INTERVIEW: Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional
Having consumed a hearty portion of Jamaican Jerk Pork with rice and beans, I labored under the weight of my camera gear in the 92 degree weather. It was the annual Taste of Pinellas Festival and I was anxiously awaiting my escort backstage to speak with Chris Carrabba. I was sweaty and awkward. I was my 18 year old self all over again.
Chris Carrabba is one of the many success stories from the fertile late 90’s South Florida scene that brought us bands like New Found Glory, The Recess Theory, The Rockinghorse Winner and many others. His music in Further Seems Forever fueled my adolescent rage and his sad-bastard wizardry in Dashboard Confessional was the soundtrack to the most tender of moments in my youth that I like to pretend never happened—the moments when you’re in the car alone crying over something life shattering that happened in 3rd period. And for some stupid reason that I cannot explain, we look back fondly at those times.
Talking with Chris Carrabba, I realized that he too is looking back fondly toward the past. In our brief discussion we covered his beginnings and his eventual full circle return to the band where it all started.
You’ve been playing here for well over 10 years now – How would you say the Florida music scene has changed or evolved since your humble beginnings?
You know, it was kind of on fire in the era that I came up in. It was a very cooperative thing – I was doing it, Newfound Glory was doing it. We were all working really hard to promote shows. Lots of bands, like probably 40 bands working hard to make sure that the music was—it takes a lot of hard work. I can’t speak for the music scene and how it’s generated now, but I know there are a lot of great bands that I love in South Florida and Florida in general. There’s a band from over here, TallHart, it’s one of my favorite bands. There’s a kid named Jacob Jefferies, from my neck of the woods, that’s incredible so there’s just tons of great music in Florida. What inspires me most is that it’s always about kids making it happen together, you know?
Yeah, I remember back in those day there were a lot of bands who were comprised of your close peers…back then did you all ever think this far down the road you’d still actively be playing music?
Never in a million years. It’s beyond me. I couldn’t have envisioned it. I thought maybe we’d be lucky enough that we’d still be doing it out of a spirit of friendship. But the fact that anyone is paying attention to us doing it, no—that’s something I never could have imagined.
Speaking of those peers, recently you regrouped with the band Further Seems Forever and released a 7” doing a couple of acoustic retreads from ‘The Moon Is Down’. You also played some live shows together. Was it a difficult transition to go from the lighter sounds of Dashboard Confessional to the more aggressive tone of Further Seems Forever?
It was a transition but it wasn’t difficult. I think we waited until we were ready. So it wasn’t like we decided to do it and then we had to find our way into it. We waited until we felt like that again—that energy kind of creeping into our real lives. So it was kind of natural. It is different, though. I will admit that.
When the public started seeing announcements about Further Seems Forever regrouping there was a lot of speculation that perhaps you all might be producing some new material with your involvement. Is there any merit to that speculation?
Yes. There is merit. It’s safe to say that we will have something this year. We will have a new record out this year.
A full length?
Yeah, we’ll have a full-length out this year.
And as far as Dashboard Confessional, it’s now been a few years since the release of ‘Alter the Ending’. Can we expect a follow-up to that anytime soon?
I think so. It’s hard to say. I needed to take a little time to distance myself from making Dashboard records. Doing the Further record is part of that. I couldn’t commit fully to that Further record unless I took a step away from Dashboard.
Did you feel like you needed a change of pace? Were you just getting bored?
I felt I personally needed it. It wasn’t boredom, it was about my personal well being, you know? Touring for nearly 11 years, 300 days of the year, essentially, I think I started to feel disconnected from (pauses) whoever I am. Like I was just this robot that was like a song-maker. I needed to live a little bit, I think.
Your stage manager said we’re pressed for time so we’ll finish up with some rapid-fire questions for fun.
Last thing you ate.
A wheat bagel.
Last thing you listened to on your ipod.
Um… (laughs) Skrillex.
As far as music goes, what’s your guilty pleasure?
That’s a good question. I think my guilty pleasure is country music.
Cat person or dog person?
I’m a dog person!
For your hordes of female fans—blondes or brunettes?
Must I choose? I’ll say…Bru-londes!
Jason Gleason or Jon Bunch?
[note: two singers who replaced Chris Carrabba after he departed from Further seems Forever]
I’ll take them both. Jon was one of my heroes well before we even started. He was in a band called Sensefield and before that he was in a band called Reason to Believe. I have a Dashboard song called ‘Reason to Believe’ that I named after their band. And then Jason—I think it took some balls to step into somebody else’s band. That was unenviable and he owned it and made it his band and I think that’s incredible. He saved it. He made it his own and transformed it into his. I would like to hear another Further record with Jason myself!