Watching the popularity of The Front Bottoms rocket over the past year has been downright jarring for me to watch. A band marked by their quirky and warm lyrical stylings, they were the last group I expected to end up opening for massively popular bands like Brand New and blink-182 when I discovered them nearly six years ago. I say this not out of malice, but rather because they felt like such a niche secret deeply nestled into my adolescent music taste. Now as a junior in college, I’ve seen The Front Bottoms grow from playing club shows to massive music festivals with thousands of people singing along.
Last Thursday, The Michigan Daily spoke with lead singer and songwriter Brian Sella about the band’s newest record, Going Grey, and their current headlining tour with diverse support from the UK’s best punk rockers in Basement and beautiful ambient indie rock from Bad Bad Hats.
The Michigan Daily: To start off, could you tell me a little bit about your experience with watching your crowds and fan base grow as you’ve transitioned from playing clubs to theaters, festival stages and opening for bands like blink-182?
Sella: Yeah, absolutely, it’s been incredible. It’s been sort of a slow build. It’s been easy kind of to adjust to. You know, you always get nervous, but like you said, we played in basements, in small clubs, in small bars. And then it was like we’d play those same stops for like years, years at a time, like four or five years. And when we first started playing them there would literally be one to 10 people there. And by the time we put out more material and came back a few times, all of a sudden there’d be a few hundred people. That kind of just feels great, you know, to make an art project and then go out and play it for people and have people appreciate it and respect it enough to like come out and take their time to enjoy themselves at a show. And now we’re playing today at the House of Blues in Boston, Massachusetts, and I think it’s a sold out show. It’s just like a total trip. I feel so lucky to be able to do it… it’s really insane. It’s sort of hard to explain, but it’s a very nice feeling. It feels very positive, and I feel very lucky that it’s grown to the level that it’s at. And it’s not like a ridiculous level, you know, it’s not like thousands and thousands of people coming to see us play. So, it’s nice, you know, it’s a nice sort of, it’s a good vibe still.
TMD: Are there any songs you’re excited to play live?
Sella: We’re going to open the set with the first song on the new album, “You Used to Say,” and we’re going to close the set with the last song (“Ocean”) on the new album, so I’m very excited to be able to sandwich the set. And in between that we’re going to play 20 songs from all the albums. I’m excited to do “Ocean,” “Holy Fuck” and then also I’m very excited to play “Grand Finale,” because it’s going to sound very big, and it’s going to fill up the room. So, I’m definitely excited about playing those.
TMD: Going off of bookending your sets, I noticed Going Grey is bookended with coastal sounds like waves and birds. Is there any overarching narrative or theme to the album that you feel isn’t immediately obvious?
Sella: I feel like it is pretty immediately obvious. I thought it was pretty punk rock to have a very long, sort of cinematic intro to the album. Basically the idea with that was like the themes of vacation: “Vacation Town” that whole idea… and how it ends with the song “Ocean.” So that was kind of the idea behind that, to do like a cinematic, kind of book end the front and back of the album. If you play it on a loop, it’ll sync up perfectly so it’ll be a perfect loop around. Also, the song “Vacation Town” has a little weird intro that if you play that song on loop it’s a perfect circle. You won’t be able to tell where the start and end is. So it was kind of just an artistic idea that I think kind of added a lot to the atmosphere of the album and kind of puts you in that mindset when you hear those seagulls squawk, and you can kind of like paint the picture in your own mind. That’s how you can listen to the album as an individual.
TMD: Were your goals for this album different than your first release (Back On Top) on Fueled By Ramen?
Sella: You know, I never really know what the album is going to sound like when I start recording it. So it’s sort of hard to have a vision or goals. I think I just wanted to keep expanding. I wanted to develop naturally. I didn’t want to force anything, and I wanted to make songs that we could come out and play live. That’s the most important part. That’s really the most important expression is playing it live. And I think that we did that.
TMD: Did you have any influences while writing Going Grey?
Sella: I listen to a lot of radio, like kind of top 40 radio. Some old school pop music. I was trying to make a modern pop album to be honest. That was kind of like the vibe and inspiration I was going for. The way we were recording it was in three day sessions. So that was kind of the most comfortable type of music to make. It was just kind of like fun and relaxed. It was good, and I liked it. I keep the lyrics freaky, that’s kind of my signature thing, but that’s kind of how it went.
TMD: To close out, if you could can you describe a Front Bottoms performance to someone who has never seen your band before?
Sella: I would say fun, and I would say loose. I think that nowadays with live performance, because a lot of people are using tracks, and a lot of “bands” quote-unquote, you know they’re not — it doesn’t seem like they’re really up there, whatever, having a good time. For us, when we get up on stage, we’re straight up. We’re up there. We might as well be in the audience, because that’s kind of the loose style that we have. If the song’s not going good, I’ll stop the song, and we’ll play a different one. It’s just very loose overall. We want to have fun. We want to have as much fun as the people in the audience. That’s the atmosphere that we try to create.