Interview: Chris Carrabba (Twin Forks)

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I have always had a love for all things music. Before I worked for a radio station, before I wrote about music, and even before I studied the music industry in college. I currently listen to all different music, but when I was younger that wasn’t the case. I would go through these phases and I would listen to only one specific genre. When I was in grade school I only listened to rap music. My sister, on the other hand, was listening to a completely different genre. She was listening to bands such as The Used, Taking Back Sunday, and Thrice. She would blast her music all day long, and instead of trying to compete with her I would listen. Pretty soon I was humming songs from The All-American Rejects and The Starting Line on the way home from school. My sister inadvertently introduced me to some of my favorite artists and, when I was old enough, I eventually went to see those bands play live. The funny thing is that if it weren’t for my sister blasting her music all day, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

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The first band that really made me want to start listening to her music was Dashboard Confessional. When I first heard the song “Hands Down” off A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar I was hooked. Dashboard set themselves apart from other emo bands of the early 2000’s by building their songs around phenomenal vocals and meaningful lyrics. Dashboard began as a solo side project by Chris Carrabba of the rock band Further Seems Forever. Carrabba would eventually leave Further Seems Forever and work on Dashboard full time with three more musicians joining the band. Over the years, Carabba would release six studio albums with Dashboard Confessional and in 2010 be reunited with Further Seems Forever.

Recently Carrabba has started another band unlike his previous two. His latest project is a folk rock band named Twin Forks. I recently spoke with Chris about the upcoming tour with Twin Forks, his inspiration for its folk sound, releasing his third debut album, and the possibility of another Dashboard album.

Pop-Break: You have been making music for over 15 years. What keeps you inspired to not only make new music, but to also start new projects such as Twin Forks?

Chris Carrabba: Wow that’s such a good question. That’s so difficult to answer. I don’t know; I guess it’s being a music fan that keeps me inspired. The fact that it would be my hobby anyway has a lot to do with it. That’s when I sit down to have some fun. I like the challenge of new territories of music so that keeps me inspired too.

PB: As someone who grew up listening to your music, it was a bit of a shock to hear how different Twin Forks is compared to Dashboard Confessional. Where does the band’s folk sound come from?

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CC: For a long time I had a tendency to let my earlier influences show in my music. Then, at some point, I just got tired of that. Actually, it was something Jonathan [Clark] said. He said, “why are you afraid to play what you love? That one kind of hit my like a ton of bricks you know? It has been a part of what I grew up listening to, this style of music; it’s what I play when I’m sitting on a patio. I just have been waiting for the right time to feel confident enough to play it without feeling like I was going to sound just like my influences as opposed to work in the same parameters as they worked in.

PB: Are there any specific artists that have influenced Twin Forks?

CC: Yes, I would say Simon and Garfunkel, Townes Van Zandt, and even really obscure country blues singers like Mississippi John Hurt. They all had a commonality whether it was the style of picking that I play or the liveliness to their records that I wanted to embrace as well. Also Talking Heads, I know that may be a little incongruous compared to the sound of our record, but in terms of the rhythmic nature of what they always do that was a big influence when it came to thinking about how to arrange the drums.

PB: Were any of the songs that appear on the Twin Forks records, songs that you had originally intended for either Dashboard or FSF?

CC: No, but when I started whatever this post-Dashboard, or in-between Dashboard thing I’m not sure, there was one or two songs from that period of time that were what Twin Forks would become, that did make the record. “Done is Done” is one example. I was working on one kind of record and as I wrote that it sort of set the table for what was coming.

PB: How have fans reacted to your latest project?

CC: I don’t spend too much time online you know? I feel like it’s so snarky and negative in general. I’ve been told, comparatively speaking to what it usually is, that it’s sort of a love fest, which is nice to hear. But I will say my vantage point is one that’s not completely objective. I’ve talked to people that came to our shows. So obviously they are either there to give it a chance or they have given it a chance and decided that they liked it. I can’t answer that totally accurately. I will say that the people that I have spoken to, even the ones that said “it took me a minute, I didn’t know want to expect, I didn’t think I would like it at first it took me some time and now its something I really embrace.” Or it’s the other way around where people just got it right away. What’s weird is I just didn’t know it would be fans that aren’t Dashboard fans. People that would say to me I didn’t know Dashboard or I didn’t like Dashboard and I love this. Or people that are like, “I like this. Wait who’s Dashboard? I have to check that out.” There is just a certain sort of pride that I have with that one. The people that just some how stumbled upon it, liked it, and never heard or delved with what Dashboard was, and then they went in that way. Which is kind of fun.

