Active Set

Band of the Month -- The Active Set

Posted on .

The Active Set was born out of the excitement of late '70s/early '80s post punk and new wave, unified with '90s alternative and viewed through the referential lens of the '00s. Drawing from this wide range of influences, lead vocalist/bassist Matthew Stolarz and guitarists Johnty Thompson and Francis Ramsden crafted a sound that is both energetic and intelligent. They love love quirky, driven melodies with smart hooks. Then they like to change their minds, and change it up. Welcome to Los Angeles, a place for movers and shakers. It's a place to really get things started. If you don't live here yet, you will.

By Bradley Weinholtz

Matthew Stolarz was dissatisfied. A Los Angeles native, he had helped form and was playing bass in an punk rock band, but it just wasn't enough. Drawing from a wide range of influences, he had written an abundance of eclectic material that needed a proper home. He quit to make this happen, and formed the Active Set. Collaborating in the studio with some of his closest friends, a six-song EP was created, the first release. Despite his American roots, Matthew is forever an Anglophile, claiming XTC as his favorite band of all time.

Through ways and means, English export Johnty Thompson found his way to the band and was thoroughly hounded until he came on board to play guitar. Johnty had played in some bands in the UK, including one called Dollar Hit. He has a vast love for and knowledge of Radiohead and their catalog, but is also the most metal-literate member of the Active Set. He brings the swagger, and is the one most likely to know what he's talking about gear-wise.

An ad for a second guitarist was posted everywhere and eventually spotted by Francis Ramsden, former frontman of emo-pop band Champion the Average. Francis liked the ad's use of the word "smart” and decided to give it a go. He fit right in, and eventually cut his hair. Francis instinctively places his hands into the strangest chord positions, and yet creates the loveliest arpeggios. He is the most likely to reference U2, much to the chagrin of Johnty. But he also brings other influences to the table, everything from Sigur Ros to Miike Snow.

Discovered (and almost completely passed over) at a 4th of July barbecue, Gabriel Grinta is a drummer who also happens to be well versed in Latin percussion. He spent years performing just that, ironically in Japan. He's played everything from masked techno to boxed folk, and says yes to everything. Often caffeinated, Gabriel is always doing something. His tastes are as varied as you might expect of a trained musician, but highlights include The Strokes, The 1975, Phantogram and Mew.

Matthew Stolarz (vocals, bass)

Fender p-bass re-issue (customized: new paint, DiMarzio pickups)
Ampeg Portaflex-350 bass head
Ampeg 4x10 cab
Ampeg 1x15 cab
Electro-Harmonix bass Big Muff distortion pedal

Johnty Thompson (guitar, vocals)

Fender American Telecaster guitar
Fender Twin Reverb Amp
Akai E2 Head Rush delay pedal
Fulltone OCD distortion pedal
Fulltone Fulldrive 2 MOSFET overdrive pedal
Ernie Ball VP JR

Francis Ramsden (guitar, vocals)

Fender Stratocaster guitar

Got a band to be considered for Band of the Month? Send us an email at botm@musiciansfriend.com

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