Talks About Old Bands, New Music and Punk Rock
By: Steven Eriksen
Steven Eriksen interviews Matthew Stolarz, singer/bassist of American indie rock band The Active Set For Punk Globe
Here are some photo's of Matthew's new band The Active Set.......Photo's by Sterling Ahdrews of Shutter Fall Photography .
Punk Globe: Tell me about your band.
MS: Ah! There's so much to tell you! Well, we're from Los Angeles. It's a mixed bag here.
Punk Globe:: What do you mean?
MS: Well, we've got every conceivable form of entertainment times ten, plus everyone coming here from elsewhere to get discovered, whether it's
music, acting, pottery...
MS: Joking. To make a point.
Punk Globe: Ah, yes. I'm pretty familiar with your music by now. Your band has a mixed sound. It sounds like a lot of things all at once.
MS: That's the biggest compliment I could ever receive.
MS: Of course! No one wants to be accused of the same song over and over. Then you're just boring and one-dimensional.
Punk Globe: Like a lot of music.
MS: Yeah. I suppose you do want some kind of common thread through your music if you want to build and sustain an audience, but I figure
this will happen naturally, having one lineup, one singer. Some bands have a killer sound, but I figure you have to change things up at some
point to stay interesting.
MS: Like the Strokes. They did 2 albums with a very consistent sound, not particularly straying from it. The third album is still Strokes,
but they really managed to evolve. I'd be curious to hear the next album, if it happens.
Punk Globe: You think Julian will continue as a solo artist?
Punk Globe: Well, your sound is strong. It's modern, but you can definitely hear the 80s in it.
MS: So we're "modern 80s."
Punk Globe: Yes. Modern 80s! Well, it definitely has a new-wave thing happening. A little English too.
MS: Ha! This always comes up.
MS: Yeah, I have 15-35% British inflection, depending on the day.
Punk Globe: This sounds intentional.
MS: Not at all. Some people try and form a voice to sound like their favorite singers. I had always just sang, and when I really started to
nitpick my own voice I realized how much of my phrasing was British. I blame it on years of listening to XTC, Pulp, Bowie and stuff.
Punk Globe: Britpop? A big influence?
MS: Yeah, as the 90s went on, I found myself more drawn to English bands than what was happening in the States. I used to watch MTV late at
night when I was going to bed. "Alternative Nation" I think. One night I saw the video for "Charmless Man" (Blur), and it blew me away. It was
SO good. I also saw Pulp's "Common People" on MTV, and my life was changed. Oh Jarvis Cocker. What a man.
Punk Globe: And out went the American music?
MS: Oh trust me, I still had stuff I liked here. They Might Be Giants, Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I think I discover Paul Westerberg and the
Replacements during this time. But the Brit stuff really made an impact. XTC became one of my favorite bands of all time. I was obsessed.
Punk Globe: You used to play punk.
Punk Globe: Tell me about that.
MS: Well, my first band was the Briggs. They've been to Europe a bunch. You know them?
Punk Globe: Of course. That's why I wanted the interview. Your music does not sound like the Briggs.
MS: No. Not really. Truth be told, I was the bass player, and the brothers LaRocca did the majority of the songwriting. I was a co-executive
along with Joey (LaRocca, singer of the Briggs), but my input was more organizational. And playing dress-up.
MS: Yeah, I used to plan creative outfits for the shows. I was half-burned once. A soccer player. I wore my girlfriend's red hip-hugger
bell bottoms one show. This made people mad.
MS: Punk Rock is a weird world. You have these ideas of rejecting culture, thinking for yourself, being an individual, etc. But then you wear
a funny hat and all the punks dismiss you. You don't fit in. You're wearing the wrong outfit. It's really dumb. I'll be arrogant for a moment
and say I was more punk than any of them!
Punk Globe: Is that why you left?
MS: Not really. I'm a songwriter. I love it. It's one of my favorite things in the world. I wanted to write and sing in the Briggs, but with
both brothers already singing it was a conflict of interests. I went through my own stupid internal conflict about the whole thing, but
leaving was the best thing. We were all such good friends that I couldn't really do the standard, "Screw you, I'm leaving" thing. It was so
hard to leave. So hard. But it worked out. Except for the revolving door of bassists they've had since then.
