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The Front Bottoms: back on top

New Jersey quartet The Front Bottoms discuss good ideas, influences, and keeping shows safe.

The Front Bottoms: back on top
New Jersey quartet The Front Bottoms discuss good ideas, influences, and keeping shows safe.
Words: Heather McDaid.

The Front Bottoms are one of those bands who never seem to stop. Between churning out new videos and EPs and continuing with a relentless touring schedule, they’ve also found time to get signed by the infamous Fueled by Ramen and record a new album ‘Back on Top’, which is ready to be released into the world. Time to pause for breath? No, thanks.

“We’ve been a band that kind of does everything in-house,” explains Brian Sella, singer and guitarist. “We’ve always in the past sat down with each other and figured out all the problems, and all the music videos we’ve done ourselves. To have a label as big as [Fueled By Ramen] say they like what you’re doing is cool and let’s work together and try to figure something out… it’s very exciting and positive. We couldn’t be any happier about it!

“You know, when you work on something as hard as we worked on this album, all you want to do is get out and play it for people, let them hear the stuff you’ve cared so much about for so long and you hope they like it. It’s very exciting.”

Their videos from ‘Back On Top’ have so far all followed a common thread, following a character journey or travels, a whole lot of walking or cycling, but have all been quite different in their settings. “All the ideas for videos come from either a member of the band or one of our good friends who makes a lot of our videos,” begins Brian. “I like the vibe or the energy of us just sitting down and creatively thinking ‘Okay, we need a video. What should we do?’”

“We like to things very genuine and keep it under a budget,” he adds. “Personally, I work best when I have restraints, when I have $500-1000 budget to make a music video. I think that they all kind of have a common thread between them because everybody throws their creative ideas in and we just kind of work it out and see what happens. I like to not have any idea what I think the final product is and just go into it with an open mind, let everybody throw ideas in. It’s a genuine artistic process, like whoever’s around can be in the video, whoever’s got a good idea can throw it in. I think that’s why they have those links that they have.”

There’s a consistency to The Front Bottoms, in that each album seems like a neat progression; here they’ve pushed themselves to be bigger: there’s some massive songs in there, real rocky vibes being wrapped up in massively catchy surroundings. It’s like an old friend with a new leather jacket, really.

Which is kind of fitting, actually, considering one of the high points for Brian seems to be his acquisition of a motorbike. “We got together, I would come with a skeleton of a song and I’d sit down with the boys and we would try to work it out. Then we recorded this, probably the most professionally that we have ever done, so I think we all learned something. In the past it would be like ‘let’s go in and record some songs and see how they come out’. I think this time we all had a vision and we worked with a really awesome producers.”

“I mean, I bought a motorcycle when I was writing this album,” he explains. “That influenced me a lot. It changed my life, my lifestyle; I don’t usually say I’m going to sit down and write about this or that, that these songs are going to have these themes. Just because of where my life is right  now, the songs tend to have common themes because you know I’m writing about a certain time in my life that I’m going through.

“There’s definitely motorcycles and riding motorcycles and crashing motorcycles as the theme. Finding yourself is a theme, getting older is a theme, it’s just all of that stuff. You know, when you finish the album and listen back to it, you’re like ‘Ah, shit! There are some common themes on this album’. I didn’t even realise while we were writing them, working on them, recording them. At the end you’re like this must have been a little part of my life for the past year.

Speaking of parts of his life, it’s already been noted that they seem to tackle life in a band by going full throttle, rarely pausing for breath. By this point, is it as integral to the band’s identity as the music itself? “Absolutely,” says Brian. “We’re definitely a band that likes to go on tour. We’ve been overseas now like seven or eight times.

“It’s probably not necessary to go over that much, but we like to stay busy. At least ten of our friends live over in the UK and we just go over because we want to hang out with them and we want to play shows. So, it is exciting to be able to travel like that too then play music to people who want to hear it. It’s very exciting and it is important to us to go over there as much as possible.”

The live show is a vital component to both being a band and a music fan, the opportunity to bridge the gap between the band and listener, beyond just the common ground of their record. But there has been a particularly dark few months in terms of safety in alternative music and its general approach to women, with an upsurge in the conversation and need to ‘save the scene’ and keep it a safe and enjoyable place.

Brian admits he’s not fully versed with the ins and outs of the last few months so can’t talk of it beyond his own band, but maintains that regardless of what scene, if any, people believe The Front  Bottoms to be in, his goal is for their shows to be a safe haven for everyone. “We just try and keep our shows individually safe, to make sure everyone’s having a good time because that’s what it’s all about, and listening to the music. We like to keep an open mind and make sure everyone can get involved with anybody who’s around, woman or man. In terms of The Front Bottoms, we just try to keep it that everybody’s welcome and everybody’s having a good time.”

At a Front Bottoms show, everyone is indeed having a good time, and with ‘Back On Top’ about to be unleashed into the world, it won’t be long until they’re back on our shores, having a good ol’ time with their growing crowds once again. We can’t wait.

Taken from the October issue of UpsetThe Front Bottoms’ album ‘Back On Top’ is out now.

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