Brian Sella of The Front Bottoms (New Jersey) talks keeping creative, shoeys & their upcoming Australian tour

Ahead of their January Australian tour, we catch up with American group The Front Bottoms to chat specially crafted beers, their friendship with The Smith Street Band and returning to Australia for their own headline tour.

It’s been two years since you last toured here with The Smith Street band, what are your expectations for the upcoming tour? 

Oh I’m very excited, if it’s anything like that tour that those guys booked us on it’s going to be a blast. It’s gonna be a headliner so we’ll be able to play a little longer which is exciting; has it been two years, is that true? Man that’s nuts, it will be nice to come back to a lot of places and hopefully see a lot of the people that we made friends with last time.

What are you looking forward to from the Australian crowds?

I’m ready to do some shoeys! That is your dignitary, that’s what I went home telling everybody.

Were they confused at all?

Oh yeah, people still don’t understand. I’m pumped to go swimming too, I wanna go swimming! Dude I’m so excited I cant wait. Last time we came over, it was a 100% Smith Street Band tour managing us so we were sleeping in friends houses and it was very punk rock and awesome so this time, going back, we’re gonna have a tour manager who’s from Australia as well. We’ll be able to go to some cool swimming spots and go to the cool bars, so I’m excited for that.

Making sure you get the local treatment?

Exactly, cause that’s the whole point anyway.

You’ve talked previously about keeping good energy, people, and balance when touring relentlessly as really important, and looking at your Australian Tour dates there’s quite a few consecutive nights there.

Has there ever been a time where back to back shows went wrong?  Any memorable mishaps?  

When I think about it, when you play shows back to back, which is usually how we do it because financially that’s really the only way that makes sense, we usually do back to back to back to back shows, and we are usually just very tired. That’s kind of the biggest thing that goes wrong, sometimes we party too much; when we show up at each show they’re ready to party tonight you know? They don’t realise I’ve been going hard for the past six or seven nights in a row, so you don’t wanna let anyone get disappointed – you gotta have a good time again.

You feel a little beat down, a little worn out. I’ve been on tour since we put out the album [Back On Top], so basically all year; you get tired and you get drained and the real world doesn’t stop, so you live in this fantasy world for like a month and then you go home and everybody else has continued their life. That’s probably the hardest part about playing shows back to back like that, but nothing too crazy has happened.

It’s has been a year since the release of Back On Top with Fueled By Ramen, how do you know as a band or a writer when it’s time for a new album? Is it just once you’ve finished touring every continent?

Yes basically… I mean it’s like, “Alright, can we go to Australia on this tour – will that work?” It’s like, “Yeah we haven’t been there yet on this album, let’s go back and do a headliner.” I was in the UK for three weeks because that would be our second headlining tour on this album. You know at a certain point, it won’t even make sense to play any more shows until we write a new album.

That’s basically the point that you take it to and you hope you get enough inspiration on the road – the whole time we’re on tour, I got notebooks, I just keep writing my ideas down in my little journals with my silly little thoughts – when I get home and I’m able to sit down for more than a day with my guitar, I just start writing more songs. I’ve already gotten some songs written, so it’s just about getting with the boys and trying to put them together in a way that makes sense. That’s basically it – you just let it all happen naturally, I guess.

You’ve just released “Needy When I’m Needy” the other month, is this a teaser of a bigger record on the way soon?

That’s actually stuff that we had made when we made Back On Top, so that was more B-sides as opposed to looking forward. The stuff we’re gonna make moving forward is probably going to be even wackier than that stuff; those two songs were from past and now moving forward, I guess everything will be new.

You’ve just described some of your writing process there, do you sit by the ‘it’s a 9-5 desk job’ mantra or more along the lines of scribbling in your notebooks and trying to piece it together like a puzzle?

I have friends who are in bands and they do, they’ll wake up at whatever time and they’ll write four choruses and then their day will be done, or they’ll write two songs or try and come up with a certain amount of verses. I’ve tried to do that but it just doesn’t really work that way for me. It just kinda happens when it happens, which is nice; I can’t really force it if I try. I just try and stay creative all the time and keep the ideas coming and any little thing that tries to explore the idea so that when it is time to do it ‘for real’, I have enough ideas and don’t need to sit down and force it out.

The most used tag is probably ‘folksy punk’ to describe your music, that kind of Ben Folds singing a happy tune with angsty lyrics; is that a direction you intentionally take?

It just kinda comes out honestly, it’s a lot of free thought; I’m definitely influenced by whatever book I’m reading at the time, whilst there’s a certain direction I’m heading it’ll be whatever book I’m reading will take on the vibe or the timbre of the song. There’s never a vision when I start a song; I have no idea what its gonna sound like when its done, where a guy like Ciaran [O’Donnell] who plays guitar and keys and Tom [Warren], they can look and say, “This is where the song will end.” To be totally honest, I’m never ever really in a state of mind that I could even pick that out, so it kinda just happens.

I heard in an interview earlier this year that you’ve finished writing a fiction novel, is that project still a go? 

