“I’ve never played by myself before, so I don’t know if this will be any good,” Brian Sella said as he took the stage to headline CUB Alt’s show on Tuesday, March 8. “I’m in a band called The Front Bottoms. That’s how we usually play, but tonight, it’s just me.”
After only the first song, “Twelve Feet Deep,” it became clear that Sella performing solo on stage is just as striking as the usual four-piece model of his Jersey-based band, sans the keys, drums, bass and trumpet.
Students helped to replace the missing instruments throughout the evening by clapping the backbeat to “The Beers” in place of Ciaran O’Donnell’s keys and singing backup vocals for “Maps” as Sella smiled through the chorus.
“Most of these songs are about college,” he told the audience in the Lion’s Den food court.
When Sella was in college in 2007, he started The Front Bottoms with drummer Mat Uychich. Two years later, they independently released the album “My Grandma vs. Pneumonia.”
He played “Flying Model Rockets” from that particular release, as well as a refreshing mix of songs from the band’s back catalog. One song Sella didn’t play, though, is a track released just the day before he visited the College — “Noodle Monster.”
“We recorded that in Switzerland,” Sella told The Signal.
Uychich, who came along to support Sella during his first solo performance, said the song was recorded during soundcheck for the show “Portlandia.” Season 6, episode 10 of the show bears the same name as the band’s new song. The episode is set to air on Thursday, March 24.
“I think a lot of people are confused by it,” Uychich said through laughter.
The song, which was released on Fueled by Ramen’s YouTube channel, peaks when Sella eerily whines, “It’s a noodle monster, baby.”
The Front Bottoms signed to the label Fueled by Ramen in June 2015 after spending four years with Bar/None Records.
“I think it’s easier now to do our crazier ideas than it was before,” Uychich told The Signal. “They let us kinda do what we want to do and they just let us have fun.”
Sella appeared to have fun as he slid around the stage in black socks. He has earned himself a reputation for performing shoeless — during the College’s Fall Concert in 2014, Sella donned a pair of rainbow, striped socks.
He brought along a batch of 50 red lighters with “Sella” printed on the side, which were available to purchase for $5 each.
“You’re all going to be rich one day and you’re not even going to remember that lighter, but it’ll help me out a lot right now,” Sella said. All 50 lighters sold out by the end of the night.
Before he left, the singer showcased his knack for storytelling with the song “Handcuffs,” which was released last April on a split record with GDP entitled “Liberty and Prosperity.”
“But with my pain came rage, a light so bright I feel blind,” Sella sang. “So I reach with my hands and a rock is what I do find. He stops for a moment, I gather my strength, just enough to swing quickly and put the rock right through his face.”
Sella told The Signal that he wants to start telling stories in a medium other than songwriting.
“I’m gonna write a book and do an audiobook along with it,” he said. “I’m going to soundscape it and we’ll see what happens… It’s just a fictional story about nothing, basically.”
The College may have said “Au Revior” to the singer-turned-author, but Sella and The Front Bottoms will be on tour through the end of May. The band is also in the lineup for Coachella in Indio, Calif., in April.
“It feels good,” Sella said. “We’re just going to keep doing what we love — touring and making music.”
*This story was originally published in The Signal.