PB: This is technically your third “debut album.” Are you ever nervous about audience’s initial reactions to new projects?

Photo Credit: Michael Dubin
Photo Credit: Michael Dubin

CC: No way man, especially with a record like this. We’re not on a major label. We’re not shooting for chart positions, placing in stores, and all those other things you have to think about when your band is trying to be on top of the world. It’s a marathon; it’s not a sprint. We would very much like to have a career on some level with this band. When I say on some level, it’s not for me to say if we will be a club band, a theater band, or an amphitheater band, or somewhere in between. I couldn’t tell you. I love these band mates. I love the opportunity and I love the audiences so far. I’d love the opportunity to play this for a long time with these people and for these people.

PB: You recently reunited with Further Seems Forever. What was it like to return after such a long period of time?

CC: Well first of all I think there was this misconception that we either weren’t friends or weren’t in contact, which we found a little bit laughable. Of course at first that was the case. When I left the band it was hard. I left the band and Nick left the band. It was hard. It was hard on us and it was hard on the other guys. But in really very short order, in less than a month once we got Jason in the band, I had them on tour with Dashboard. You know lets just get this awkwardness out of the way. It’s like when you break up with a girl. Look we are going to see each other. I’m not going to not go to this bar because you go to this bar. Lets just get it over with. Lets just go, sit down, have drinks, and that’s it. But that was so many years ago for Further. In the interim these are the guys that I call everyday, these are the guys I am going out with tonight as a matter of fact. So we just sit around, have fun, sometimes we play music, and sometimes we don’t play music. I knew I wanted to make another record with them from the moment I left the band. I think Nick did too. Then Josh sort of became part time, then Chad left, and finally Steve left. There were so many iterations of the band in between, but they were still very active. Those of us that weren’t in the band, although we wanted to play with those guys, we didn’t really feel like it was our place to be like “Hey, play with us now.”

So we just kind of had to wait. We didn’t expect that they were going to stop playing, but when they did we had to wait for them to want to play at all anymore. Because I think that they really had burnt themselves out from years and years of touring. So as soon as they were feeling good again about music, I pounced on everybody. I was like “let’s go, lets get it going!” It was so fun, man. It didn’t feel much different then the first couple times we sat together and played nonsense until they became songs. The only difference is we know enough about ourselves now to know what pushes other people buttons. We didn’t know that when we were kids, so we could just shut up when we need to, and that is a beautiful thing.

PB: I wouldn’t be a true fan if I didn’t ask at least one Dashboard question. There hasn’t been a new music since 2009. Can you share any updates on the next album?

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CC: Any plans? Here’s the plan. I know that there will be one. That is about the extent of the plan. The delay started with the fact that no two of us lived in the same state and I began to feel like I just wanted to complete the songs as I was writing them. So then I found that I was playing everything and maybe that’s how Dashboard started when it was just me, but by the last three records when it was the same guys for all of those years, it didn’t feel like Dashboard when I listened back. It was just me playing everything. What business do I have; Mike Marsh in my band and I’m playing drums on the record? Which is ridiculous. So that’s one of the reasons I started Twin Forks was because I just wanted to finish a song everyday. So I chose people that lived in town with me here or near by. We talk a lot. My Dashboard band mates are super supportive of Twin Forks. They are checking in after shows to see how they went. They are coming out to shows all the time and sometimes they are opening up for us or playing together with us. You know Mike is also in The Avett Brothers and last year we were playing the same routing. So it was hanging out with him everyday and going to separate venues side-by-side playing different shows, which is so weird. A lifetime of playing together to saying “alright I’ll call you after my show.” I do expect fully that there will be another Dashboard record. I am in no crazy sort of rush to do one, but that’s because I feel like that would doom it. To hurry up and try to please the fan base that’s eager, that I am grateful for. But what they need at this point is for me to come by it honestly not just to crank one out so they could have one. All I can do is wait for it to happen.

Photo Credit: Mike Dubin
Photo Credit: Mike Dubin
Al Mannarino is the associate editor and photographer for Pop Break. He is also host of the News Over Brews Podcast, Loot Care Unboxed, Backstage Break, and the producer of Behind the Brews. He graduated Rowan University with a degree in Radio/TV/Film & History. When he isn’t writing he is either trying to build his own TARDIS or taking a nap. Follow him on Twitter: @almannarino. His photo website is: http://alfredmannarino.com

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