by Jeff Niesel
New Jersey’s the Front Bottoms are still getting some good mileage out of last year’s self-titled release, a collection of nerdy indie pop tunes with undeniable charm. The band plays a few more stateside shows, then heads to Europe before coming back to the States for a series of dates that extend into November. Singer-guitarist Brian Sella phoned in from a tour stop to talk about the band’s early days and the progress he’s made on the follow-up album. The band plays tonight at 8 p.m. at Now That’s Class with Meridian and Runaway Brother. Tickets are $10.
You guys have been friends since you were kids. Do you remember when you first met Mathew Uychich?
I chilled with Mat’s older brother a lot and would hang out. I would ride over to his house and hang out and that’s how we first met. We’d be chilling in the backyard, jumping on the trampoline and stuff like that. I didn’t learn how to play guitar until I got to high school. I was too busy playing video games and shit like that. Toward the end of high school, things started coming together. We had played in another band and did that but that was nothing. We just messed around in the basement.
Was the high school talent show your first gig?
Hell, yeah. That was the only thing we played for awhile. We didn’t think anything of it. We figured we would have fun. That was my first experience with that. They would clear out the cafeteria. I was pretty nervous for that stuff. It taught me that it doesn’t really matter. When you’re playing in front of high school kids, you think it’s the end of the world but you eventually realize it doesn’t matter that much.
Are you part of some kind of New Jersey indie pop scene there?
Not really. There was a whole VFW scene that was a little bit older. There was a basement scene in Jersey. That was what we kind of fell into because we just wanted to play shows. If you were playing shows at venues, you had to tell your friends to pay $10 for a ticket. Very quickly, kids were like “We can just do this in my basement and get drunk and have a good time.” That’s what the scene we fell into in New Brunswick and even down in Philly and up in New England. We played with screamo bands and those were kind of our people for awhile. It’s not like we didn’t fit in but we weren’t playing scream. We fell into that just because we wanted to play shows and make music.
I know you released a few albums prior to last year’s self-titled effort. How different was the making of The Front Bottoms?
Honestly, those records we released before we were signed were like, “Oh we have six songs. Let’s just go in and record them in our friend’s basement.” We were like, “Let’s find some kid who has ProTools and make him record as many songs as he can before he wants us to pay him for it.” The album on Bar None was done the same way. We had a friend in Hackensack. He let us record in his basement. We had another buddy who was living in his warehouse and we went there and recorded and it was the same process. We’re talking about recording our new album now and there’s a lot of shit we have to do. I’ve never recorded demos. The label wants demos and everything. We wrote the 12 songs and we just want to go in and record them. You have to grow with it.
Is there really a map on the wall of your room or did you just make that up for “Maps”?
I actually do. That’s where my inspiration comes from, looking around my room and trying to find something to write about.
Your rapid-fire vocal style is so unusual. Did you always sing like that?
Honestly, yeah. I am not going to bullshit anyone into thinking that I have an amazing singing voice. The way I’m singing these songs is just the way I’m fucking singing them. The lyrics work themselves around the guitar parts. If I had a line I wanted to say, would just make it fit. I’m not too concerned about melody or anything.
You and the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn could have a sing off to see who can come up with the cleverest turn of phrase and spit it out the fastest.
Yeah, that’d be pretty fun.
Will you always remain a duo?
I think we’ll expand. The Front Bottoms is just me and Matt. We have a friend who plays live and keys with us live. Regardless the band is just me and Matt and we’ll find someone else to play bass or keyboards. If I can get the money, I’ll put together a whole God damned orchestra to back me up. But not yet.