Bridging the gap from basements to big outdoor venues, New Jersey’s prodigal party-punk sons The Front Bottoms are busy this summer break, hitting the festival scene hard for Boston Calling this weekend and several other stops in the coming months.
Things are moving faster than ever before for the four-piece, in part because they signed with Fueled By Ramen last year. As these peddlers of wordy, rowdy rock continue to tour on their third record, 2015’s Back On Top, singer and guitarist Brian Sella is feeling fortunate to be able to pick the pals they get to take along for the ride – and for the influx of odd demos fans toss to him to serve as the soundtrack.
Read below for my conversation with Sella, and check them out at Boston Calling on May 29th.
SIMGE: First and foremost, I’m coming to Boston Calling and I’m excited to see you guys there.
Brian: Hell yeah, I can’t wait!
SIMGE: Is it your first time playing Boston Calling?
Brian: It’ll be our first time playing the festival.
SIMGE: Think it’s going to be a good show?
Brian: I’m super pumped! I know it’s going to be a good show. We’ve played in Boston a lot, throughout our entire career, so it’s just good energy up there. And we’ve been playing festivals on this past run.
We’ve had the pleasure of playing a ton of festivals, so I’m getting a little more used to the style of what that is. I’m prepared and I’m ready.
SIMGE: Have you found that playing in bigger festival situations has changed your live show or the way you think about writing songs at all?
Brian: Not so much the way I think about writing songs, but it definitely changes the live show up because there’s a lot of different factors like being outside, playing usually in the middle of the day, playing a shorter set than we usually play, and which songs we’re going to choose to play. Stuff like that.
You’ve got to interact with the audience differently because sometimes there’s a lot more people there or at least a lot more people who don’t know who you are. You’re trying to make a good impression. So it’s cool, it’s exciting. The whole point of why I do what I do with the band is to try to entertain people, so I’m excited to come and try to entertain.
SIMGE: Is there anyone else playing the festival that you’re excited to check out?
Brian: You know, I try not to prepare too heavily for who I’m going to see, even like in terms of trying to meet up with friends and stuff, because I know it’s going to be so chaotic. But usually, I just try to meet up with somebody who knows what’s going on and just follow them around. Do you have any suggestions?
SIMGE: Well, I’m sure you’ve heard about Palehound by now, but I’ve been a fan of theirs for a little while so I’m definitely excited to see them. I think that’ll be really cool.
Brian: Awesome, well I’ll definitely check them out as well then. I’ve been hearing a lot about them, so I’m sure I’m justified. I’m sure they’ve got the skills.
SIMGE: True! So, any other festivals you have coming up this summer?
Brian: Lollapalooza, and we’re going to play that Panorama Fest in New York City. We just got done playing a bunch of festivals this past tour. We’ve been out for like two months. We played Coachella, Shaky Knees, all that good stuff.
SIMGE: Since you’re on tour so much, do you have any strategies for coping with being on the road? I’m sure that can get pretty grueling after a little while.
Brian: Yeah, totally. It’s all about numbing the senses. One sense at a time, you just have to numb it.
Brian: Nah, I’m just teasing. I feel extremely lucky to be able to go on the road with such good friends of mine – all the guys in the band, and we’ve built a crew at this point of people who will fly over from the UK, friends that we have that do sound and light.
You’ve really got to surround yourself with good energy because it’s a lot of emotion. You’re going out and you’re playing music every night, so mentally you have to be ready for it. I just try to surround myself with good people.
I try to get a lot of sleep. I used to party so much on the road – I still do party a lot – but I definitely learned that I have to be able to feel good when I’m going up on stage, or it’s just not going to happen. So just stay cool, get a lot of sleep and take vitamins.
SIMGE: Is there any music you particularly like to listen to when you’re on the road? Anything you’ve been playing while you’ve been out?
Brian: Sure, yeah! I love Julian Baker. We just got off tour with Diet Cig and Brick and Mortar, so we’d been bumping them for a little while. Let’s see, what else…it’s just so hard on the spot! It’s all good though, I like new music.
Honestly, the thing that I’ll listen to a lot is when people give us demos or mixes when we’re on the road. I can always get into those because it’s always something a little wacky. It’s very creative and it’s very genuine.
When somebody comes up to you with a CD and they’re like “I made this in my room, I love your music and you inspired me,” I can’t wait to listen to it. So I’ll listen to that stuff a lot, and just whatever people suggest, really.
SIMGE: That’s awesome. So as for Back On Top, do you have a favorite track that you’ve been enjoying performing?
Brian: All of the songs have definitely grown on me. We’re definitely a band where each individual song kind of becomes what it is once we get out on the road and start playing it for people. The songs really, for me, come alive when we’re playing them live.
With a song like “Summer Shandy,” at the beginning when we wrote it I was like “this is a good song, it’s fun.” But if you really think about it the tempo is totally different from most of our other songs. There’s a guitar solo, which is kind of different from our other songs. So playing that live is always just nice and a lot of fun to play. It mixes it up. So I would say “Summer Shandy.”
I also love playing “Cough It Out. And one that we don’t play that much but that I love to play is “Motorcycle,” the first song off the album. That song definitely grew on me as we would play it randomly.
SIMGE: So you guys recently joined Fueled By Ramen. How’s that transition been for you?
Brian: It’s been wonderful. It’s been a flawless transition. I think we were prepared and ready before we got involved with them, and they were prepared and ready, obviously, before they got involved with us. It’s been a totally give and take relationship. I feel like it’s been very positive. I’m excited for the future and I think it’s going to be a good thing for a while.
SIMGE: On the topic of the future, what’s next for you guys? Are you in the process of writing anything new?
Brian: Oh yeah, always. We’re always in the process of writing new stuff, so that’s pretty exciting. And I’m trying to build a studio right now, so that’s taking up a lot of time.
We still got some touring to do this summer, so we’re just going to stay busy on the road and try to get as much inspiration as we can. Just show by show, day by day, try to keep it positive and keep doing creative stuff.
SIMGE: One last question – have you heard the new Brand New single?
Brian: This is embarrassing. I haven’t heard the new Brand New single. I’m going to have to email Jesse [Lacey] and ask why he didn’t send it to me. I got to call my boys!
SIMGE: Do it!
Brian: I joke, but that’s are actually a band that we’ve been able to go on tour with – and you know, obviously everybody loves Brand New – but they’re totally incredible individuals as well. So that’s exciting to hear. Do you like the new single?
SIMGE: I do!
Brian: Be careful what you say, because as soon as we hang up I’m going to call Jesse.
SIMGE: I like it, and you can tell Jesse I like it. It has my endorsement.
Brian: OK, cool. I’ll let him know! I’m sure he’ll appreciate it.
SIMGE: Well, thanks a lot and good luck at Boston Calling!
Brian: Right on, I can’t wait.