Yeah it’s still a go! That’s part of the thing where I stay creative the whole time and I thought I had a lot but there wasn’t that much there – there was a lot of papers but the thought, I don’t know if it was really there. I’m trying to turn it into some sort of musical performance thing; a couple more ideas were born out of that, but the book is still happening slowly but surely, but now there are two other separate ideas that came from that that I turned a lot of my attention to.

Is it relaxing to channel writing into something other than music?

Absolutely, just to be, whatever it is, you know? Today I was making buttons all day, just a task that you can be creative about and it’s not song writing and there’s thought to it. That’s the idea behind writing those stories, I love the idea of words written down on paper; storytelling in general, I think, is extremely important so just different avenues of doing that, maybe not with a guitar, but a song and a dance.

Speaking of creative outlets the video for “Ginger” released mid year, was that a fun shoot?

I gotta be totally honest, we have made every music video that The Front Bottoms have ever put out, it’s been me and Mat [Uychich] getting together with ideas, usually one of our friends, especially Mark [Jaworski] who did a lot of our other videos; there’s like a rotating cast of people that we would do creative things with. We would always, like I was saying before, keep it creative; we would always have music video ideas and we would always be making music videos, we usually make six or something for every album which is crazy because basically just put them on YouTube… It’s fun you know? It’s something to do.

The “Ginger” video, somebody [Marlon Brandope] had emailed us and was like, “I wanna make a music video for this song “Ginger” would you be into it?”, and so he made this whole video and emailed it to us and they put it out. The thing that’s crazy is, that [it] went to Pitchfork, that was the first [time] that Pitchfork has ever even acknowledged our existence and it was [for] this ridiculous music video that somebody else had made.

That for me was just as much of a release as making a video myself would have been. I was in contact with another artist; he was communicating an idea to me, we would go back and forth – very little though I kinda let him do whatever he wanted to do – and what came of it was this other version of this art that I got to be involved with. A lot of time, it’s the process that is the most creative part for me.

You’ve always shown a love for demos and amateur mix tapes that people throw on stage, is that something you dedicate a lot of time to?

Oh yeah, usually if somebody gives us a CD or a demo or whatever, I absolutely listen to it and sometimes, not as often but sometimes, if the demo is really good I’ll send an email on. I like new things; I like people who are being creative. On the 18th, we’ve done a thing called the Champagne Jam and its at Webster Hall. It’s a big show with about fifteen bands that we picked and we headline. It’s all three floors and it’s just basically bands from New Brunswick, which is a place by us, a lot of awesome local bands like the Screaming Females and Ezra Furman – we used to be signed to Bar None with him – so that’s what it’s all about.

How’s it feel to have people on the other hemisphere relate and react as strongly to your music as people in your hometowns?

It’s crazy. It’s honestly insane; I feel like an international superstar.

You’ve had a more steady exposure to global popularity since your formation than say a one hit wonder, do you think that helped a lot in adjusting to the demands of being, well, in demand?

Yeah I think so; I think that people were kind of able to connect to it because we are always genuine so it was like, “These dudes are coming back for another show, oh okay!” and so they’ll come again, They’ll bring a couple of friends and I think it just slowly developed like that.

I hear The Front Bottoms are pretty keen on their beer, there’s a few local bands that have been partnering up with breweries and making their own craft beer lately. Is that something you guys would consider?

Hell yeah, that would be cool; we have a friend who is brewing his own beers so it could happen sooner rather than later I guess, we’ll see what happens. I used to drink a lot on stage when we would play but then I started noticing there’s a lot of younger kids who’ve come to the shows… I still drink on stage but I try and keep it easy.

I’m a big fan of the Counting Crows and I remember there was this interview where he [Adam Duritz] would get beer sponsorships and he would be like, “Just for myself, being able to say no to something like that always made me feel really good,” so I was like, “Oh shit.” I actually try and keep that in mind a little bit, but hell yeah I would I’d definitely do a Front Bottoms beer, I’d have to do a shoey though with it!

While also triple stacked on someones shoulders, I hear that’s an Australian trademark too.

Oh okay cool! I’m gonna do that then next show, are you gonna come see us play?

Of course. You’re set last time with Smith Street was awesome, they’re really good at curating a lineup on their tours.

Yeah they’re fantastic, they’ve really worked it out where they’re like ‘okay we can just pick the bands that we want from America to come over’.  I met Wil [Wagner] at Rose Rock. I think it’s in Germany it’s like a hardcore festival – we weren’t even playing we were there with Brand New – we just got backstage passes and went around and got drunk and stuff and I bumped into Wil not knowing who he was and he was like “Oh Front Bottoms – would you guys wanna come to Australia?” I was like, “Dude, hell yeah,” and within two weeks the tour was booked. Then we took them over here and they opened up for us, my Australian brothers!

THE FRONT BOTTOMS AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES
Tickets on sale now via Destroy All Lines

January 20th | Amplifier Bar, PERTH | 18+
January 21st | Enigma Bar, ADELAIDE | 18+
January 22nd | Corner Hotel, MELBOURNE | 18+
January 24th | Brisbane Hotel, HOBART | 18+
January 26th | The Basement, CANBERRA | 18+
January 27th | The Bald Faced Stag, SYDNEY | 18+
January 28th | Small Ballroom, NEWCASTLE | 18+
January 29th | The Brightside, BRISBANE | 18+

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