The Active Set Fails to Eat LA’s Spiciest Ramen, Gets It on Their Knickers Instead


A couple of weeks ago, we challenged The Active Set to eat the city’s spiciest bowl of ramen: The “Special #2” at Orochon in Little Tokyo, as featured on Man vs. Food. It would be painful, we promised. It would be difficult.

Most of all, it would be magnificent.

At least, it would have been, up until the four-piece set (heh) made up of frontman Matt, guitarist Francis, UK ex-pat Wayne and the ever-positive Steve decided to leave me to eat the whole thing all by my lonesome.

Here’s a little of what we talked about instead:

[7] Quick band history. Ten sentences or less. Go.

Matt: I was in a punk-rock band. I was bored. I didn’t wanna play punk-rock anymore. I wrote better songs than punk-rock songs…

All: Debatable.

[7] Picking their band name:

Matt: I fell in love with the word ‘Active’ and tried 10,000 other words behind it to try and come up with a band name, and ‘Set’ was the one that stuck. And the first image that came to mind was old people playing tennis.

[7]Their most recent Roxy show:

All: It was great.

Wayne: That was fun, yeah.

Matt: It gets better every day. And I’m not even joking. We were so rushed that night, they had five bands playing and so they were like, “Get on stage hurry, stop working, stop futzing with your sign.” And then we had three songs left and they said we could only play one and I argued and we got to play two. But yeah, every day that goes by . . .

Steve: I’ll say about the Roxy Show — good crowd, people were into it.
Francis: Great crowd.

Steve: Made some friends I think of some nice ladies that fancied the tunes. So that’s always fun.

Francis: Yeah we sold a bunch of merch so that was good too.

]7] How tape recorders work:

Matt: *leans in closer to the recorder* Yeah we played with—

Francis: You don’t have to look at the recorder when you’re talking.

Matt: No I was just wondering what brand it was. Hi little microphone, you’re so cute!

[7] Their song-writing process:

Francis: I write all the songs.

Matt: We’ve kind of been teaming up in pairs, rather than working all together to kind of jam stuff out. We’ve been like, oh I’ll come with ideas, and we’ll all write lyrics to something that we have jotted down. And it just seems to work better.


[7] Seeing the Special #2:

Francis: Oh that looks like hell in a bowl.

Steve: I can smell the spice going into my brain.

[2] Tasting the Special #2:

DSC_2824Matt: Wait a minute — well it’s hot but it’s not like I couldn’t sit down and eat a whole bowl of it. But it’s tasty as shit though. I would think you would not enjoy your digestive process later if you ate this whole thing.

DSC_2833Steve: This is nothing. I mean you’re right, I couldn’t eat a whole bowl.

Wayne: Maybe I’m just too English for it.

Francis: Everyone’s like, I should have gotten a [regular] number two.

Matt: What I wanna do now is take some of that and throw it in my soup.

Wayne: This is hot, you guys are mental.

Francis: [because the Special #2 contains pork] You guys realize I’m breaking a personal vow right now.

Matt: That’s all right, I’m breaking a personal vow every time I hang out with you guys.

Wayne: You know if you came here when you were sick.

Matt: Oh, it’d be the open-you-up soup.

Wayne: That’s what I’ll do. I’ll come when I have full AIDS.

Wayne: My mouth is actually burning.

DSC_2841Francis: I couldn’t do a whole bowl of it for sure. It’s not terrible. It’s hot, whoo. Yeah I’m getting dizzy.

[7] Who they’d like to tour with:

Matt: I’ve actually had a lot of people say we should tour with Minus the Bear, an indie rock band who I guess we sound enough like where people keep telling me we should tour with them. I think they’re from LA.

Francis: I would love to go back on tour with Neon Trees. They were super-super nice.

Matt: Hm, who else would we tour with? Hah, we’re kinda at a phase right now, where — name them, you know, we’ll tour with them.

Steve: Young the Giant, Walk the Moon — any band that’s ‘Verb-the-Noun’ — so Pierce the Veil, Assemble the Skyline, Destroy the . . .

Matt: I love that band. Empty the Garbage?

[7] On making their band name trendier:

Matt: Active the Set, we’ve joked about it.

Steve: Set the Active, well that’s a functional sentence. But Active the Set is not.

Wayne: Whatever.

[7] Wayne accidentally spilling something:

Wayne: Agh, I bloody well got soup all over my jeans.

Francis: Did it soak through to your knickers?

[7] On maybe trying the spicy ramen again:
So since no one actually did the challenge, would any of you be willing to eat this straight for two minutes?

