MEB staffer Nick Niedzielski recently caught up with The Front Bottoms frontman Brian Sella at the Austin date of the band’s current tour opening for Say Anything, where they discussed the newly released Rose EP, Talon Of The Hawk one year later, and playing their last show of SXSW at 1:30 AM, as well as much more.
So this is the second night of the tour, how has it been so far?
Great. We were in Dallas last night and the show was great. A lot of people, it was positive, so it was cool.
How big is it for your band to be able to open for a band like Say Anything?
It’s huge. I mean, any opportunity to play in front of the amount of people that Say Anything is going to bring is an amazing experience. We actually played with Say Anything maybe three years ago, and we played first of four, so we got like twenty minutes, load on, load off. So to be asked to come back and be main support is incredible.
You did guest vocals on a song for the new Say Anything record, do you have a relationship with Max Bemis, or how did that come about?
Well, when we were on that tour three years ago I got to meet him, and we had kept in contact and he was always a super nice guy. I’d send him an email every once in a while or something and then this tour came up and he asked if we’d want to do it and I was like “Totally”. And he had sort of hinted at “Maybe we could work on a song together or something”, and then it just sort of came about. He sent me the song and was like, “If you want to sing this part, feel free”. And I did. I was super nervous. I did it at [bassist] Tom [Warren]’s house, like in his bedroom, and I was like “I don’t know if this is good or not”. But he put it in the song. And they put it in the setlist so I went up and sang it last night. And unless he asks me not to sing it tonight, I think it went pretty good [Laughs].
Your newest release is the RoseEP, which is re-recorded older songs. How did that come about?
We had wanted to put more stuff out, you know. We get kind of restless. And we had the idea for this Grandma series where we put out a series of EPs over a series of years just of old songs that we felt didn’t get the release they deserved. Those songs were never officially released and they were never mixed or mastered or anything like that. So it was an opportunity to re-record songs that me and [drummer]Matt [Uychich] really liked. We’re working with Tom and [guitarist] Ciaran [O’Donnell] now, who put some spin on everything, so it was cool to have them work on those songs and see the cool guitar lines they came up with and stuff. It just worked out really perfectly. It was nice to go and actually be able to record songs that I wrote in high school in a studio and have people care if they came out or not. It was exciting.
Was it more of a nod to your older fans who have been around a while, or was it more of trying to expose newer fans to your older stuff? Because not a lot of people have heard these and they’re pretty hard to find.
I think it was definitely a little bit of both. And I realize that these songs are basically going to be new to everyone, more or less. So it’s exciting to have songs that I’ve known for a long time and maybe a few people knew and loved. We kinda listened to people who were like “Can you play this song and this song”, so we had an idea of the songs we would re-record just from what people would ask. But you’re absolutely right, these songs, to 90% of everyone, are brand new songs. It was kind of exciting, the idea that this is like a new EP for a lot of people, which is cool. And a lot of people in the audience of these shows, I assume, don’t know who we are, so it’s cool that they go over to the merch table and there’s three records that they could possibly buy. I like that idea.
Is the idea to eventually put out all of your old material?
I think so. I don’t really know. I think that is the plan right now. Maybe over the next couple years if we release an album and we’re still anxious to record or have a little more recoding time, we’ll just record six more songs and put them out eventually. The idea is to put it all out, but that’s a long ways away, so we’ll see what happens.
In the past you have talked about possible splits with Manchester Orchestra and GDP, is there any news on those?
For sure. For the GDP split, we recorded the songs we wanted to put on it and he’s got the songs for it. The plan is to do it in October with Bar/None and Run For Cover co-releasing it. I couldn’t be more excited about that, honestly. He’s actually coming out to the West Coast with us for these dates, he’s gonna cruise along and stuff. We were talking about trying to maybe make a song together or something. So yeah, that will hopefully be out in the fall. That’s what the plan is as of now. We’ll see. And Manchester Orchestra, that’s like, of course. If or when that happens we’ll be super excited to do it. Also Kevin Devine would be another person I’d be honored to work with in some way. So yeah, a lot of stuff going on, hopefully we can make it all happen.
Not all of those bands sound like you. Do you think that being a part of this diverse music scene has helped the band musically?
Definitely. We’ve been very fortunate to play with bands that are so kind and tell their friends and then we get to go on tour with their friends and it kinda turns into a whole family thing, which is pretty cool.
It’s been just over a year since Talon Of The Hawk came out. What are your thoughts on how it’s been received?
I’m pumped. I’m so happy and proud of the way it came out. We recorded it in Austin, so it’s nice to come back. I’m just honored that people seem to be responding positively to it. You can’t really ask for more than that. If you’re going to make something and put it out there, you have to be willing to accept that people might hate it, so the fact that a lot of people did like it is an awesome feeling.
Why do you think a song like “Twin Size Mattress” seemed to resonate with people, even people who might not necessarily like the record or the band?
