New Jersey punk outfit The Front Bottoms turned heads with 2008’s I Hate My Friends with its refreshing take on folk punk. Recently, Going Grey, their sixth studio album, saw a shift in the band’s direction, with heavy pop influences. Prior to their show at House of Blues Houston and their in-store appearance at Cactus Records tomorrow, FPH spoke with vocalist Brian Sella about the significance of the new record, punk, and touring.
Free Press Houston: The band just released Going Grey. I read an interview you did with the AV Club last year where you stated “I’m not 21 or 22 anymore. I’m 27 — not that I’m a grownup or anything.” In a sense, is the title of the album a way of saying you have started to feel as if you have grown up?
Brian Sella: Yeah, you basically got it. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Going grey — it’s just the beginning process of getting older, you know? I can say the same thing I did the last time: I’m not a little kid anymore, I’m a full grown woman, and I want to develop, naturally, with my art. But also in my real life. So calling this project “Going Grey” is kind of a little nod to that feeling.
FPH: So you are embracing that. Do you think, when some bands start going grey, they use hair color to hide it?
Sella: Yeah. I mean, I don’t know. I can’t speak for other bands. But, definitely. My mom once said “you only go grey once.” I was like “okay, that’s interesting.” But yeah, I agree. Like, what are you going to do about it? I feel like the art is a reflection of that, a feeling of “what can you do?” You can put dye in your hair, but that’s not my style — I’m just going to go grey.
FPH: I’ve seen comments regarding this album where people call it your transition to a poppier sound from the usual folkier. When I think of the transition from folk to more of an electronic sound I can’t help but think of Beck from the last album to this new one, Colors. Have you listened to it?
Sella: Um, I’m not sure. Wait. Yes, I have.
FPH: What exactly is “folk punk”? I feel like that’s not as accepted in the punk community as other sub-genres. Is it just a matter of it being underrated?
Sella: Oh, fuck yes! That’s kind of, like, what my whole inspiration was growing up and discovering new music. I found out that there was more than just Blink-182 and modern pop. Folk punk was one of the first genres to “kick me in the beans,” as some would say. Bands like Defiance, Ohio, or Against Me!, or Ghost Mice — any of those bands that had an attitude, a feeling, over the music. That’s what I really connected to. That was what I wanted to do with my music.
FPH: I think it’s fair to label this tour a Fueled by Ramen tour, as both supporting acts are also on the label. You’ve mentioned in the past that the label gives its artists a lot of creative control, but when it comes to hitting the road, does Fueled By Ramen usually push for other label acts to support the larger bands?
Sella: No. We’re really lucky. Fueled by Ramen — in terms of creativity, touring, etc — is pretty hands-off. They have 100 percent confidence in us to do our jobs. That being said, you know, we’re really good friends with most of the people that work for the label. They give us music suggestions when I’m trying to think of people to take on tour. They’re like “yo, check out Basement,” who I’ve actually known for a while. Our friend, GDP, whom we did a split with, had mentioned Basement and how awesome they are. When that stuff came up, I didn’t even know they had signed to the label. It just worked out for both bands. Like, we’re both working towards the same thing. The same goes for Bad Bad Hats. I was at a bar near my house, and they were playing one night. I thought they were sick, so I went up to them and asked if they wanted to go on tour. I sent them an email. That’s the way it still happens for us. Sometimes it just happens so perfectly that Basement, a band I like, is also signed on the label.