Between working shifts at Ramsey’s ShopRite and taking music production classes, Brian Sella spent his sophomore year at Ramapo writing songs. It wasn’t long before he asked his childhood best friend Mat Uychich to join as a drummer, regularly meeting to record material that they would soon release as The Front Bottoms.
Sella remembers standing in Uychich’s kitchen with a few people around them as he played the first verse of “Swimming Pool,” a song for their soon-to-be 2010 EP “Slow Dance To Soft Rock.” When he noticed others were paying attention, he repeated the lines, seeing their reactions as encouraging.
“That was when me and Mat were sort of developing the band and, you know, him sort of realizing like, ‘Oh, okay, that's maybe the ninth song that Sella has played and is, like, really good,’” Sella said in an interview. “Little artistic triumphs… that’s what it’s all about, just little, tiny developments.”
Small-scale moments of success patterned the experience Sella had undergone as both a college student and budding musician. The two roles informed one another, giving shape to the group’s overall sound, although some of their musical techniques have changed since their beginning years. Still, Sella thinks fondly of his time at Ramapo where the duo wrote and recorded their self-titled album before it was officially released in 2011, one year after graduation.
The effort, however, was not made alone. While working at ShopRite, Sella met a group of local college students whose friend helped The Front Bottoms record their music, which became routine for the band — they would look for anyone to produce their projects, and then upload them online, establishing a scene in areas like Ohio, Richmond, Va. and New England.
“The process was basically me making the bones of the song, taking it to Mat and like, jamming it at his house, and then finding somebody to record it within a week or two, and then putting it on the internet without mixing it or anything,” Sella said. “I’d always say it's cool because when people find out who we are — no matter when it is — they can go back and find, like, 20 songs.”
This communal dimension to their art underscores the overall making of The Front Bottoms. After the band’s regular recording sessions and small tours post-graduation, Sella reconnected with a classmate, Emmy, from former adjunct professor Shirley Washington’s music business class.
Emmy began working at Bar/None Records in Hoboken, N.J., where the band would double their six-track EP for their debut album, all songs that Sella and Uychich consider sentimentally significant. After having signed with the label in 2010, they released the piece on a 10-inch vinyl, which contains both “Slow Dance to Soft Rock” and “Grip ‘n’ Tie.”
“Emmy was like, ‘Oh, like, Bar/None, will put the album out,’” Sella said. “We put it out and just kind of grew from there. Like they booked our first tour… you know, just years of doing that. And then letting people connect to the music.”
Personal interactions had helped develop the band’s success story, but immediate inspiration is what kept Sella writing at school. As a member of the college’s music club, he helped book musicians for “Ramashows” at J. Lee’s and remembers watching people within his age group perform.
The Front Bottoms would sometimes rehearse inside C-Wing’s classrooms, taking any opportunity to play. During that time, the group won the Battle of the Bands, and were set to open for Vanessa Carlton’s campus performance in 2009.
However, much of The Front Bottoms’ past work has been challenged in recent years, especially in their 2020 release, “In Sickness & In Flames.” One of the more prominent changes to their processes has been Sella’s writing. He emphasizes allowing “the words to make the melody” and learning “less is more.”
Sella finds that through 10 years of touring, his relationship with music has only slightly changed as he continues to grow with it. He describes it as “tough,” seeing how personal decisions may affect the band, though writing and working on new music are still anchored to his everyday practices. He finds that some of his present techniques may involve “discovering” past ones, making it an ever-developing process.
Currently, The Front Bottoms are booked for a three-day residency at White Eagle Hall in Jersey City on May 18, 19 and 20. Sella has also been broadening expressive interests, specifically exploring visual arts with current displays at Asbury Park’s Berkeley Hotel. Despite new ventures, the band’s roots always remain important.
“It was just a nice kind of experience, for sure,” he said, reflecting on the time spent working on the self-titled. “You know, you look back, and it still feels very lucky to have made a piece of art that feels special.”