UTG INTERVIEW: The Front Bottoms @ SXSW

The Front Bottoms 2014

There’s a sense of duality to The Front Bottoms. On one hand, frontman and guitarist Brian Sella’s lyrics ooze honesty about tough times in life, but on the other, there’s still a overarching positive outlook and a display of joyful exuberance in the band’s live performance.

All of these things were very evident through the course of our interview with Sella, of whom we interviewed in Austin, TX midway through the band’s tenure at SXSW. In our discussion, we talked about the fan reception of their 2013 release, Talon of the Hawk, songwriting, favorite moments from South By, advice for today’s underdogs, and the release of new material.

Talon of the Hawk has been out for nearly a year now, how do you feel fans have received the record?

It feels very positive. Everybody seems to be enjoying it, when we go to play, there’s more people showing up. A lot of people know the words which is like a total honor. I couldn’t be any happier with how people have been taking it.

Now that it’s almost been a year, have you guys even thought about writing some new material?

Yeah, for sure! It’s been a constant creative process. There are always songs that we’re kicking around. Probably after we get back from going on tour with Brand New in April, we will try to get more concrete ideas. For now, it’s all over the place in terms of song structure. You know, slowly but surely, we’ll figure it out.

What initially made you want to write music?

I think it was definitely an event for me. You know, like writing down my ideas and thoughts. If I ever was frustrated, I could just write and I would feel better afterwards. I realized that at kind of an earlier age, so putting music to it sort of happened when I was in high school, because it was like, “oh, you want to be in a band?” or whatever, so it was like, “oh, I think I can make some songs!” The most important part to me was the writing, and the music kind of came after. The reason of why I wanted to do it was because it allowed me to feel better about myself.

Not to downplay vocalists as musicians, but did guitar come before or after that?

Guitar definitely came after that. I’m not the best guitar player, without a doubt. When I feel really lame, I say that I’m more of a poet than a musician, because the lyrics are something that I want to focus on and figure out to be the best.

Who inspired you to develop such an open and honest writing style?

I would say Bright Eyes, who I’ve liked a lot, and recently, Frightened Rabbit. But I guess Bright Eyes was the first indie person I’ve listened to who was very emotional with his lyrics. I thought, “ok, that’s allowed, so I’m going to try to do that.”

As an artist, how do you respond to criticism?

Sometimes, it’s like “dude, c’mon. You don’t need to say anything rude…” you know? I have no problem with people being like “oh, that’s not my type of music. I don’t really listen to it.” That’s awesome. There’s a lot of music out there that people need to listen to, so if you’re not super into The Front Bottoms, it’s totally fine. When you see things that are a little bit rude, you just gotta know that the person is probably just saying that to say it, more for themselves, not so much to attack you (you hope). You kind of just roll with it, you keep doing things that people like, but you don’t want to let that be a factor.

Also, I think that people like me and Matt [will be asked things like] “oh do you feel pressured with this new album?” We’ve never really felt pressured because we were just going to do what we were going to do, regardless. I think having that attitude and being united in “we’re going to do what we’re going to do” makes the criticism mean a lot less.

Would this be your first time at SXSW?

This would actually be my second SXSW. We didn’t do it last year, but we did the year before though.

Gotcha. So between that and the craziness that was probably yesterday and the three different shows that you did yesterday, what is your favorite part of SXSW?

Ok, well, I will say this: After the show yesterday, we were waiting around, watching some of the other bands, and it had been a long day. Like, a long day that started early, and the drinking had started pretty early. I had went into the van and our friend Mark was sitting (like, just sitting), so I got into the van and just sat there, and that was like, my favorite part of the day. I was like, “God! It feels good to sit!” [laughs].

But nah, I like the food, even just the food trucks and stuff. There’s definitely a vibe in Austin. We recorded our album here and so it’s nice to come back here with all of the chaos. I’m a fan of people watching, so it’s like, “wow! There’s a lot of interesting people here.” So yeah, it’s probably just being amongst a crowd of people, walking around, and drinking beers, that’s my favorite part.

Also, we played yesterday as the house band for Chris Gethard. He’s a fantastic comedian, and we were able to play his theme song, and we made up some tunes as the show was going on. That was like, one of the coolest things. I like doing creative stuff like that. That was definitely a highlight of South By.

Is there any story behind how that came around?

We had been on his show in New York (he has a public access show), and he had invited us to play. I didn’t know the show before that, but Tom, our bass player is a huge fan. We went to the show and it was incredible. We just kept in touch and whenever there’s something creative going on, it’s like “Chris is a creative dude, we should get him…” he was in the music video that we made recently, and we’re always talking back and forth and stuff. His house band actually wasn’t able to make it to SXSW, so it just worked out pretty nicely. It was an awesome experience.

What advice would you have for any new, up and coming bands who would try to play just as many shows at SXSW?

Definitely start drinking as late in the day as you can, like don’t blow yourself out. It’s going to be chaotic, no matter what. Loading in, trying to figure out where you’re supposed to go…so just try to breathe deep, take it in stride. The show can’t go on without you, you know?  Try to get there on time, be polite to everybody, just do your thing.

I really haven’t heard any complaints about your live show at all. You guys always seem to have fun on stage. How do you stay excited through it all?

It is something that is exciting, you know? To get on stage and play. It’s not so much of having to try to do it, but I think the reason that a lot of people say a lot of nice things about our live show is because I feel that this is like, real for us. I feel that when we go on stage, it’s like, every time we’re going to have fun. We’re not going to plan anything out. Maybe I’ll forget how to play the songs, and I feel people can really relate to that. Like, “oh, that’s cool! This isn’t a planned thing, they’re actually having fun.”

Thankfully for now, that’s something that comes natural for us. Maybe one day I’ll be really tired of it, and then I’ll have to fake it, but as of right now, it’s a lot of fun and I don’t see it not being fun.

What’s next for The Front Bottoms?

We’re just going to keep playing shows; we’ll keep doing our own thing. Hopefully people keep coming, watching us, and having a good time with it.


Click here for a listing of announced TFB shows.

Interview written and conducted by Adrian Garza (Follow him on Twitter)

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