Interview with The Front Bottoms
New Jersey natives, The Front Bottoms, seem to be everywhere these days. Whether they are rocking smaller venues or gracing the stage at major festivals like Coachella, you can find these four guys just having a great time, living life to the fullest, playing the music they love. Following up on 2015 album ‘Back on Top’, the band just released their latest single, ‘Noodle Monster’, on March 7th. They will be rolling back into our area in June to play night one of the Radio 104.5 9th Birthday Show but we didn’t want to wait until Summer to chat with lead singer Brian Sella about their success, tattoos, alien abductions, and the origin of the band’s name.
IP: Who came up with the name ‘The Front Bottoms’ and what is the meaning behind it?
BS: I just thought I never heard that term before and heard it used by some old man in the street and he said that term and I was like, “That’s funny as hell”! I called up Matt and was like, “I got a funny name for a band do you want to Rock n’ Roll? Do you wanna jam?” cause i used to jam with Matt and he was like, “Yeah let’s do it”. So that’s how we got the name. I never thought that anyone would be asking me how I got the name, you know? I don’t know what I would call if I could go back and change it. I think of the name as a badge of honor.
IP: Seems like a clever way to say ‘vaginas’ on a flyer.
BS: Yeah when we visit the UK they use that name as saying “wiener” to a little kid, but for a girl. We had this bus driver that was asking us about it. He did not understand why we would call ourselves that. You know I never thought I would have a bus driver, so to explain it to him, I wasn’t too worried about it.
IP: Being from New Jersey, how excited are you to be playing the BB&T pavilion this Spring (Radio 104.5 9th Birthday show)?
BS: It feels awesome man! I’m pumped. I’m excited about all the shows we have coming up.
IP: Did you ever go to shows there when you were a kid?
BS: No, actually this will be the first time I ever get to go there. It’s an honor to play it. Are you going to that show?
IP: Yes, and i actually saw you guys at Festival Pier back in September.
BS: Oh nice. Was that with ‘Tenacious D’?
IP: No, that was with ‘Panic! at the Disco’.
BS: Oh yes! Cool cool cool with The Wombats, that was a fun show.
IP: Has your act evolved since then while playing with other bands?
BS: Yeah, totally. I think the act is ever changing for sure. It’s ever changing, every time we get on stage we go, “Shit, we should do that differently maybe we can do that tomorrow”. You gotta keep it fresh, got to entertain yourself.
IP: Now that you’re headlining your own tours with the new album, what have you learned from touring with other bands that have helped you shape your live performances?
BS: What have I learned? Maybe not much about the live performances, but just about being a band and the relationships that you have in the band or how to handle doing band stuff. You learn a lot from a band that’s been doing it longer than you, and to just spend so much time with other bands on the road, you can really learn like, “Oh this is the way it’s going to be”, so they give advice and that’s cool.
IP: If you were stranded on a desert island and were all forced to eat one of the band members to survive, who would be the first to get eaten?
BS: I can’t answer that question. That’s crazy. That’s crazy; you’re crazy man.
IP: If you were abducted by aliens would you tell anyone? Why or why not?
BS: Oh shit. Would i tell anyone? Probably not.
IP: Why is that?
BS: I’d probably just think I was crazy. I wouldn’t want anyone else to know. I mean, I’ll just keep this alien abduction my little secret. would you tell everybody?
IP: I would tell everybody because I’m probably crazy if it happened.
BS: You’d be telling everybody (laughing)?! I guess i would, sorta like a matter of science or something.
IP: I would just need to be checked out.
BS: Yeah, just to make sure I don’t have an anal probe up there.
IP: Or a homing beacon.
BS: You ever see that ‘Simpsons’ episode? That homing beacon (laughing)…
IP: It’s like flying model rockets. Do you guys still do that on tour?
BS: Yeah we do. We did it a couple days ago. Some guy was like (pretends to be fan yelling from the crowd) “Play Model Rockets, play that song” so I was like, “Alright” and we played it.
IP: Your music is hard to define, other than a couple of genuine guys having a good time together. What influenced this quirky approach?
BS: I think it was necessity. Maybe like I only had acoustic guitars, I didn’t have an amp or anything. I wasn’t sure if I would have to plug it into the P.A. and Matt sat on a bucket because that’s what we could find at the venue when we got there. I think the sound really developed from us really wanting to do it and not caring so much about how it came out.
IP: Will there be another ‘Grandma’ EP coming out soon?
