Most rock stars don’t name their records after their grandmothers — let alone a series of records. Then again, Brian Sella, lead vocalist and guitarist of The Front Bottoms, isn’t most rock stars.
Late last month, Sella and his longtime bandmate/drummer Matt Uychich released The Front Bottoms’ latest EP, Ann. Named after Sella’s own late grandmother, it’s the second part in the band’s grandma series, following 2014’s Rose. That EP was named after Uychich’s grandmother, who passed away during its recording.
“As a band, we have a catalog of about 30-40 songs that we never officially released, but it’s songs that we toured off of for our first three years,” Sella told Revue about the origin of the grandma series. “So we thought, ‘Why don’t we re-record some of these?’ That was always the plan, to give them more of an official release.”
Made up of some of the band’s oldest, most-beloved live staples, the songs on the EPs go back to The Front Bottoms’ punk rock beginnings, more than a decade ago, when the duo would record songs in their friend’s bedroom and release them online the same night.
“I love those old songs,” Sella said. “It’s so interesting to go back and listen to a song you wrote 10 years ago and try to reimagine it, and have other people involved, and actually record it nicely.”
Initially inspired by the folk-punk sound and acoustic guitar punch of bands like Defiance, Ohio and Against Me!, Sella and Uychich have been playing together since the sixth grade. The band has released six full-length albums — two on its own, two with indie label Bar/None, and its two latest with hit-making label Fueled By Ramen.
Sella’s mother designed the cover for the new EP, which features a collage and black-and-white photo of his grandmother as a young girl. It’s the first time Sella and his mother have collaborated on a Front Bottoms project, but she has supported his music career right from the start, when she bought the band studio time to record its first-ever release back in 2008.
“I had never really had an experience like that with my mother before... other than the fact that she raised me and taught me everything I know,” Sella joked. “It’s so crazy at this point in my career to be able to even have the opportunity to do creative stuff like that.”
Now a bonafide rock star, Sella has toured the world with The Front Bottoms. Building a fan base the old-fashioned way, he says his visits to Grand Rapids over the years perfectly chronicle his band’s rise — from selling out The Pyramid Scheme in 2013 to playing The Intersection and later opening for Brand New at the Deltaplex in 2016, to now headlining 20 Monroe Live on June 7.
On this run, The Front Bottoms will start the show off by playing both the Rose and Ann EPs in order. The band will then take a short intermission before returning to play its latest full-length LP, last year’s Going Grey, in its entirety.
The show will feature an expanded lineup, with Sella and Uychich joined by longtime bandmate Tom Warren on guitar, Jenn Fantaccione on violin/trumpet, Roshane Karunaratne on keyboards and Erik Kase Romero on bass.
“It will be an emotional experience,” Sella said. “These were Matt’s grandmother’s favorite songs, and I had a very good relationship with Matt’s grandmother before she passed. She was part of the family. We’d hang out with her and stuff. So playing those songs will be kind of intense, and then playing the Ann songs, those will be just as intense, especially because there’s a lot of history to those songs. There’s like 20 different versions. We’ve always played
them live, so it’s going to be interesting. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll break down in tears.”
On Going Grey, Sella faces down turning 30 and finally growing up – even if it means that being an adult comes down to accepting you don’t really know anything.
“It doesn’t get any clearer,” Sella said of speaking to a generation of millennials who share his lyrical anxieties. “It’s just like, ‘Oh shit, now there’s just more to worry about.’ Somebody did say to me one time (that) Going Grey sounds like your saddest album, and it’s such an interesting experience to see what other people get out of the music.”
Currently busy touring, writing and recording, Sella also has started a production company called Screwball and has a movie idea in the works.
“I’m not really trying to be like a big rockstar type of guy,” he said. “It’s not really my prerogative to sign autographs and do all that type of stuff, so when someone does say that the music affects them, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, thank you!’ I’m genuinely appreciative of the journey people are going on with this album.”
The Front Bottoms
wsg. An Horse
20 Monroe Live
11 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
June 7, 7 p.m., $25-45