Since those formative days, The Front Bottoms have gone above and beyond the wildest beliefs of either of said schoolyard chums – vocalist/guitarist Brian Sella and drummer Matthew Uychich. On the back of their fifth album, the ironically-titled Back on Top, the folk-punk outfit were amazingly able to push through to a wider audience and even crack the top tiers of the Billboard 200 album charts. Even better for Sella, however, has been the band’s extensive touring regime.
“We were on the road for more or less a year solid after the record came out,” he says. “I’m really grateful that people seemed to really enjoy the new music, and that the shows themselves were getting bigger. This record has taken us all over the place. It’s really been such a positive thing.
“For me, The Front Bottoms is a live band – the best way to experience this music is by seeing us play it, because that’s when you’ll really get it. For us to get to do that at all these amazing shows and these big festivals. I can’t begin to tell you what that means to me.”
Completed by bassist Tom Warren and multi-instrumentalist Ciaran O’Donnell, The Front Bottoms have built their way up from floor shows to theatre sellouts and back again. They even played what Sella describes as “hockey stadiums” while touring as main support for Brand New. Their incremental but steady ascent can be almost completely credited to their grassroots fanbase, which has expanded with every release and resulted in a fandom unlike nearly anything in the current realm of indie rock. “Some things, you just can’t explain – and that, to me, is definitely one of them,” says Sella of the rise from cult favourites to something resembling mainstream appeal.
“It was actually on a tour that we did over here, with The Smith Street Band, where we started to see a big change in our audiences. We’d play some random place out in Ohio, not expecting anything of it, and something like two thousand people would show up. We’d get all these messages online of people waiting in line to come and see us. When we played in New York City on that tour, I was getting all of these tweets about people that had slept on the pavement and camped out so they could be the first in line. To this day, that kind of response to what we do makes no sense to me. All I can say is that I really hope that Front Bottoms shows are safe places for these kids, who really just want to come along and express themselves.”
Album number six from the band will most likely be written in 2017, although not necessarily released within it. Before we get to that, however, there is the small matter of The Front Bottoms wrapping up touring in support of Back on Top with their first-ever headlining tour of Australia. With Adelaide’s premier melodic punks The Hard Aches in tow, the excitement for these relatively tiny club shows is already palpable. Sella, on behalf of the rest of the group, cannot wait.
“The way I see it is this – we are travelling to the other side of the world to play music,” he says. “To have an intimate feeling with however many people that come to see you play, that really does mean a lot to us. I’m not going to say that it means more than one of those crazy two thousand people shows, because we definitely love doing both. There is something really exciting, however, about having a touring relationship with a location that is still quite new. After the Smithies brought us out that first time, we were immediately in love with the place. We get to come back, and we get to play these new songs for everyone.” You can feel Sella’s smile radiating down the phone line as he reiterates what is clearly a favourite mantra of his: “It’s all a positive thing, man.”
By David James Young