Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba talks folk inspiration ahead of Tahoe show
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
If you go
What: Dashboard Confessional and Third Eye Blind
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 14
Where: MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa
Tickets: $39.50 plus fees
Dashboard Confessional frontman Chris Carrabba knows that his band’s summer’s co-headlining tour with Third Eye Blind might seem like an unlikely pairing to some. After all, the two bands have operated in different musical circles.
Third Eye Blind made a big impact on alternative rock in the late 1990s, with a 1997 debut album that sold more than six million copies and a million-selling second album, “Blue.” Top 10 modern rock hits like “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Jumper” and “How It’s Going To Be” featured an accessible guitar rock sound that could also appeal to mainstream rock fans.
By contrast, Dashboard Confessional started out in 2000 as an acoustic solo project for Carrabba before evolving into a full-fledged band with more of a plugged-in rock sound. Carrabba’s intensely emotional and vulnerable lyrics prompted writers to coin a new category for his music – emo.
But the contrasts between the music of Dashboard Confessional and Third Eye Blind are precisely why Carrabba thinks this summer’s tour will work. He thinks the two bands will attract a different set of concertgoers, giving each group the chance to win over the part of the audience that is largely unfamiliar with its music.
“I’ve been to plenty of co-headlining tours where the bands are different enough to the audience that they maybe weren’t exposed to one or the other, but left loving the other band as much or (being) equally passionate (about both groups),” Carrabba said.
For those who are already fans of Dashboard, they’re probably just happy to see the group back out on tour.
Over the past five-plus years, things have been quiet on the Dashboard Confessional front, as Carrabba has done other projects.
First up was a solo album, “2011’s “Covered In The Flood,” which featured Carrabba’s covers of songs by rock acts such as the Replacements, Big Star and R.E.M., as well as folk/Americana artists like Guy Clark, John Prine and Justin Townes Earle.
It was during the “Covered In The Flood” project that Carrabba’s musical path began to veer away from Dashboard Confessional.
“There was a moment when we were sitting outside the garage (where Carrabba’s home studio Is located), doing like a guitar pull, where everybody takes a turn singing a cover,” Carrabba said. “It’s something we’d do on the breaks. And I’m playing something and (bassist) Jonathan (Clark), he puts his hands on the strings. And he just stops…And he just looked at me squarely in the eye, and he says ‘Chris, why are you afraid to do what you love?’”
Clark had just confronted Carrabba with the fact that he had never really ventured into writing songs in the folk/Americana tradition, even though it was Carrabba’s earliest and biggest musical influence.
Carrabba realized he’d avoided folk because he didn’t think he was worthy of exploring a genre that included legends like Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Steve Earle. Then he realized folk was never meant to be an exclusive club.
“There is supposed to be the next guy and the next gal,” Carrabba said. “It is supposed to be passed down.”
That revelation was put into action in 2012 when Dashboard Confessional was invited to play the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco. With the covers project still fresh, Carrabba decided to use the opportunity to do a set of folk songs with Clark and Homola.
It was supposed to be a one-time performance. It would lead to nothing else. But the musicians had a blast and the show went down like gangbusters.
“We walked off stage and we looked at each other, and I don’t know who said it first, but we all thought it: we’re a band,” Carrabba said.
Soon Carrabba was writing songs, and Clark, drummer Ben Homola and another musical friend, mandolin player Suzie Zeldin, were in the studio recording what became the 2013 self-titled EP by their new band, Twin Forks. A self-titled, full-length followed last year, and Twin Forks is now nearly finished with a second full-length album.
Ironically, even though Carrabba seemed to be all in with Twin Forks, last summer he got offers to have Dashboard Confessional play a couple of festivals. He accepted and was joined by longtime Dashboard bandmates, bassist Scott Schoenbeck, guitarist John Lefler and Homola (replacing Mike Marsh).
“The reaction was unexpected,” Carrabba said. “It was incredible, both in numbers and in the spirit of the audience.”
Realizing they wanted to play together again, Carrabba then booked the tour with Third Eye Blind. The band is prepared to draw on literally any song from the Dashboard Confessional catalog during this summer’s shows.
“We know every single song as if we’ve been playing it for years,” Carrabba said. “It was important that if we got the feeling in a certain room that it was right, that we could just do it, that it’s at our fingertips. And we also thought to ourselves that if somebody yells it out, I want to be able to say ‘yes’ if I feel like saying ‘yes.’ So we worked really hard on everything.”
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