Placed in an array of genres by their fans, the indie-rock-folk-punk-acoustic-pop band, The Front Bottoms stopped in Pittsburgh for the second show of their national headlining tour. The New Jersey-based band returned to Mr. Smalls in Millvale to play a sold out show with openers Diet Cig and Brick + Mortar. LOCALPittsburgh had the opportunity to speak with The Front Bottoms lead singer and guitarist Brian Sella on selling out shows in Pittsburgh, Franktuary hotdogs, drinking beer, and more.
You started The Front Bottoms with Mat (Uychich) while you were still in college. How do reactions from your family and friends differ from when you first started playing shows to your recording success now?
You know, it was always that we were fortunate to have supportive people. …Mat and [I] sort of supported each other throughout the whole experience. Everybody’s reaction was basically the same now as it was then. If they weren’t impressed back then, they’re still not impressed. So a lot of the relationships that I’ve had [in] my life have influenced my music a lot. Now I have a lot more friends and… people hanging around so I get a lot of inspiration from that and that’s kind of always where the inspiration came from… The relationships and the support system. It’s easy to start being inspired when people are around to support you.
As a small-town Jersey local, how has your perspective on music changed during the process of touring different cities, states and, more recently, different countries?
Oh it’s amazing. It’s cool when you go to these different places and you play, that’s a whole different insane experience. Other than just being on the other side of the world or being in a different city every night, along with all of that, you’re performing your art that you’ve made to a bunch of people so it’s great. It’s a wild experience… it’s inspiring.
The Front Bottoms are on the lineup for Coachella this year.
Hell yea! Woo!
How do you think the Coachella music festival performance and audience will differ from your usual tour?
I mean, it will be different from a headlining set because it’ll probably be shorter and you know there will be a lot more people there. I guess there’ll be some people there that know us but it will probably be an opportunity to make a lot of new fans so I’m going to be pulling out all the jokes, all the stuff.
All your tricks right? Everything up your sleeve.
Exactly, my magic tricks.
I’m sure being signed by Bar/None Records and more recently Fueled by Ramen (record label) was a major turning point for the band, but what do you attribute as the first real pivotal moment for the band’s success?
Shoot, I don’t really know. You know what, I thought it was always just about setting really achievable goals and then just absolutely achieving them. But that would be from very early on. Like, “Okay, we want to record these six songs. How are we gonna do that? Alright, I know somebody who’s got a little studio so we can go to his house… Okay, we did it, that’s so awesome. Now let’s put it on the internet with… album art and send it to all our friends”. And we did that. Then it was like, “Alright let’s try to play a show”. And then we would play a show at this venue we always wanted to play and it would sell out. With every single one of those little goals met, for Mat and I, was like, “Okay, we should keep going. You know there’s like fifteen people here tonight; two of them actually know the words, and we’re in Florida and this is awesome, you know? Let’s keep going.” So I don’t know, I feel like every little thing about the band… was like, “…we made it. Let’s f***ing sing this. We’re f***ing famous rich rock stars.” … A joke.
Your most recent song “Noodle Monster” was seen on the season finale of Portlandia. What was it like creating a song for a television show rather than your own personal reasons?
It was interesting. You know, we have a history of this sort of thing. When we were friends with Bar/None, [the owner] Glen [said], “I have this friend who’s making [a] movie that Brendan Fraser is [going to] be in and I wrote this song, can you perform it?” So we were like, “Yea totally!” So we went to some guy’s house and recorded it. Our friend Drew played a lot of the instruments and I sang… I think we got $100 bucks… and three years later it was on [the] preview for this movie. We were like, “Whoa! That’s pretty cool”. So Fueled By Ramen was like, “You know Portlandia’s got the season finale. Watch this preview, it’s about a noodle monster.” We were in Europe at the time and we just came up with the song and soundtrack. I had a dream about it and was like, “This is a great song”. We played it during sound check and we were in Switzerland and there was a multi-track board. So I found I was able to record it and mix it, so we just did that. We sent it over and they were like, “Oh yea this is great!” So that’s just how it happened. It was pretty cool.
You’re returning to Pittsburgh for a sold out show at Mr. Smalls Theater, a venue you’re now familiar with. Do you have any fond memories or funny stories from previous shows or stops in Pittsburgh?
Oh yeah! …I’ve [had] so many experiences there in Pittsburgh. [W]e played Mr. Smalls with Say Anything. That’s the band that took us on tour a bunch and really did a lot for us, I think. I just remember playing with them there specifically, just hanging and …making good memories. Did Mr. Smalls used to sell hot dogs? Do they still do that? Like, wacky hot dogs?
I’m not sure. Actually, I don’t know if I would eat a hot dog at Mr. Smalls.
I feel like they sold like hot dogs with jelly and cream cheese on [top]. I feel like that happened there and they had real spicy ones. Remember that?
Oh, out of a truck?
Yeah, that’s the Franktuary truck.
Yeah yeah! Mat says that it was that.
Last time you were in Pittsburgh you were seen drinking Yuengling and unwinding a bit on stage. How do you like to unwind when you’re not on tour or even in between shows?
The same way, basically just hanging out with some friends. I like to watch some DVD’s and drink a beer or two. And just being able to mellow out really, just trying to get back into a routine really is what it’s all about.
What is your favorite song to play live?
Hmm, you know that changes every single night. Honestly that’s the way it goes. It really depends. Because when I get on stage I like to say I’m entertaining. I’m not trying to perform, I’m trying to entertain. So my emotions for the day and how I’m feeling always follow me on stage. You know, maybe one night I’m feeling super good and then Skeleton is my favorite song to play, but then the next night you know, some other song is my favorite song to play because it’s hard to tell how it’s going to go.
So kind of situational?
Aside from Coachella and your tour starting next week, what can fans expect to see from The Front Bottoms in the near future?
I’m writing a book.
Yeah, a book. And I’m going to do an audio book with it and soundscape it.
So what’s the book about?
I’ve been working on the book for like six years. It’s a [work of] fiction and it’s just kind of a story of a person. I don’t want to reveal too much.
Of course, so do you have a date when we can expect that to be out or is it in the works still?
Yeah… it’s got a long way to go and it’s always hard to tell when you do something; you don’t really know if it’s going to work out or how it’s going to really develop in its final form so it’s hard to say what’s going to end up [happening] with it, you know?
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans in Pittsburgh?
Uh, let me think. No, not really. I’m just, you know, super pumped to come back to Pittsburgh. It’s a place we’ve always – what’s the place that’s upstairs? The Smiling Moose?
Yea, that’s on South Side.
Yes. Yeah! We’ve played there a bunch of times. I remember one time the fire alarm was going off; it’s just a great town. We can’t wait to come back and have a good time.