I don’t know man. Maybe luck? I think that, with the lyrics, I try to focus on specific themes that I think can be relatable, and everyone sort of has the same feelings about a lot of things. Maybe they don’t want to admit it, but like, there are common themes for everybody in everything, and I think if you can really target a few themes and put it all together with a little luck, actually a lot of luck, it’ll come out and people will be into it. That was a song that, when we recorded it, we were all sort of like “This sounds awesome”. We were all very very excited and proud of that. We recorded the drums all in one day, all live, then the acoustic guitar and the bass, then Ciaran and Matt and Tom went downstairs and added a bunch of shit and I was upstairs recording the vocals, so it really wasn’t until, like, a lot later on in the mixing process that we heard the song all together. So we were able to hear it as if it was the first time, and we were like ”Good job man! Shit, that’s cool!” Just very proud, like this is something I would listen to.
Having Kieran and Tom in the band, did they have more of an input in the writing and recording of Talon Of The Hawk? Do you think having them helped expand your sound?
Absolutely. With two people, me and Matt, you can only add so much flavor. And especially because, you know, I don’t really know how to play guitar. And all these other instruments, its beyond me. I can write the vocals and I can make a melody, stuff like that, but at a certain point, you just need better musicians, and I think we got super lucky. They’ve been friends with each other for a while and we knew Ciaran, he did trumpet and electric guitar on the old album. We were playing with Drew [Villafuerte], a really good friend of ours and he needed to take a little bit of a break, so it just kinda all came together perfectly. A lot of those songs were basically already written, and then they came and added so much to them.
I think one of the things that attracts people to this band is the personal nature of the lyrics. Is it ever hard for you to put that kind of stuff on paper?
Not really. Sometimes if I’m thinking about something, like “Maybe I shouldn’t put this in a song”, then I shouldn’t put it in. I don’t want to have to sing something every night that I wasn’t really comfortable with saying in the first place. But that doesn’t happen very often. It’s just what comes up, comes out. I don’t know. Maybe I should think a little bit more [laughs].
Your live show is known for having a lot of energy and the crowd being really into it. How important is it for your band to connect with the fans and crowd at shows?
I think that it’s the only way. If you’re going to be in a band and you’re going to play music, then you have to be able to connect with people when you’re playing it in front of them. Listening to a CD is awesome and that gets people to the shows, hopefully, but for us, those early recordings weren’t good. They have a lot of personality and I think that people could like that, but for a majority of people, they wouldn’t be able to listen to it because it is so lo-fi. So we had no choice but to perform, and I think me and Matt realized that very early on, probably when we went on that Say Anything tour honestly because that was the first time we were playing to like 1,500 people. So we were like, we have an opportunity to win fans over and we know what they want. They just want to have a good time. And we love having a good time too, so let’s just do that. And it’s gotten a little bit ridiculous. We have all these blow-up things and inflatables and stuff like that, which is fun. We’re just trying to keep it going and have fun with it. I feel like a lot of times you go to a show and it’s so uncomfortable. Why would I want to put someone through that? So it’s cool to have an opportunity like this to play with so many good bands. The So So Glos are a phenomenal band live, so to be able to go on after them, they get everyone so pumped up that it’s like shooting fish in a barrel, as they say [laughs]. We feel very lucky.
I know this tour is just starting, but do you have any plans for after?
Yeah, we’re going to stay busy. We’re on this tour until August, then we’re goingt o the UK to play Reading And Leeds and Bestival. So we’ll be there for like two and a half weeks, then we come back and maybe try to write another album, I’m not sure. We’ll see how much time we got. And there’s other stuff in the works for next year. Just keeping moving.
Have you put any thought into the direction, writing-wise or sound-wise, of the next record?
Here and there. We’ve gotten together a few times. Since we tour so much, when we go home its like, let’s just sit on the couch with our girlfriends and watch TV for two straight weeks. But we’ve jammed and I’ve written a bunch of stuff, it’s just a matter of taking it to those dudes and blocking out time where we can just sit and figure it out. I’m excited though. The few times we’ve jammed it’s always been awesome. So we’ll see what happens.
You’re back here in Austin after spending time here during SXSW. I managed to catch yall a couple times and saw your last show…
And I remember you saying that you had a lot of fun, but you were really glad it was your last show. So how was your SXSW experience?
[Laughs] It was awesome. It was a party. Like a weeklong party, as I’m sure you know. So by that last show at 1:30 in the morning, it was the peak of the party. We were all in rare form. Oh God. You could tell that, huh?
It was fun though!
Ok that’s good. Awesome. That’s what its all about. We were kinda all on the same page about that show. Like, “What time does that show start? Oh my God. Well let’s start drinking now”. So it was good. There’s a radio DJ from NPR, David Dye, who my mom listened to when I was growing up, that’s how I knew him. I had the opportunity to meet him maybe a year ago, and I just saw him again two weeks ago. And he was like “Oh, right on, I’m excited for the new EP. I saw you at SXSW”. And I was like “Oh ok, what show?” and he said, “the one at 1 in the morning”. And I was like “Oh…” and he was like “Yeah….”. And that was kinda the end of the conversation [laughs]. He said it was awesome, but I don’t know.
But I think it’s a testament to the band that everybody had fun. I specifically remember yall played the last song and one of you ran into the drums and knocked them all over. So you’re getting off the stage and the crowd was chanting “One more song!”, and you kind of look over and say “But the drums are broken”, but you still stayed and played “12 Feet Deep” acoustic. I think that’s a testament to how you treat your fans.
[Laughs] Definitely. You gotta give them what they want. And at that point I would have done anything someone told me to do, which is scary [laughs].