Monday Motivation: The Front Bottoms

If you’re anything like me, you probably started the day by recognizing that the start of a new work week had indeed arrived and then immediately began shaking your fists at the sky in anger. Monday is rarely anyone’s favorite day, and from what I have seen firsthand it feels safe to say it’s the one day of the week some people outright hate. I guess to them the arrival of the work week symbolizes the end of their quote/unquote freedom, and as a result they head into the office/factory/restaurant/store with a negative outlook already on their mind. This leads to bad attitudes, which only makes the experience of being at work worse, and for some reason it also seems to make time slow to a crawl. We’re not about that life, and we hope this post can do the same you that the song contained within it did for us.

There is a moment in the film Straight Outta Compton when a young Ice Cube comments on a group of people protesting his music with, “Speak a little truth and people lose their minds.” It’s a line of dialogue more than likely made up by a team of writers hoping to drive home the impact of the group’s radical take on gangster rap, not to mention the way said material irrevocably changed hip-hop culture. While that is a fine sentiment, not to mention better than average script work, I think it’s a comment that can be applied to success in music in a far more general sense. A good hook and catchy melody will get you far, but if you can forge a personal connection with the listener then you have established a bond far stronger than the strength of any single.

New Jersey folk-rock heroes The Front Bottoms are perhaps the best modern example of how adding a little truth to alternative music can cause people to lose their minds. The group has been carving their own niche in the world since 2007, and along they way they have hooked fans who would otherwise claim to only enjoy punk rock, folk, americana, indie, shoe gaze, or some seemingly random combination of any two of the previously named genres. The Front Bottoms were never the type to fit easily into a single genre classification, and part of what has made their continued rise through the underground ranks so impressive is their persistence at defying any simple explanation. They are a rare gem in a world filled with knockoffs, and their ability to retain such a high standing amongst music fans for the better part of the last decade is owed largely to their unabashed lyricism.

Take “Laugh Til I Cry” one of many promotional singles released to promote the group’s upcoming album, Back On Top, for example. The music hooks you from the beginning, and like most songs in the band’s catalog there is an inherent danceability to the way everything falls together despite what is being said. Vocalist Brian Sella sings of a relationship gone awry, but not before both people involved fell into a slump where neither is willing to admit defeat. Brian realizes he lied to himself about what makes him happy in order to make his relationship work, and now he feels trapped by his own life. He’s a weak person, or at least he sees himself as such, and there is a true fear that his life will remain unsatisfying until his death simply because he doesn’t typically believe himself capable of such disruption.

Again, all this transpires while the band plays music that could easily fit onto a radio or house party rotation, and that is kind of the point. Brian is lying to himself about the person he is and the things he wants. He’s been doing so for so long he eventually started to believe his own bullshit, but that delusion was only temporary. He knows now something must be done, and over the course of the song we listen as he battles with his own self doubt to find the strength to move on. What he eventually finds, and what more than often turns out to be the case in real life, is that his partner feels the same. She is just as trapped as him, and together they perpetuate the lie they are pleased with one another. It’s toxic, and the panic of realizing what his life has become eventually leads Brian to feel sick.

I could pick any song from The Front Bottoms three full length albums, as well as their EPs, and find equally complex, yet inherently catchy material divulging the most intimate moments from Sella’s unique human experience. Back On Top, which releases on September 18, is just the latest in a long line of noteworthy material that deserve recognition, but still there is something about it that feels special. Maybe it’s due to the fact the album is the band’s first with Fueled By Ramen Records, the same label that helped launch Paramore into the music stratosphere, or maybe it’s because the singles released so far showcase what is easily the group’s most musically diverse effort to date. Every song, be it “Cough It Out” or “Help,” plays with an undeniable uniqueness that neither the band or any of their peers has been able to touch on before. It’s as if the music on this record could only result from a group of talented people following the same course of self-guided evolution through music as The Front Bottoms, and I wouldn’t rush to say that isn’t the case. The music previewed so far is so entirely the product of the men in this band there is absolutely no way it would have existed unless they chose to stick to the path they started following nearly ten years ago.

We only get so many chances in life to follow our hearts, and I wanted to highlight The Front Bottoms’ music ahead of their new album dropping this week because they represent everything we look for in a Monday Motivation artist. They are unique, driven to succeed, and they rarely, if ever, fall in line with what is considered ‘the norm’ in music today. Everything The Front Bottoms have been able to accomplish, and everything they will accomplish from this moment forward, can only be credited to their fierce determination to stay true to themselves. With each release the band has had an opportunity to take a turn for a more mainstream sound, and I have no doubt Brian Sella could write songs radio listeners want to hear, but that does not seem to be what the band is hoping to accomplish with their career. The music of The Front Bottoms is something created for far more personal reasons, and the group’s continued willingness to share their innermost private thoughts with the world at large is a gift all of us should be grateful we can enjoy. They are following their hearts, and as a result we are able to bare witness to true musical talent at work.

As you’re heading into the week ahead, try and remember that following your dreams is something that gets easier in time. I’m not going to lie and say things will ever be simple, but if you continue to put yourself out there and stay true to who you are then success will come. You might not be a Billboard cover star, and you might night headline Coachella, but those things rarely matter to those who are able to do and create as they please. Those individuals have already won the game of life, and when I hear the music of The Front Bottoms I’m reminded that each of us can reach that kind of success if we’re only willing to work at it. The challenge is great, but our drive to succeed is greater. I believe in you if you believe in me, and even if you don’t believe in yourself I believe you can move mountains. This is your week.

James Shotwell is the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records. Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.