Front Bottoms frontman talks his voice, emotion ahead of Charleston concert + video

eshaw@islandpacket.comNovember 6, 2013 

Brian Sella (vocals/guitar) and Matt Uychich (drums) of Front Bottoms will perform Friday at the Music Farm in Charleston.

SPECIAL TO THE ISLAND PACKET

  • IF YOU GO

    WHAT: The Front Bottoms, performing with O'Brother and Manchester Orchestra

    WHEN: 8 p.m. Nov. 8; doors open at 7 p.m.

    WHERE: Music Farm, 32 Anne St., Charleston

    COST: $15-$18

    DETAILS: To order tickets, visit www.musicfarm.com. For more information on The Front Bottoms, visit www.thefrontbottoms.com

Brian Sella understood early on that he didn't have the most beautiful voice in the world.

As the lead singer for indie-punk band The Front Bottoms, Sella's vocals often pitch up and down, cracking lyrics in half.

It's not good in a traditional sense, but it is cheerful and awkward and, most importantly, it works.

"I figured that my voice would be like what any other person who didn't really know how to sing would sound like," Sella said, "But I think I have something to say, you know?"

Sella formed The Front Bottoms four years ago with his longtime best friend and drummer Matt Uychich. What began as a fun way to pass the time for the two boys from New Jersey turned into a touring gig and a self-titled album release in 2011.

Their uncomplicated sound -- charming and offbeat enough to keep you listening -- benefited from the addition of bassist Tom Warren and keyboardist Ciaran O'Donnell for the band's second album, "Talon of the Hawk," released in May.

The Front Bottoms will open for indie-rock outfit Manchester Orchestra at the Music Farm in Charleston Friday.

From an obscure name and an obscure beginning, the band has steadily gained recognition and a loyal fan base.

"I never thought that there'd be people asking me where we got the band name from," Sella said, "Like, I just didn't think it would go that far."

The name emanates from a line of dialogue in the British crime-drama film, "Sexy Beast."

This summer, the band was featured on NPR's "Tiny Desk Concerts," a series that features intimate video performances recorded live at the desk of "All Songs Considered" host Bob Boilen.

Boilen commented on the heart and soul of the group, saying that their draw was not because of their instrumental craft, but because they take "the shortest distance in emotion from band to audience."

On "Talon of the Hawk," the lyrics have a confessional, stream-of-consciousness style, sung in Sella's sing-talking voice. (Think an indie-punk version of Langhorne Slim.)

There is the essence of Blink-182 teen angst, evident in the track "Santa Monica" when Sella yells, "It's not like a movie when we kiss/I'm going to have to learn that this love will never be convenient."

There's also a lighthearted cheekiness. "Love is simple, just like mud," Sella sings in "Funny You Should Ask." In the rebel-rousing "Skeleton," Sella sings an ode to marijuana.

But there is also the seriousness of "Lone Star," where Sella sings about getting his girlfriend pregnant.

It's not always easy to tell where the seriousness ends and the humor begins. That's the way The Front Bottoms like it.

"There should be some mystery there," Sella said. "People will come up to me and say, 'Oh my God, your songs are funny...,' and other people will say, 'Oh dude, that's, like, so sad,' and they're talking about the same song. So it's cool that the listener can take it however they want. I'm not really here to tell them this is a funny song or this is a serious song."

But he will tell you that the release of "Talon of the Hawk" was a pivotal move for the band.

"This is the next step for us. This is the album we needed to make," he said.

And whether plaintive and vulnerable or herb-inspired and funny, The Front Bottoms' music doesn't need to be sung in a perfect pitch to be good.


Video: "Twin Size Mattress" by the Front Bottoms

Follow Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.

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