An interview with The Front Bottoms
The Front Bottoms are an indie punk rock band from New Jersey and after releasing their latest album Going Grey, have just embarked on their European tour. I was lucky enough to ask a few questions to lead singer, Brian Sella before their gig in Sheffield last Friday.
You released your new album Going Grey late last year, tell me about what it was like to make that album and how it was made?
Umm let me think… It was done in a couple of different sessions. So, we went out to California for a little while, then to upstate New York, did some of it in New Jersey, and that was the recording process. Then writing it was kind of in between those sessions, like we’d write three songs and then and go and record them and then write another three and record them, so we did it piece by piece, which was a cool way of doing it. Every time we’ve done a new album we’ve had a different process, so this was just the way it worked out this time.
How long did the process take all together?
From beginning to end it was about six months maybe? But the sessions were only three days at a time, so it didn’t really feel like that long. Because it was just like okay we’ll go up to Texas for a week and see how much we can record. So yeah, I would say about six months for all the ideas to come together.
That’s quite a short amount of time for such a good album!
Aww thank you that’s very nice!
What are your personal favourite songs on the new album?
Hmm let me think… My personal favourite would probably be… I love Ocean, and I love You Used to Say Holy F***, the first one.
They’re my two favourites too.
I love those, and I love how it kinda sandwiches the album, you know you’ve got the beginning and the end. We actually open with You Used to Say and we close with Ocean so it’s a nice set and we put everything from everywhere in between.
I noticed on the album too, you open with the sound of the sea before You Used to Say and also at the end of Ocean so it all links up?
Exactly! It’s a nice intro and people get that it’s the first song when we play. It’s cool that it’s got the long build that I love. I would say that those two are my favourites, but we’ve been playing Far Drive on this tour and Grand Finale and those two have really been hitting home for me, I really enjoy playing those songs too. But yeah, overall the first and last on the album are my favourites.
What about your favourite song of all time that you’ve made?
Ooh… to play, or to listen to?
To play… dang that’s a hard question! I mean I feel that a song like Au Revoir is so simple and has done so much for me in my life to be able to come and play it over here, or wherever else we’ve been. So, I feel very lucky to have had like that moment in my life when that song came together for me and that it was really quick. So, I would say Au Revoir is a very defining song. All the old stuff is hard to explain where it came from, like I’m older now so I listen back to those songs and think ‘it’s so crazy I wrote this song, how the hell did I do that?’ I wish I knew how haha!
I bet it’s strange to look back and wonder how it all makes sense now!
I know right! …Woah it’s freaky! But yeah, in answer to your question I would say Au Revoir but to play live though, a song like The Beers is just a good singalong song that’s always such a crazy feeling to see everyone sing. So those two.
For anyone who’s never listened to your music before, how would you describe your style?
Ooh that’s hard… It’s changed a bit over the years, but I would say I always like to put a bit of a dark humour aspect to it… So, it’s funny but you’re also able to get an emotional feeling out of it because it seems to resonate. But I feel like dark humour is key and people always say to us “oh that song is funny as hell” you know? And then somebody else will say “That song is so sad”. And I don’t know where that comes from, it’s just a release of some intense emotions but by making a two-minute song. It’s a balance of humour and having a piece that I will enjoy in making it our process, but also making it so that other people can listen to too and put into their own life. Dark humour is funnier for some people for whatever reason!
How do you manage to create the raw and gritty and real lyrics? What inspires you to write them?
I have no idea how I make those lyrics! Usually the lyrics will be in pieces so sometimes if you string a random bunch of things together it’ll come out sounding very intense, so I think that works to our advantage a lot. The way that I write lyrics is by the sentence, and then when I make the song I plug in what goes where. And because they also came from the same notebook which would have been the same six months of life, they all have the same theme. Even though maybe one of the lyrics is on the first page and another is on the last, they always seem to go together because that’s all what I’d have been going through in those six months or whatever. I hear a lot of conversations and I steal a lot of s**t you know! I’ll see something in a newspaper or read a local paper, like when I’m here in Sheffield, and it’ll say some cheeky thing that I’ve never heard before, or an expression, and I’ll think “That’s great, I’m gonna make that a chorus.” Sometimes it’s not a deep, thoughtful process, I just think I’ll steal whatever each certain dumbass is saying.
