Brian Sella is the lead vocalist and guitarist of The Front Bottoms, an American indie rock band that originated in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. Sella — alongside bandmates Mat Uychich (drums) and Tom Warren (guitar, vocals) — is currently co-headlining a tour alongside Manchester Orchestra and will be in Philadelphia at The Fillmore Dec. 12 and 13.
This interview was edited for grammar and clarity.
The Triangle: What are you looking forward to on this tour?
Brian Sella: I think the thing you get most excited about is being able to see some of the friends that you’ve made all across the country. When you’re on tour, you get to hangout with them all the time, and then when you go home, you don’t get to see them. I got a bunch of friends in Denver that I’m excited to hangout with; friends I haven’t seen in awhile.
And I’m excited for the two shows in Philly — without a doubt that’s going to be amazing. And then the two shows in Brooklyn, and after that, we play the Champagne Grand in Jersey, which is our sort of hometown, annual holiday show. So by the 10th, I’ll be back in the area — it’s all good. Philly is our spot — it’s definitely our spot. You guys always just show us so much love down there. And we’re from New Jersey originally so that was the only spot we could get to in the beginning.
TT: Last month, you shared your brand new track, “End of summer (now I know).” The band has certainly come a long way within the past few years, touring the country, performing at large festivals like Coachella and even doing some shows outside of the U.S. and yet, this song was recorded in your friend’s basement. Why did you decide to do that and what does this say about the band?
BS: It says that this is the way we’re just gonna try to do it — the same sort of mindset that allowed me to travel around the country and go overseas and be in this band; this is the same mindset that told me we should record this song in a basement. We have the ability to do it, there’s no point in stressing, and it was such a quick turnaround, and fortunately for us, our label is very open to us doing weirder ideas — anything that we really want to do.
Tomorrow, in this same vein, we’re gonna release a new song with Manchester Orchestra. That was the same situation: I came down to Atlanta, we hung out for like a day, made this banging song in their house, and then we’re gonna release it tomorrow. I think that’s the pace I wanna take things at now. A lot of music happens quickly — it’s small moments — but you don’t want to wait a year until you can release a new album. That’s basically the mindset. That’s why I like to release singles — I like the idea of releasing it right when we record it.
TT: Recently, you also put out the album “Ann.” Tell me more about the inspiration for this collection and the idea behind the conception of the band’s “Grandma Series.”
BS: Ann is my grandmother. We did one called “Rose” a few years ago — Mat’s grandmother. The idea came from the fact that people would request these songs that were really, really old that were basically demos that Mat and I would record and put out that night. Back in the day, we’d just record with our friends and over the years and years and years of time, people have heard these songs and so basically we decided we’d go back and record these properly and put them out in memory of our grandmas. It’s pretty full circle because that’s what we’re trying to do now with all this new stuff.
When the idea was happening, Mat’s grandmother passed away and we were like “let’s do this”. Then my grandmother had passed away and that’s where it came from: dedicating this to the important women in our lives. And my mom did the album artwork for “Ann” which I was very, very proud of.
TT: As time has gone by, the complexity of your music has clearly grown — both lyrically and instrumentally — and yet the band’s overall sound hasn’t changed much. How do you strike this balance between trying new things and stepping out of your comfort zone but also remaining true to the band?
BS: I think it has a lot to do with the other people involved. If you stay true to yourself, that’s easy, then basically you have to get people involved who can make the music more complex and make the music sound better as long as you stay true to what you do artistically — like the lyrics and the vocal melodies and the delivery and stuff like that. I think the reason the band has developed and the reason why we go on tour and why we’re able to do that is because it’s not just me and Mat. There’s the lighting guy and the sound guy and the tour manager and the bus driver — there’s all these different elements. You got to let people do their job so that you can do your own thing. Basically, stay true to yourself and let the other people around you that you trust or that you should trust do their job and then it will balance itself naturally. But that took a long time to figure out; there was a lot of frustrating years of trying to figure it out, but now that’s the conclusion.
TT: Another balance the band seems to strike is going back and forth between being kind of silly but also being capable of being more serious. What kind of songs do you enjoy putting out more or do you enjoy having this balance?
BS: I like the balance for sure. I’m not really sure where that comes from — I think that’s just life. And for me, my perspective of life is that “it is what it is.” I can give an example that sums it up for me. One time, a long time ago, we had this song called “Father.” I had this girl come up to me crying after, saying, “Oh my gosh, this song reminds me of my father and brought back all this stuff” and hugged me. Then, this other person comes up to me five minutes later and says, “That song ‘Father’ is the funniest song I’ve ever heard in my life!” Allowing people to get what they need from the song is like something that I’ve always tried to make happen. I just want people to take the song — whether they think it’s the funniest song in the world or if it makes them cry — that was a feeling I have to keep that in mind: allowing people to paint their own world.
TT: What can people expect if they attend a show during this tour? Will the focus be mostly on new material or will you play some of your classics?
BS: We’ll kind of do what we’ve always done — we’ll do a good mix. We basically mix the set up every night. We’ll start with something one night and end with something one night and throw in a bunch of songs in the middle. I’ve started doing a lot of requests. We’ll definitely play “End of summer,” we’ll play some of the new ones we just released, and we’ll kind of just go with the flow. It’ll just be loose — just going to keep it loose and make sure everyone is having a good time.