We all have bands that stick with us. Through all the changes and challenges we face, if we’re very lucky, our favorite bands seem to grow with us.
Seven years ago I found my band. I was introduced through a cleverly written press release by Reybee, and although I’d been running Infectious for about a year and a half, they were one of the first bands sent to me that I truly fell in love with. Just a tiny 2-piece (sometimes 3-piece) out of New Jersey, The Front Bottoms became my everything.
I still remember getting their physical CD (in the mail!) via a PO box I rented with money I didn’t have, just to seem a little more professional in those early days. It came with a printed OneSheet, and from the moment I hit “play”on their self-titled, I was hooked. I played that album incessantly. I played it every time I got in the car. I brought it with me into other people’s cars and insisted they play it. I would excitedly try to get people to understand why their lyrics—such a perfectly balanced mix of quirky, silly, dark, and emotional, were so brilliant.
Not long after, the band embarked on a short tour that brought them to Boston, and when I was asked if I’d like to interview them and review the show, I jumped on it. It was one of the first times I remember feeling like I’d chosen the right path in pursuing a career in the music industry. The opportunity to get closer to these artists I respected, and tell their story through my lens and their anecdotes was intoxicating.
I’ll never forget crawling into the back of their van to do our interview, and how incredibly casual and comfortable it all felt. Their then keyboardist/bassist Drew Villafuerte sat on a bed that they’d shoved into the back of the van while Brian (Sella) and Mat (Uychich) sat up front. It was one of those interviews where prepared questions go out the window, and what results is an organic, lively conversation between otherwise complete strangers.
As we joked around, Brian told me stories of songs-to-be, as he read from a notebook that he kept with him at all times, jotting down lyric ideas as they came to him. To this day I still remember a few of those ideas, and eagerly await the day they (hopefully) make it into a TFB song.
That interview still remains one of my absolute favorite memories.
Later, I caught their set at TT’s as they played to maybe 20 people total—it was a small crowd, but a passionate one. Every person knew every lyric, and the band performed like they were playing to a room of thousands. The energy was infectious. Afterwards I made my way to the stage to compliment their set as they broke down their gear, and wish them well before heading home. Their “thank you’s” were genuine, and their tired smiles said it all—they thrived off performing, and they were meant for the stage.
It’s been seven years since that show. Now when I hear TFB is touring, I know it won’t be in their tiny, converted van, and it won’t be inside a small local venue. Instead, they’ll be pulling up in a tour bus, selling out shows and playing arenas to hundreds if not thousands of fans who can sing back the words of even their most obscure songs.
Following a band from early on in their career and watching them grow into a success is nothing new—most of us have had those moments. Feelings of proudness mixed with sweet nostalgia for the days that we didn’t have to fight hundreds of people to get closer to the stage. And if I had to guess, I’d say most bands who experience that level of success feel the same—a humble gratefulness at having “made it”, while still experiencing the simplicity of those early days. (TFB capture this perfectly in “Vacation Town” and most of Going Grey).
But last night as I walked into the Tsongas Arena for their final show of their tour with Manchester Orchestra, I have to tell you, all I felt was proud. With a dopey smile plastered on my face from beginning to end, all I could think was—these guys are an absolute inspiration and they deserve every moment of success and recognition. They deserve it all and even more.
Because becoming a nationally recognized band isn’t just about talent. It’s about working hard and working with purpose, and it’s about loving your fans and loving the craft. It’s about inspiring others and making us feel a little less alone in our darkest, weirdest thoughts. It’s about never taking any of it for granted, and never forgetting where you came from, while being brave enough to move forward.
For me, no one has ever encapsulated those feelings more than The Front Bottoms. Be it a tiny venue, a giant arena, or somewhere in between, you can bet I’ll be there to support them.