Love them or hate them, The Front Bottoms are a band that have been climbing the ladder of success steadily the past few years. From rough and scratchy demo recordings that serve as internet relics all the way to the well polished ‘Back On Top’, this band’s charm has been infectious for thousands upon thousands of fans across the globe. With their album cycle at a close, the band will take a dip down under this coming month. As such, I spoke with frontman and core founder Brian Sella about what’s next for the band, what his hopes and dreams for his artistry are and what he’s learnt along the way. And, of course, The Front Bottoms fan fiction…
Hey Brian, how are you doing today?
I’m good man, how are you?
I’m well, thanks. Now the first thing I always ask is: where are you in the world today and what are you up to besides press?
I’m at home and I’ve been making buttons all day. I have a button maker at home so I cut stuff out of magazines and make buttons. That what I’ve been doing all day.
[Laughs] That’s actually kind of cool.
Yeah, well, I mean when you’re on tour for so long it’s nice to just be able to sit down and do something mindless but also feels kind of productive. So usually I make these buttons and sell them for charity.
Oh, now that is awesome. How long were you guys actually out on tour for this latest round? Quite long from what I saw?
Pretty much since the album came out we’ve been on two headlining tours in both the States and Europe, we just got back from there. We also did a small support slot for a bit so it’s been more or less a year since we released ‘Back On Top’.
Yeah, you guys went on tour with Brand New which is crazy.
It was insane. It was about a month along or so and it was so much fun.
What did you find you took away as an artist from seeing a band like that play every night and interacting with them?
Probably just that they keep it cool. They remember that it’s a lot of fun to do this. And with them, there were some shows where nine-thousand people came to see them play. But they just hung out backstage and talked with us like normal guys. So I guess I took away not to stress. You can be on the road for so long you start to think, “What the hell am I doing here?” but those guys were just having fun with it all.
Speaking of tours, you’ve got some Australian dates coming up. These gonna be the last ones before you go back and start the whole album cycle thing again?
We might do one or two more shows after this but yeah, this will be the last tour. Then we’re gonna write a new album. I’m constantly writing new material so that way that when we got some off time from the road, making an album can be as smooth as possible. It’s not a stressful thing. So yeah, that’s pretty much what we’ll do when we get back from Australia. We might even record a new Grandma Series album where we re-record some old songs and give them a full release. Matt and I are also in the process of setting up a little recording space close to where we live and once that’s up it will just be a process of jamming every day.
Sounds good. One of the things I wanted to ask was in regards to the response to ‘Back On Top’. There was some heavy criticism floating around of it and I was wondering if you read those sorts of reviews or comments and thought about them logically like, “Do they have a point?” or do you just not care at all and not let that inform how you write?
Usually, I don’t read that kind of stuff because I mean, everything is subjective. You could listen to an album and love it or hate it but in a couple of weeks your entire opinion could change. So really I’m trying to make these albums better than the last. Whether that’s musically or just in my own sense of confidence. So every album I just try and take to the next level. That’s what I wanna do with this album. I think in order for me to develop naturally as an artist I need to focus on what’s important and not so much what everyone thinks about it. So I just don’t read reviews. And that means you can’t read the good ones too. You don’t get to just read those ones and be okay with it. I guess it kind of has to do with why you do this in the first place and what you’re in it for.
Well I mean everything you do in your band is always going to the next level as well. I always see you guys playing bigger and better shows every few months. Has that been impacting how you write? Are you starting to think stuff like, “How would this chorus go down in front of five-thousand people?” or the like?
Oh, absolutely! We’ve always been a band that’s worked out how a song should sound when it’s played live very early on. We would go on tours or whatever and play an entire album that wasn’t released just to see how people responded to the things they hadn’t heard. Just figuring the songs out in the live setting. We don’t do that much anymore but it really has to do with how the songs sound live. We’re not a band that uses tracks or anything like that, so whatever we record in the studio is what we have to produce live. So we’re very conscious of all that.
Are there certain aspects that you’ve recently been taking away from the current shows? Like, could we see more songs like ‘2YL’ with huge choruses to fill out the bigger rooms you’ll no doubt be billing next tour? Or are there are other things you want to start doing with your music?