Well it seems to work so it’s all good!
Do you write lyrics first and then the rest of the music?
Yeah, always. It always starts with the lyrics, really. I like to think of myself as more of a poet more so than a musician. Because I don’t really know how to play guitar too well, you know, just enough to get by… so it does always start with the lyrics, because the vibe of the song has to start with the words. It wasn’t until recently that I realised that I don’t think a lot of people start with the lyrics; I’m sure some people do, but it seems to be more popular the other way really, where people find a melody and then plug in words… but I let the words be the melody. That’s kind of the way I do it.
Who are your musical inspirations?
When I was younger I loved Bright Eyes, I listened to Blink-182… I liked fun stuff and I thought that the Bright Eyes stuff was very creative. I liked a lot of folk rock that was minimalistic with minimum instruments and no drum sets. Against Me! Were a big inspiration… I was very into anything with good lyrics, or just clever lyrics.
Talking of Blink-182, you toured with them last summer, how was that?!
Those shows were crazy, a lot of nights that were a lot of fun.
What was it like to be with the bands (Blink-182 and Frank Turner)?
They were super sweet. They’re grown ups and they had their kids on tour and I know that they don’t want to be friends with me and go and get drunk and go crazy, but they were so sweet to us and took care of us. Anything that we needed they helped us out with, and they always told us we’d done a good job. Mark (Hoppus) would come into the dressing room and sometimes he would just hang out on the couch that we had on stage, so it really was just so wild… This was Blink-182 what the f**k is going on! And also to be able to play in front of 10,000 people a night was just a gift in itself, so it was crazy. I had a lot of fun and every night was just great, it was really working out. Living the dream.
What’s it like being on your own European tour?
It’s great! We’ve done a few of these in the past and we’ve been over here like 10 times over the past 7 years. Every time we come we speak with the same booking agents and book shows and they’ve gotten a little bit bigger and bigger. To play a venue of this size is huge, it’s as big as I could ever imagine. And doing a show with The Smith Street Band and Brick and Mortar, those bands are awesome. It’s the first time Brick and Mortar are over here so that’s very exciting, and the Smithies are awesome too, so it’s great. This tour’s gonna be good.
What’s your favourite thing about being in the UK?
Probably just that it’s different over here, it’s not the same as America. For the better. To be able to experience a different culture and different people. Like I said, we’ve been over here so many times that we have friends in all these cities that we’ve known for years, so being able to see all of them come out is just an awesome experience. We’re like ‘woah okay this is part of our life now’. The food SUCKS over here hahaha!
I’ve seen you go to ‘Spoons everyday while you’ve been here though!
I know! We’re big Wetherspoons people! We went in one of them here for dinner, got the curry (right? Because it was Thursday) which I don’t know if I even like curry, I eat it but I always think ‘do I even like this?’ We went there for dinner at like 4’o clock and then they were dragging us out at like 2’o clock in the morning, I don’t know what happened but God damnit you get lost. I think the thing with the food is that I don’t know what to get.
You need to try their buttermilk chicken burger.
Okay. That’s a ‘Spoons thing?
Yep, and you need a cocktail pitcher too. Try Blue Lagoon, you can probably get through a few.
Oh God I think that just might set me up for failure! I bet you can!
If you could go on a road trip with any person dead or alive who would it be?
I’m trying to think real hard because I get to take road trips a lot with all my friends. It wouldn’t be weird to do something like that with a family member like a cousin or a Grandma. Yeah, I’d probably do it with my Grandma… which would be freaky, but yeah!
Check out The Front Bottom‘s song ‘Vacation Town’ on their new album ‘Going Grey‘ on the link below!