No Genre, No Problem: A Conversation with Brian Sella of The Front Bottoms

(The Front Bottoms will be at WorkPlay with Manchester Orchestra and O’Brother on Sunday, November 24th.  The show is reportedly SOLD OUT.)

Banner photo credit: Mark Jaworski

 A quick scouring of The Front Bottoms’ Facebook page reveals the usual information: manager, iTunes links, current location (Jersey, by the way), record label, so on.  However, the band’s choice of “genre” is perhaps more accurate and compelling than even the two-piece band, currently on tour with Manchester Orchestra, even realizes.

Genre: “What’s a genre?”

This description, both wildly vague and dangerously specific, has arisen more and more frequently among artists of the millennial age.  The Front Bottoms are certainly a product of an increasingly ambiguous generation, though not at the expense of carving their own unique niche in the noise of pop culture.

Take, for example, the lyrics to one of their most beloved songs “Skeleton,” from their most recent album Talon of the Hawk (Bar/None Records).  Vocalist/guitarist Brian Sella playfully sings of getting “so stoned” that he “fell asleep in the front seat,” though he “never sleeps in the front seat.”  Much like millennial icon Tyler the Creator, Sella says that The Front Bottoms, collectively, do not engage in stoning activities.  “It’s just not something we do as a band,” says Sella.  Dealing with lyrics-inspired invitations to smoke with fans and fellow musicians is an “easy fix,” says Sella, laughing.  “I just say no thanks.”

The aforementioned album Talon of the Hawk is a satisfying blend of punk, folk, and – yes – even some distinctly pop sensibilities, mostly stemming from Sella’s lyrics and his almost Tom DeLonge-esque delivery.  Not surprisingly, Sella says he grew up on what he calls “Top 40 pop punk,” citing Sum 41 and DeLonge’s Blink-182 as important early influences.  “I distinctly remember my older sister having [the Blink-182 mega-smash] Enema of the State,” says Sella.  As for more recent influences, Sella – without pause – is quick to praise Pusha T’s most recent album, the Kanye West-produced My Name is My Name.

“Genre” is, as clearly perpetuated by the Front Bottoms themselves (rounded out by drummer Matt Uychich), an absolutely inconsequential element of music (and art, in general).  Identity, however, is more important than ever.  The Front Bottoms, as evidenced on Talon of the Hawk standout “Twin Size Mattress” (Sella’s personal favorite), are acutely aware of their evolving role in pop culture.

I wanna contribute to the chaos, I don’t wanna watch and then complain

‘Cause I am through finding blame. That is the decision that I have made.


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