Punk Globe: Based on your music, I don't hear you singing in the Briggs.
MS: (laughing) No one does!
Punk Globe: So you left to start your own band?
MS: Yes. It was one of those "Do I stay with my friends playing music I'm not into or throw it all away and start from scratch?" decisions.
One of the hardest moves of my life. I think it was good though.
Punk Globe: So you don't like punk?
MS: Oh no, I actually love a lot of punk. In my younger days, I swore by Descendants, NOFX, Ramones, Operation Ivy, Stiff Little Fingers,
a bunch of stuff.
Punk Globe: But you didn't want to play punk?
MS: No, I did. I liked playing high-energy music. Punk feels great to play live. But my tastes had gone much more eclectic at that point, and
Joey was getting into a lot of oi, which I really didn't like very much. I remember trying to force myself to like Cock Sparrer, so we could
keep a common ground. The Briggs were getting more aggressive, and I didn't feel particularly angry, so it wasn't my thing. I felt alienated,
and didn't know what to do because I was very loyal. But I think our forward progress as a band suffered at that point. There was dissension in
Punk Globe: Do you still talk?
MS: Of course. We're good friends. Also, Jason (LaRocca, other singer/lead guitarist of the Briggs) recorded our first EP, and both
brothers played on it. Jason has been overseeing recording of our new stuff too.
Punk Globe: What does that sound like?
MS: I sounds like a lot more of a band. Our drummer's super inventive. There's a lot of sweet guitar interplay, dual lead Allman Brother's
Punk Globe: Allman Brother's?
MS: Okay, it doesn't sound like Allman Brothers. But guitars wrapping around each other and stuff.
Punk Globe: More musically driven?
MS: Mmmmmm, yeah, well, kind of. Well, I just think it's more of a band sound than before. It's cohesive. More creative by far.
Punk Globe: When does the new album come out?
MS: We're probably going to be doing a stream of singles throughout the year. We're still relatively unknown, so dropping an album into
the mass of music out there seems like a waste, at least right now.
Punk Globe: So when's the first single come out?
MS: In a couple months. We shot a video too, so that's exciting. It's gonna be one big PR explosion nightmare fun event thing.
Punk Globe: Sounds like it! Will you come to Europe?
MS: Oh man, I would LOVE to, but we have some work ahead of us before then. We're trying to be smart and not wasteful with touring.
Punk Globe: But sometimes don't you just have to bite the bullet and go?
MS: I suppose. Talk to us in a year, and if we haven't been to Europe yell at us.
Punk Globe: I will! Would you tour with the Briggs?
MS: Oh, in a heartbeat. We get along really well. But I don't know that their audience would care about us.
Punk Globe: Not "punk" enough?
MS: Probably not. But Joey (LaRocca, singer in the Briggs) is working on a solo album that will probably challenge the punks as well.
Punk Globe: Oh really? What does it sound like?
MS: Oh, you'll hear it I'm sure. More acoustic, experimental. I just heard demos.
Punk Globe: Interesting. Well, I'll save the rest of my questions for his interview.
MS: (laughing) No, I don't mind talking about him. He's awesome.
Punk Globe: Do you have any shows lined up locally?
MS: Not yet. We've been out of play mode for a while. I want to make sure when we come back to playing live, we have all our ideas for a
live show implemented.
MS: I don't even know yet. Just stuff to help strengthen the communication of our band. To make it more than just a band playing their
Punk Globe: That isn't enough?
MS: Well, no, it is... ugh. Okay, now I'm tongue-tied! Yes, a good band can stand on their performance. I think we're a more-than-decent
live act, but I want to give people more for their money. I don't want theatrics to cover the fact that we're not a good band. I just want
more fun for people. Right? More memorable. There's a lot of bands to remember.
Punk Globe: A better stage show. I get it. Well, it sounds like good things are happening. I'll let you get back to it.
MS: Okay. Do you want anything else from us?
Punk Globe: Send me new music when it's ready. Thanks for talking with me.
Punk Globe would like to thank Steven for doing the interview and wish Matthew well with The Active Set.