In Conversation... The Front Bottoms
Wondering through the door that leads onto the stage The Front Bottoms front man Brian Sella has a grin on his face as he introduces himself. He is holding a balloon as he slouches into an arm chair next to me, kicking a skateboard and rolling it back and forth. In little over an hour’s time Camden’s KOKO, a former theatre opened in 1900, will be packed to capacity with a crowd ready to chant TFB whilst waiting for the adored New Jersey band. “It’s a fucking trip!” Sella laughs thinking about tonight’s show with band mates Matt Uychich and Tom Warren who are sitting next to him, “It’s very hard to describe.” With their new record Back on Top out, The Front Bottoms have been continuing their journey as artists and just prior to the record’s release they signed a deal with Fuelled by Ramen. “When we were signed to independent labels we would argue with the label about everything, it always had to be a discussion because there wasn’t a lot of money, but with Fuelled By it’s more just what do you want to do? And then we do it. It’s been totally incredible [being signed to Fuelled By Ramen].” A lot of people attach a stigma to being signed with a major label which is something Sella recognises but for The Front Bottoms signing the contract was not really to do with anything other than the music. “We’re all about the music,” Sella tells me. “We want to be able to make music and signing seemed like an option where we could do that and people will be able to listen to it. For example, our releases up till Talon of the Hawk were never for sale in the UK except at Banquet Records, so it was just the question of do we want people to be able to get the record or do we want to be punk rock and have people to not hear the music and for us it was always about the music.” He continues to push the skateboard back and forth, sharing smiles with whoever walks past. “You spend so much time and energy making the record, why wouldn’t you want people to be able to hear it?” Warren agrees with Sella.
Back on Top feels like a real push from the band. The record has a big sound suited to bigger venues but still keeps the band’s distinctive and charming teenage sound. The step forward from Talon of the Hawk and Back on Top is prominent but was never in the forefront of the band’s mind when recording. “It felt like it was just the next step,” Sella thinks. “I don’t know if the next album we make is gonna be like a rock ‘n’ roll big time studio album or anything, just at that point we thought let’s make an album that’s loud as shit and something that people can get behind.” That’s possibly the best way to describe Back on Top. Though there are some slower and calmer tracks, Motorcycle and Laugh Till I Cry are two tracks that are nothing short of “loud as shit”. This progression hasn’t really effected the band’s autobiographical approach to their lyrics, a factor that helps when trying to get fans to connect with the songs. “It’s all taken from our personal lives, not just mine, but it’s always about me or the people around me. A lot of the time a song will start somewhere and end a little different, but the basis is always the same based around stories I hear or parties I go to.”
Back when Sella and Uychich first started making music together Sella’s mum bought them studio time and they recorded twelve songs in the space of three hours. Their shared memories of way back when brings smiles to their faces. “It was me, Matt and Matt’s brother and my mum got us some recording time at this funny studio. We went in and had no idea about anything and the guy just set up the mics, hit record and disappeared to the bathroom. We just stood there and played the first song and then kind of looked at each other and played the second and the third and the fourth and then we had twelve songs. I went back and did some background yelling bullshit then went home and put it on the internet that night. There was no mixing or any of that.” Times have clearly changed and the band now have more time to work on their material, but they all seem to agree that they still have the same mind set. “It’s an in between now,” Sella continues. “I love to get shit done fast and I think the best albums I make in the futures will be albums I make in two weeks.” In some ways the time it takes The Front Bottoms to produce an album reflects the autobiographical aspect of their music and that’s something that Sella, Uychich and Warren agree with.
For The Front Bottoms its about taking it easy. They keep on top of their success by going “slow and steady” and by tackling it goal by goal. The band are selling out bigger and bigger venues but the priority in Sella’s mind is staying positive about everything. He still holds dear everything he did when he was 19 and wrote Twelve Feet Deep. “Everything that I had thought that maybe this band could one day be has passed that, so now everything’s just a fucking bonus which is insane to think about.” It’s safe to say that The Front Bottoms will always be cool and so punk.