Well, the purpose of ‘Back On Top’ was to just make a really loud rock and roll record. We signed to a big label and decided to head to L.A and make some rock and roll music. That was just totally the setting and the vibe for that album. But this next album I intend to entirely make this next record in that recording space I mentioned earlier. That’s going to impact the volume and all sorts of things for this album. With ‘Back On Top’, I pretty much played electric guitar on all the songs because I…well I had an electric guitar in a studio setting. It’s all going to be subjective but I really want to take the music new places. This new album isn’t gonna sound like ‘Back On Top’. And I think that’s because I’m a little older now; I have a year of touring under my belt and I’m just a different a person. So I’m gonna keep it freaky as possible.
I know a few people will be happy to hear this! I was always noticing how some people were saying they didn’t think ‘Back On Top’ was good because it sounded…well, good! It sounded very clean and well mixed and that turned a lot of people off. How do you sort of process that level of petty dismissal?
I just take it in stride. Some of my most favourite bands would make records and I would hate it but a few years later I’d revisit it and love it. People can access this music whenever they want so just because they don’t like it now doesn’t mean they won’t like it in five years after they’ve graduated college and travelled the earth a few times. But I also think that I’m trying to make a catalogue of art. So when I’m making an album, I don’t try and make this or that moment important, I’m trying to think of all the music I’ve made before and all the music I will make in the future. Back when it was just me and Matt making true basement recordings, we would get home from school and record and just put it on the internet. People didn’t like those either! But now they’re our core songs. So it’s just a matter of creating a catalogue of art that varies. If some of the stuff we put out challenges people listening wise, then that’s fine. If people look back on us and go, “Oh I hated those two albums but love the other three” or “I hate the B-Sides but love the acoustic shit” or even “I didn’t like the thing he did with that rapper but I like that it was a split or something”. I think the more shit you have, the more of an artist you can be and develop. So that’s what I’m trying to do.
Back when we started, I was a punk rock dude so recording in a basement and putting it out was awesome whereas now I have more of a label behind us so we can start to take it to the next level. But everything is still pretty much controlled by me and Matt so it’s still a lot of work. I used to always say, it’s just the next six songs. I would always email or text my friends the songs and they’d sometimes go “Oh, these kind of suck” and I would just say, “Don’t worry about it there’s gonna be another three next week” so it was just the next group of songs.
I also appreciate that people will just listen to the music. And if they say they aren’t as passionate about this stuff it means they were about the other stuff and means they might be about the next stuff.
Wow, that’s a really positive way to look at it all. Just grabbing all the silver linings that you can. I want to know also if having that “rock and roll” experience impacted your live playing? Sort of the inverse of what we were talking about before.
I think what this experience really did for me was teach me what I one-hundred percent don’t like. It taught me that this way of making an album just isn’t for me. It’s not the way I can make my best album. So now I know that and can take that with me and do what I like.
So that obviously was a bit of the catalyst for doing up this rehearsal space and just go back to your roots…?
Exactly! I wanted to have that [‘Back On Top’] experience and go to L.A so we could say with certainty that this wasn’t for us. Because if we hadn’t of done it then, we would have done it the next album. That was something I wanted to and now it’s out of the way I can go and try something else that, honestly, won’t be one hundred percent for me either but I can take from it and learn from it and grow just like I did with L.A.
Thank you so much for your honesty there! One last thing I wanted to ask before you go was, have you read any of The Front Bottoms fanfiction?
No, I haven’t actually.
Yeah, look, just don’t. It’s…not good.
Yeah, I stumbled upon some doing some research for this interview and it can get really graphic, really fast.
Oh God, please don’t read any to me right now!
[Laughs] Don’t worry, I’m not going to!
Thank you! [Laughs]
Anyway, I think that’s about all the time we’ve got. Thanks so much for the chat and your openness. It was really appreciated.
Thanks for a great interview, Matty. Take care.
The Front Bottoms hit our shores this coming week. Be there or be a goddamn square! Tickets are still available via Destroy All Lines.