BS: Totally, totally, I don’t know when but we will make it happen.
IP: What is the process for writing the lyrics to your songs?
BS: It’s kind of stream of consciousness. I’m always writing stuff in the notebook and just like thinking of ideas, so I don’t really know if I have so much of a process.
IP: If you hear somebody say a word or phrase you just write it down?
BS: Exactly. If I’m having a conversation with someone and they have a weird mannerism or something that catches my attention, I’ll see how I can relate that, or to use that one word. It’s weird, I don’t know.
IP: Can you describe each member of the band in one word?
BS: Matt is the brain, I am (laughs) this is hard, Ciaran is the heart, Tom is the body, and I’m the hair.
IP: Long, luscious, wonderful hair?
BS: A nice big bouffant on the top of my head (laughs). That’s how I would describe the band.
IP: Last time you played here in Philly, you were at the Electric Factory in November. How does that compare to playing the Reading and Leeds Festival in front of a much larger audience?
BS: I think at the factory show, I was so nervous. I was fucking nervous as hell, but the show went good. The show at Reading and Leeds was hard to get nervous because it’s stop and start, and stop and start, and then go and play for like 20 minutes, then you get off stage and you drink so it’s just like hard to get in a routine at a festival. I like the Electric Factory show. You’ve been playing shows everyday and you have the same routine so there’s times you get nervous. I think I like playing the Electric Factory definitely a lot more.
IP: Do you prefer festivals or smaller venues?
BS: I like both.
IP: Do people recognize you in public now?
BS: Yes sometimes. It’s strange. I just got a bagel this morning from the bagel shop and the girl behind the counter was like, “Oh my God, do you know who you look like? You look like that guy in The Front Bottoms”, and I was like, “Oh that’s me”, and she was like, “Oh my God, check this out” and she pulled up her pants and she’s got a tattoo of the lyrics on her knee. I was like, “WOOAH”, pretty intense.
IP: How do you feel about people getting tattoos of your lyrics or of the band?
BS: It’s pretty intense. I think it’s popular to get tattoos now in general so I think that it makes sense, you know? It’s an honor. It’s pretty crazy. I like it because it does feel like if I was a poet or something and wrote these poems and people are connecting with these poems so much they get a tattoo so they’ll never forget. It’s like, “Oh shit, that’s pretty amazing”.
IP: How do you feel having fans who are teenagers that relate to your music even though you’re almost a decade apart?
BS: I feel good about that because it seems like we’re offering them a safe and comfortable head space at a time in their lives when probably a lot of people are very vulnerable. I know when I was at that age I was very emotional. To be something like The Front Bottoms, as silly as it is, for it to be something to people, no matter what age, is pretty amazing. It is a little weird for me as a musician because as I think over the next few albums, obviously our music is going to mature the same way that it has, so we’ll see. Hopefully we can grow with these people, but me, as an artist, I kinda gotta do what i gotta do.
IP: I love the opening riff off of ‘Flashlight’, is there anyone who was an influence on your guitar style?
BS: Yeah, the best advice I ever got about playing guitar was from my cousin Ian, and he told me you should always keep the guitar out of the case. Because he got a guitar, and he taught me a Sublime song, and I was like, “That’s cool as hell”. So I went and got a guitar and the piece of advice he gave me was keep the guitar out of the case, so that definitely influenced my style.
IP: Which song off the new album has been getting a response that has surprised you?
BS: ‘Cough It Out’. Cough It Out was a song that was all acoustic from the very beginning and we got a little freaky with it in the studio. I left feeling satisfied with it. I think we had a good song, but when we play it live, it definitely gets a pretty good reaction which is like, “Oh, this is awesome”, because it is a little bit slower and a little freakier but the people like the freakiness it seems.
IP: Has that song been the crowd favorite?
BS: Seems to be, yes.
IP: What can people expect from a Front Bottoms performance if they have never seen you in person before?
BS: A lot of passion.
IP:Tell us something about yourself (or the band as a whole) that would surprise or even shock our readers…
BS: I can’t, I’m drawing a blank.
IP: Looking forward to seeing you again at the show, I know you are going to kill it.
BS: Hell yeah man, keep on rocking.
Night one of the Radio 104.5 9th Birthday Show in June is already sold-out, so if you’re hoping to see The Front Bottoms at BB&T Pavilion, we hope you got your tickets already. We’ll be there to cover it so if you haven’t, we’ll have a full recap and photos for you after the show.