Francis: No!

Steve: For two straight — ?

Francis: No, I’m gonna be dead.

For one minute?

Francis: Nope.

Matt: I’m stuffed.

Waiter: Ah man, I’ve never heard so many excuses.

Matt: I’m telling you, what a bunch of pansies.

Fine, 30 seconds.

Matt/Wayne: All right, I’ll do 30 seconds.

[7] When they’d like their next album out by:

Matt: Ideally May. I would love it May. But we’ll see how it goes.

Wayne: It’d be a nice birthday present for me.

Matt: We might go to England, play some shows there, just hang out with Wayne’s family. Um no, we’d go to plant delicious seeds of Active Set goodness.

Francis: Why are they delicious?

Matt: Come on, you’ve heard our band.


[7] Being an ‘LA Band’:
Can you explain your Facebook bio, that bit about “If you don’t live in LA yet, you will”?

Matt: Because LA is so many people who have come from other places. I mean it’s rare to meet people who — I know a lot of people who came from everywhere else, so it’s kind of a “haha, hooray LA” kind of thing.

But why put that in your bio?

Francis: Yeah why?

Wayne: Yeah, why did you do that?

Matt: Am I in trouble?

Francis: Actually now that you bring it up . . .

Matt: Because the bio Francis wrote was crap. Just kidding. I don’t know, I was kind of celebrating and talking up LA, because either you can be proud where you come from, whatever. LA is kind of a weird place. The last scene that LA had was kind of glam rock in the ‘80s, where LA was the place to be. You have like the Silverlake-y indie band kind of that, but it’s not quite cohesive because you have the same thing in Portland and other places. Because people come here to get famous or start something so it’s kind of hard being an LA band because it’s “oh, you’re one of the 25 hundred thousand, good for you.” But it’s you know — I’m proud of it.

[7] Do you think LA has influenced the band in any way?

Matt: I think it’s definitely put mileage on our vehicles.

Francis: Well what about “Valley-Born”?

Matt: “Valley-Born” is a song I wrote that’s about kind of changing and not changing, developing into something and growing up but staying true to your roots, that sort of thing. Autobiographical.

Francis: I’d say, yes it does influence us. If you listen to other bands in LA that becomes something that does or doesn’t leave an impression on you. But I guess that’s just a function of being anywhere.

Matt: But being exposed to such a hot spot not just for bands but for entertainment in general, um, I mean you can do everything here. You can eat any type of cuisine. You can see any kind of music. Or theatre.

Wayne: It definitely influences where and when we play shows. Because like you said, there are so many scenes here that you kind of have to pick and choose.

Matt: I think also not having a label or management, you have to be kind of creative, and being a part of a town like LA, it kind of gives you perspective on how to market yourself.

[7] Do you have any specific examples?

Matt: I talked to a manager who said, “You only need a manager when you get to the point where can’t do things yourself.” And I thought that was interesting, because yeah, there’s plenty of bands who are like, whatever, we’ll just hang out and write music. And I know some extremely talented bands — they’re so good and they piss me off, because I hear it and it’s like, why do I write crap music? And they might as well live in a closet. They don’t know how to promote themselves at all and they don’t have anybody promoting them. And it’s so sad because they just don’t — nothing happens.

[7] And you think by living here, you kind of get out of that mindset?

Matt: No I think you get out of that mindset by getting out of that mindset. And if you’re not gonna promote yourselves, you’d better find someone who will do it for you, emphatically. Find someone who cares as much as you do. But we work hard. Most of our gains have been self-won. We haven’t had anything handed to us. So when the bigger opportunities have come up, we feel good about it.

Wayne: We planted those delicious seeds.

[7] On their fans and social media:

Steve: Maybe 20 or 30 years ago, before the internet, you would be just as obscure, because there’d be no way to let people know you exist. But now there’s so many ways, but everyone else is letting everybody know they exist too. So you’re just toiling in the same obscurity. So anytime you can break through the obscurity, it’s very rewarding.

Matt: I read a series of articles talking about the happy side: “Now more than ever you artists can take control of their own career and blah blah blah blah blah.” And it didn’t mention the other side, so can everyone else.

[7] Their biggest critiques:

Matt: What’s wrong with the band . . . Well, Steve’s a little negative.

Francis: I bite my nails.

[7] One thing they’d like to say to their fans:

Matt: If you’re sitting on ideas or things you want to accomplish or do, you should just start doing them, even if it’s small steps. Just start now. Act. Don’t sit around thinking.

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