Last summer, Dashboard Confessional toured with alternative rockers Third Eye Blind, a band whose catchy pop tunes appeal to a decidedly more conservative audience than Dashboard's. This summer, the band will hit the road with Taking Back Sunday, Saosin and Early November as part of the Taste of Chaos Tour.
So which is it? Does the band qualify as adult-oriented adult alternative rock or is it more aligned with emo and screamo acts?
“Last year was a roll of the dice really,” says Carrabba via phone from his Nashville home. We’ve opened for Bon Jovi and Beck and U2 and Weezer. So it’s not like we only play with bands from our scene. We did that co-headlining thing with Third Eye Blind because we’re mutual friends and it’s nice to get out of your comfort zone, and it worked. It made for a successful evening of music.”
During that tour, Carrabba says he started thinking it would be good to go “back to the band’s roots.”
“Now, that’s what you have here,” he says of the current tour. “You’ve got the original fans that liked all these bands and liked the scene and felt it was important and built the scene and made the bands popular in the first place. The state of radio didn’t predict bands like us getting popular. That was the doing of the fringe scene that helped to make us popular. We got popular because of the fans. Those fans are still there or have come back to this style of music or come back to having a little more free time to get back into music. There’s been this revival that’s called the Emo Revival. Younger people hear our name being touted as an influence. We’re getting a younger audience than we had for a little while and we’re getting that older audience.”
Carrabba says he finds the emo revival inspiring and even a little bit humbling.
“What are the odds that I’m still employable as a musician,” he says. “We’ve moved the cultural needle a few times with MTV Unplugged
and Spiderman 2
, but we never had a hit song. The fact that we can do these kinds of rooms and have the legitimacy we have as a band — you’d think that would line up with some kind of radio success. It doesn’t. It’s about a fanbase embracing a scene and working hard to ensure that they stay popular and then sticking by them forever.”
He draws an analogy to Dave Matthews Band even though Matthews and Co. play a much different style of music.
“I kind of look at it a little bit like the more punk version of what happened with the Dave Matthews Band,” he says. “You can say Dave Matthews now and people don’t remember that band had a strange rise to fame. They played anyplace they could play and fans started telling other people that they had to see them. That happened with our fans too. We worked really hard and were wiling to keep touring and never stop. It was our dream. Fans picked up on it; if they hadn’t, I’d be working somewhere and I’d just have some great stories.”
Initially, Carrabba sang with the indie rock band Further Seems Forever, a group that formed back in 1998. While still a member of that band, he began experimenting with his own tunes. It was a “growing pile” of tunes that just weren’t right for Further Seems Forever. When Further had some leftover studio time, Carrabba decided to seize the opportunity to record some of his demos. Amy Fleisher Madden who ran Fiddler records, went out and bought Carrabba a $200 guitar.
After he cut the record, 2000’s The Swiss Army Romance
, Carrabba initially didn’t think he’d release it.
“[Fleisher Madden] happened to put her money on bands that would do well but she was just doing this our of her bedroom at her parents’ house,” he says. “She was clearly preternaturally intelligent. I got lucky that I befriended somebody like that. I started writing the songs and they didn’t want the songs. I thought that if they don’t sound like Further, what do they sound like? They kind of sounded like each other, so I just chased it down. Once I was done, I thought it was a great process. I sat down with a Dictaphone and played the songs straight through. That’s when I got prodded to go in the studio and record the songs. The fun memory that dawned on me was that it was the running order of the record. It’s just how I played them into the Dictatophone. Now, we pour over the running order – as if anyone listens to records anymore.”
He started selling copies of that debut out of his van and he began playing shows. The confessional music really took hold with fans. Released respectively in 2002 and 2003, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most
and A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar
really connected with fans.
The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most
included the trademark single “Screaming Infidelities.” A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar
went to No. 2 on the Top 200. The group even sold out Madison Square Garden on its last full band tour.
But in 2010, the band called it a day. Carrabba subsequently started singing with the folk-y indie rock group Twin Forks. That band has enjoyed a certain amount of success – last year, it played mid-sized venues with Counting Crows.
Despite the success of Twin Forks, Carrabba still thought it was time to bring back Dashboard. When the band reunited last year to tour with Third Eye Blind, Carrabba told us he thought the band was “fucking on fire.”
Does he still feel the heat?
“If I thought we were on fucking fire then, we’re burning the house down at this point,” he says. “We were brand new to each other in a lot of ways. [Bassist] Scott [Schoenbeck] and I have been in the band the longest. Now, it feels better than new. It’s really rare and with all respect to each lineup I’ve had. With all due respect to those great players, I’ve never had a band that I felt was like a complete extension of each other. It’s really incredible. There’s total reliance and trust in each one of the other guys. We’re listening to each other. That’s something that people ask me about with new bands. I tell them to play as much as they can and listen to each other. If there’s a pull coming from that side of the stage, you better chase what he’s doing. We all better chase that. To be in this band is my favorite thing.”
Taste of Chaos Tour 2016 Featuring Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday, Saosin and Early November, 6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 12, Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, 2014 Sycamore. Tickets: $30.95-$59.95, livenation.com.