Dashboard Confessional Interview: Their Return

Dashboard Confessional

Dashboard3bAfter being absent from the rock music scene for nearly five years, the recently reformed Dashboard Confessional have announced plans for a massive 30+ date reunion tour with Third Eye Blind beginning later this month, sparking talk and prayers among their fans that the band will hopefully follow this tour with a new record.

Ep. 56: Press Release - Related to ...

Formed in 1999, the highly influential godfathers of modern emo rose to stardom with their infectious hit single ‘Screaming Infidelities’ (originally released on their 2000 debut Swiss Army Romance before being reissued for their 2001 album The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most). The band would go on to release 6 studio albums, a live album, and 5 EPs before going on hiatus, with lead vocalist Chris Carrabba keeping himself busy with his other band Twin Forks during Dashboard’s five-year downtime.

In anticipation of the Dashboard’s upcoming US tour, we here at AltWire took a moment to sit down with Chris Carrabba and discuss the band’s legacy, their future, and the inspiration behind the reunion. Read below.

AltWire [Mattison Keesey] Your reunion was dearly wanted by your fans, however, what was the main drive to come back and do this tour after a nearly five-year hiatus? When did you and the band first realize it was time to do a reunion?

Chris Carrabba [Dashboard Confessional]: It’s a long time when you say it like that! It’s hard sometimes to measure as such because I would go out and do some solo work as Dashboard, and doing a lot of stuff for Twin Forks, and the other guys in the band were still touring. What made us come back? It had a lot to do with these two festivals we did last summer. I had already been booked for Twin Forks on one festival in Annapolis, called Silopanna, which is just Annapolis spelled backward, and then they invited Dashboard to do it and were all friends with each other, so it seemed like a really fun way to hang out and have a good time together. Get to watch each other play, I had to play both times, but it was fun. It wasn’t a hard thought, it was a gift. Then we got to do the Riot Fest, and I looked at the bill, and thought “these are all our friends.” We started to find that everybody we knew would be there, from all parts of the business, like roadies, or managers of other bands. We were all going to be at this thing, and we just thought, hey, here’s a great opportunity and at both of these events, specifically, Riot Fest, when we rehearsed it felt fantastic, but when we got up in front of people, we came to realize again, that the audience is so powerful to what Dashboard really is.

We never neglected that, but the reason we slipped away when we did, was looking at each other, like, does anybody need a break? I think it was because we thought that at some point we weren’t going to be as good, or as excited as the audience if we burn out. We won’t be as good as the audience is if we don’t take this break. So, after this break, we play at Riot Fest and the number of people was a huge surprise because we were playing with other big acts at the same time. I would say arguably bands that are as big as or even bigger than us, that I wanted to go see, but couldn’t because I was playing. It was evident to us that we really had outgrown them. It was kind of quizzical, like, can that really be true? Or maybe they’re just waiting for the next band? I can’t remember who was up after us, but maybe it was for them? But then they started singing, and it was a lot of singing! It might have been the loudest sing-along in our history, and for a band that has a history of loud, loud singing, that might be the loudest I’ve ever heard the audience.

So, that’s what precipitated us coming back because when we left there, people started inquiring about us playing, and the whole time we were away, the only questions we’ve ever asked each other is are we ready to say yes? Is anybody ready to say yes? Nobody had been ready, we all needed to recharge ourselves in different ways. I wish maybe we decided to play a year sooner. However, I’d say the band was eager to have the chance to really do this. I turned to the rest of the guys, following Riot Fest, and said “Are you ready to say yes?” They were dying to say yes. So we did.

AW: Having been involved with Twin Forks for the last few years, a lot of fans are curious to how far you plan to go with this reunion. Have there been any talks of writing/recording a new album, or do the plans for the band only include this tour?

Chris Carrabba [Dashboard Confessional]: There’s always been talk of a new record, but there are no plans for a new record. I don’t think we’ve ever made a plan for a new record. We’ve always just suddenly, started writing songs, and eventually, we’d have a record full of songs, next thing we know we have a record on our hands. Let me just say this, we don’t have plans, and aren’t making plans for a new record, and part of that is our own resistance to doing it. We want this tour, specifically, to really be about showing the fans how grateful we are to them and acknowledging to them that we know these specific songs are what they’re invested in, and what we’re invested in. We need to be only invested in them. The way the tickets sold, or whatever way we found out that people were excited, that’s what makes us think about doing it, and that’s as far as I can get right now. I think it’s most important to remain focused on the task at hand and that’s to play the hell out of these songs that were born in such a fiery manner, and not let them become the focus on them become diluted.

