Some bands you discover on an arbitrary night in 8th grade, and they hold your head up high through the countless heartbreaks and coming-of-age anxieties symptomatic of your emerging teenagehood. New Jersey-bred band The Front Bottoms does just that with tracks that transcend and fuse the genres of folk, pop punk and emo revival. The alternative duo’s wit and sound are undoubtedly refreshing to the scene, yet still reminiscent of older comfort bands like American Football or Blink-182. The group, composed of Brian Sella and Matt Uychich, have put out anthems such as “Twin Sized Mattress” and “Flashlight” that fans can recite like scripture.
I had the honor of interviewing frontman Brian Sella, and we delved into a variety of topics ranging from his creative process to his philosophy on the Front Bottoms’ fame.
The lyricism of the Front Bottoms documents situations so personal, yet rich enough in imagery and sentimentality for one to resonate with its raw portrayal.
In my interview with Sella, I was curious about the muses behind the lyrics. Their hometown was invariably one of them; recalling his adolescence in Bergen County, Sella reminisces, “I would ride my bike everywhere, hang out with Matt. That is where the art came from.” Sella also finds this art in the “people I’m around … like if I’m sitting at a restaurant and interacting with somebody, that’s really, like, where a lot of the feelings come from.” He finds meaning for his tracks mostly through the conversational subtleties of his day-to-day, relating to listeners through their ordinariness. He said, “I realized during the pandemic, I’m most myself when I’m around other people.” Sella accredits a lot of the music’s backstories as well as his identity formation to the people close to him.
Among the band’s many alluring quirks, The Front Bottoms captivates listeners through their employment of diverse instruments. Supplementing the elements of horns, bells and strings, Sella explains the reason behind the instrumentals: “It was always about making the music better.” He expands, “Whoever was around and was good at a particular instrument, they should be playing with The Front Bottoms.” Creating, to Sella, is largely about uplifting other musicians to enhance the group’s greater musicality. He then went on to say his favorite instruments they’ve added to songs were the banjo or the melodica, with the trumpet, xylophone and cello as honorable mentions.
In an introspective final question, I asked Sella how it felt that The Front Bottoms were now over a decade old. “I honestly can’t even believe I get to go on tour and make people happy,” Sella answered. “I always tried to just go with the flow, and never tried to force anything. I always just tried to be kind to people…and it feels awesome.” Even after all these years, Sella still adopts a humble, laissez-faire attitude to fame. In tender reflection, he admits, “Thank you so much for those nice words … I felt like I was going to cry,” to which I responded, “I felt like I was going to cry!” Bonding over the tragedy of the New Jersey winters, I was lucky enough to tell him his music helped me brave my high school years and the constant dullness of suburbia.
Finally, coming out of the pandemic, The Front Bottoms are going on tour alongside headliners Oso Oso and Sydney Sprague. Sella and I discussed the release of their most recent album in August 2020, “In Sickness and in Flames,” which plays like a document of the band’s life in isolation. Sella commented on the uncertainty of releasing art during a national lockdown, “It felt kinda weird to throw it [the album] in the void.” He then added, “I’m excited that I get to now play some of the songs live, you know, how it’s always meant to be for me.” Playing live shows has always been constitutive of being a musical artist for Sella, and he is overjoyed to be returning to the stage for the first time in over a year.
Unsurprisingly, I did end up crying. At their show at the Masquerade in downtown Atlanta, The Front Bottoms rocked a setlist full of classics like “The Beers”, “Skeleton”, and “Au Revoir”. It was a mix of their old and new music, and the crowd was overcome with excitement and nostalgia. Throughout the show, the band maintained their lovable wittiness. At one point, Sella even asked, “should I start an OnlyFans?” during the monologuing in “Plastic Flowers.” As the show went on, Sella confessed he was finally happy to escape Orlando where they had played prior, and the love was palpable in Atlanta that night. Fans were moshing, crowd-surfing and flashing “rock on” signs to the sky. Just when the night could not have gotten better, the band returned for not one, but two encores. They performed a stripped-down rendition of “12 Feet Deep” along with “Flashlight”, “Leaf Pile”, and “Be Nice To Me” all after the set finale. After an entire show of joyful tears and screaming the words until my throat gave out, I could feel 14-year old me smile from ear to ear.
Thank you, The Front Bottoms.