After years of playing with the punk rock outfit the Briggs, Matthew Stolarz was looking for a new challenge, so he assembled The Active Set, a band with roots in New Wave and Punk, but not afraid to venture into new sounds and styles.
They've released their debut album 11 and are currently touring with Neon Trees in support of the record. The L.A. band is quickly building a dedicated following. Riffraf recently talked to Matthew about forming The Active Set and where they're headed.
Why did you leave the Briggs and start The Active Set?
I helped start the Briggs, and those boys and I got along so well I stayed probably longer than I should have. I was a bassist, but I really wanted to sing and play a completely different style than punk rock. It's completely in my musical upbringing, and part of my roots, but for the music I wanted to write it was a bit one-dimensional.
What were some of the challenges in starting The Active Set?
Finding the right set of guys. My first attempt at starting a band failed because I grabbed the closest friends who happened to play music. This was not smart. You need people who are aligned to a common vision, as much as that is possible.
Your music has a New Wave, Post-Punk vibe. Who have been your major influences?
XTC was my world for about three years. I absorbed every album, and Black Sea is one of my favorite albums of all time. There was a lot of British influence - 70s, 80s, and 90s. Once we got Castro, and he introduced the electronic drums it really brought us a bit more into New Wave territory.
How collaborative is the songwriting process?
At this point, we mostly collaborate on the music, and I write the lyrics. Although one of the songs on the album was a full song I wrote, and our drummer Castro and I fully flushed out the arrangement.
What has been the response to your debut album, 11?
Very positive. What's interesting is everybody has different favorites. A few write-ups have talked about a possible lack of cohesion track to track, but I don't care. If that's true, I'd rather have a scattered eclectic album than twelve tracks that all sound the same.
How did you choose the band's name?
I've always loved energy in music, which is probably why I got into punk as a kid. I get really excited by a great band or even some really well executed electronic beats. So I had this word 'active' and tried dozens of combinations 'til I stumbled onto Active Set. I loved it.
How much fun was filming the zombie massacre for "Famous For Dying"?
Our director wanted to do a camp horror video, so we let him run with it. It was great. The zombies really delivered performance-wise. It was uncomfortably messy for some and cleanup took a long time.
So, what's next for you guys?
Well, we're currently on tour with Neon Trees which has been amazing. They have such supportive, eager fans who are really open to the openers. It's been the best tour thus far, so we're looking to get on the road more.
(Elford Alley has had plays produced and read across the United States and his sketch comedy featured in several shows in Chicago. He also writes for cracked.com. He currently resides in Dallas with his wife and daughter.)