AW: With six studio albums worth of material to choose from for this tour, what can fans expect the set lists to be like? Will you be dusting off some of the really old or rarely played tracks, and are there any songs, in particular, you’re the most excited to be getting out there and playing again?

Chris Carrabba [Dashboard Confessional]: I would think everybody’s going to get what they most want to hear. I’d say what the audience wants to hear and the cornerstones of what built our popularity as a band. We love those songs too. Then there’s just an enormous quality of songs, and from our EP’s too, so what we decided to do is just learn everything and recognize we don’t have 6 or 7 hours to play a night, so we better know all of these songs and if the moment feels right to play any one of those songs, we will have no excuse not to play them. One thing we discovered along the way is that we put some songs in the vault that we can only speculate now, that maybe my voice got burned out at some point during the tour. So we would maybe pull out some songs and forget that it existed and never put it back in. But my voice is stronger now than it’s ever been, so I don’t expect that will ever happen again. But when we revisited those songs, I can understand why people were asking for them again. I think we found a set-list that favors our most popular songs, crossed over to when the net was growing really wide. I think we found which ones cut deepest to the audience, and the original die-hard audience. We know them all, and were just really excited about that, first of all, that we have the ability to say yes. We want to say yes! The answer should always be yes!

AW: I think that’s a great attitude to have. I’ve never really been to a show, where the fans can start chanting a song title and the band will play it.

Chris Carrabba [Dashboard Confessional]: Then you’ve never seen Twin Forks because if you have seen Twin Forks, you’d know that’s one of the things we were built on. It was a lesson learned that I took to Dashboard. The reason I bring that up is because that goes for our original material and our covers. If somebody calls out a different song, I’ll just start playing that, without mentioning it to the band, which is how I know I have a great band, speaking of Twin Forks still, but this also applies to Dashboard. Johnathon from Twin Forks shared this with the guys from Dashboard as a sort of a little nod, like hey, this is what’s changed with Chris in the last 5 years, and he says you probably know this, but if you ever hear him listen to a song twice, by anybody, he’s probably just going to start playing it in front of people one day, without ever having played it himself. So if you hear it twice, and you don’t want to feel stupid, learn it, or you’re just going to be standing there not knowing a song, that looks like he knows, whether he knows.

Dashboard1b

“I’m always trying to find a combination of bands that make a memory for you just beyond going to a show. “

 

AW: Wow! That’s talent, and I must admit I have never seen Twin Forks, but it sounds like a great band, and I absolutely would love to see them live. I’m sure anyone in the same place as me would agree after reading this interview!

Chris Carrabba [Dashboard Confessional]: I hope you can! But I think you could get that effect from Dashboard now that they have gotten the nod from John. It’s something I started back when I went from Dashboard to Twin Forks and then Dashboard solo, and I was going to learn the whole catalog, and have no right to say no. But that’s easier to do when you’re by yourself. I was willing to do all this work, all this homework. I remember being in South America, Brazil I think, and people were calling out like these B-Sides, that I had no reason remembering they existed and they weren’t necessarily good, but I knew them. Right, when I recorded them, there was a reason they were B-Sides, but I played them, and I knew them because I made that deal with myself.

AW: The decision to include Third Eye Blind on the bill is pretty genius. How did the idea to bring them on the tour come about?

Chris Carrabba [Dashboard Confessional]: Years ago, my friend Andrew said to me, look at Third Eye Blind, they’re doing something interesting. Now I had seen Third Eye Blind as a kid, a teenager I believe, and I saw them three times. Once right before their radio songs exploded, and then I saw them once when they were kind of like the kings of radio. This is when alternative radios format was really powerful, so the audience was massive. They were great both times. Then they kind of went away as far as I knew, so when my friend told me to check out what they were doing, I was like, what is it that they’re doing? He says they’re very quietly reinventing themselves as a non-radio band. They have been perceived for having massive success on the radio, and the “radio band”. Not a touring act, when I say not a touring act, like maybe not have that kind of cultish, obsessive fan base, like I am when I’m a fan. He says they’ve completely reinvented themselves. Their music was still as good and strong as ever, but they just went and toured, and toured, and toured, and gone from the top of the heat on the radio, to back, their own decision, playing at the smallest clubs to build themselves back up to this huge band, without adhering the corporate structure of how you’re supposed to do that. I was really impressed, so I went and saw them, and Andrew was right, it was exactly that.

