorus, choir ensemble - live performance of FAME
Andrea: What inspired the name The Active Set? Were there any other names you were going to choose?
MS: I knew I wanted something with energy. I sat with a pad and pen writing all sorts of things that came to mind, and stumbled upon the word 'active.' I tried a variety of combinations, and then Active Set came up. I was pretty certain of it right then. It also happens to be a mathematical term, which is fantastic, as there is nothing quite as rock and roll as mathematics.
Andrea: When did the band officially form? And how?
MS: The band formed when parted ways with the Briggs, an L.A. punk rock band that I co-founded. I was a bassist and co-decision maker in that band, but I was musically stifled and unsatisfied. Many of my roots are in punk, but there was so much more I wanted to do with music. I left on good terms, but then engaged in a failed attempt at a band. I blame it wholly on not taking charge, and not being decidedly clear on what I wanted. This hit me hard, and I drifted for a year or so. But things really began to roll when my brother Damien began pushing me to find a direction with what I wanted to do. He kept asking me what the band would sound like, etc. I then went on a art convention pleasure cruise, and really got my head clear about a lot of things. I started recording a variety of demos, and Briggs' guitarist/singer Jason LaRocca helped immensely, demanding I get them done so he could do a record with me. As a result, he produced and played guitar on the first EP. Within 9 months or so I had a band together.
Andrea: How long have you known each other?
MS: We've had our current lineup for over two years, and the dynamic is really quite strong. Guitarist Wayne Russell has been in pretty much from the beginning. Guitarist Francis Ramsden answered a want ad, and has been here a few years. Drummer Michael Castro saved our skins and filled in for SXSW '08 when our first drummer vanished for months. We kept him.
Andrea: What type of things inspire your music?
MS: I don't feel obligated to, but I tend to write what I know. A lot of the songs are about relationships or situations I've had, but not as a specific narrative. I like to shroud some things in metaphor, so it can perhaps mean more than it means. I have challenged myself at different times to write outside my comfort zone, so we have a few songs that push 'my' envelope, so to speak. Another thing is I am a fairly optimistic person. It can be a challenge to write something of that nature and not be tagged as "Christian rock" or "lame." (The Active Set are neither.)
Andrea: What's the bands goal? Or your plan for the future.
MS: We would like to find a collection of like-minded individuals who 'get us' and would like to help further our cause, be it in organization, fanship, etc. Anybody who would like to be a part of this, because there are some amazing things ahead.
Andrea: Have any of you ever met any bands that have inspired you?
MS: Just last week I got to talk to Steve Bays (singer for Hot Hot Heat) for a long time. He is really down to Earth and approachable. I am a huge fan, and they capture a certain energy with their music that I enjoy VERY much. They were a big influence, and I listened to a lot of HHH when recording our first EP. I was quite pleased to hand Mr. Bays a CD and say, "You were partially responsible for this."
Andrea: What are some of your most memorable performances?
MS: A friend put together a small show in a tiny theater, and it was our last show before a big recording break. I just remember feeling like I was doing so much more than singing and playing bass. It felt like a 'performance.' I was channeling something that night. It was electrical. On the down side, I once drug the boys into an outdoor show in Pasadena, CA. It was about 100 degrees, and roughly 6 people and a dog saw us play. It was terrible, and still the reference point for any bad shows.
Andrea: The band's favorite place to perform at?
MS: Jury's still out on that one.
Andrea: Does the band have any specific writing process?
MS: I am more accustomed to writing chords/lyrics as a whole, but this band has really changed all that for me. I would say we have 2 approaches at this point: one person's idea will be developed between one or two people, and then refined by the whole band, or the band just jams and the better ideas are evolved out. When starting this band, I really did want a collaborative effort, and that is exactly what I've got. I will often 'fake sing' melodies as we go, and finish out lyrics as a later step. This is quite odd for me, and even now I am still getting used to it.
Andrea: What's your biggest challenge as a band, together at the moment?
MS: 3 words: Get heard now. (Get our music out there, play larger shows, etc.)
Andrea: Do you have any advice for any musicians looking to form a band?
MS: Single most important piece of advice I can think of: Be as clear as possible as to what you want out of a band. You will make less mistakes that way and save a lot of time.
Thanks so much guys! And thanks Steve, their Manager/PR/etc. personal for getting in contact with me so long ago.