So when these offers started coming in to play with this tour, somebody floated the idea to include Third Eye Blind, and for me at that point, I had seen it. I saw that the bands were similar, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see Third Eye Blind as a Dashboard show, or vice versa. I’m always trying to find a combination of bands that make a memory for you just beyond going to a show. I don’t really know what makes that work, but I think combining the right bands make it work. You might say, I’ve seen so and so a hundred times, but do you remember that one night? You might remember that one night because the other bands involved, the risk of going out with somebody unusual. Or maybe your two favorite bands were involved, or a combination of the two. At least that’s what I hope, and kind of expect now, just by seeing the chatter online.

AW: Dashboard Confession and Third Eye Blind are very similar in that sense, and I agree that including them on the tour will make a very memorable night for most fans.

Chris Carrabba [Dashboard Confessional]: It was an easy one for me because as my music would indicate to you, I’m a really big fan of a lot of the driving rock hits, like the melodies and the ripping guitar lines and if you listen to their records, they’re very similar. Their songs are just powerhouses in melody.

AW: Aside from being on the road with Third Eye Blind, what are you most excited about on this tour?

Chris Carrabba [Dashboard Confessional]: Let’s see, of course being out with my band-mates, and that includes John only being able to do part of the tour, so I’ll spend part of the tour looking forward to him doing the other part, and the other embracing AJ, who is a great friend and a guitar player I’ve been a fan of for so long. I can’t believe I get to play with him. Being with Ben. Scott, AJ, and Johnny, our crew is family to us. By crew, I mean everybody, our front-of-house guys, and all of that. There’s a family reunion at play here, that’s going to last the summer. More than all of that, I’m really excited about being with this audience that made us. I don’t how they did it, I don’t know why they did it, but when we’re a band that no label had ever heard of, they were there. The numbers of thousands at shows, and when we finally got our record deal, it was because of them that we got one, and we got a good one. When we finally had a song that might have a shot at the radio, it’s because of them that kept calling in that it got played. When we decided to leave, or take time away, however you’d phrase it, it was because of them that we were sad. We needed a break, we were eager to step away and find energy somehow, and it was because of them that we came back.

I’m looking forward to being with them, meeting as many as I can, as I always do. I’ve even set up a VIP kind of thing. I’m doing an acoustic show at the beginning of every night for a certain portion of the ticket buyers and the fan club, because that’s how it was in the beginning, and I want to do that. I want to do it also in the evening and carry that out on stage. You don’t get cracked to have a career like this, the way we have. I don’t know anybody else that has, it’s almost entirely fan-driven, almost completely and entirely fan-driven. I say almost because we got really lucky with a couple of people in the early stages who understood what to do to not alienate the fan base. Man, it’s shocking almost. You’re supposed to get a hit, then go on tour and get an audience or something like that. It’s just not the way it worked for us. We’ve never done anything the way you’re supposed to. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I had a haircut that wasn’t cool until this year. It’s always been inside out for us.

Dashboard4

“I’m very proud to be a part of an emo band that writes driving, and authentic, emotional songs and I’m not embarrassed by that.”

 

AW: That’s a great accomplishment, to have built a fan base not at all out of the radio, but based on Dashboard as a band. It must be very rewarding.

Chris Carrabba [Dashboard Confessional]: The thing is that they built us, by telling their friends. Which is something, something very special.

AW: This November will mark 15 years since the release of The Swiss Army Romance. The album still holds onto its conceptual relevance and continues to resonate with people years later. How do you think the album was able to transcend time so well? Are you doing anything to celebrate this 15-year milestone?

Chris Carrabba [Dashboard Confessional]: I can imagine watching some Kentucky Derby and maybe having a drink, but I really don’t know what we’ll do beyond that. We did it for the 10 year anniversary, and that was for the audience, so I think the 15 year anniversary will be for us. Maybe I’ll change my mind.

AW: You’ve often been called the “godfather of emo”. Is that a title you hold onto proudly?

Chris Carrabba [Dashboard Confessional]: To be an important figure in that scene, or perceived to be. I’m proud of that, really proud of that. I don’t think that I was the inventor of this scene or sound, I think that I just existed in this scene and sound. I feel really lucky to be identified with it. There was a period where things were so snarky that I was almost made to feel ashamed of that and the records I made sounded like the earlier records, so I felt I needed to verbalize that that’s not what we were. I’m very proud to be a part of an emo band that writes driving, and authentic, emotional songs and I’m not embarrassed by that. I don’t know why anybody would be.

AW: Where do you see Dashboard Confessional five years from now?

Chris Carrabba [Dashboard Confessional]: That’s a tough one. I can’t imagine that we’ll need a break again. So, the only thing I know for certain is that we’ll be playing music. I don’t know if that means we’ll be making new music, touring with this music, or collaborating with people. I have no way to tell you, I just know that we’ll be playing music.

Dashboard Confessional – “Screaming Infidelities”:

 

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