Chris Carabba is one of the most respected artists today. After leaving Further Seems Forever he went on to form Dashboard Confessional. When “The Swiss Army Romance” was released by Drive Thru Records late last year it sent shockwaves through the music community. Chris’ amazing voice and great, heartfelt songs won him quite a following in little time. Only months later Chris was signed to Vagrant Records. Barley a month later, Chris is about to release his second full length, “The Places You’ve Come To Fear The Most”. Be sure to check out our reviews of all Dashboard Confessional releases in our music review section.
Phone Interview by Kevin Corazza with Chris Carabba
United Front: “The Swiss Army Romance” has been out for a short while now and already in this small timeframe you have built quite a huge following and garnered countless critical acclaim. Did you ever expect in your wildest dreams this would ever happen?
Chris: Truthfully no. Frankly, I didn’t think anyone would ever hear it. I didn’t record it with the intentions of releasing it. It was first released on my best friend’s label and she talked me into releasing it. I though that maybe around here in south Florida some of the kids may get into it, but that would be the end of it. Those weren’t even hopes, I didn’t even have any hopes for the record. My hopes were making it and that’s it. I thought that I had enough pals around here that I could maybe sell 200 copies and play a few shows.
United Front: Well how did it transpire that it was re-released again on Drive Thru Records?
Chris: I took the c.d. with me to sell when I was with my other band, Further Seems Forever (that I’m not in anymore) and was surprised to see it moving quickly. It seemed that the word would always pass on to the next town by the time we got there. That was one factor that it sold on its own very well. The release was on Fiddler Records and New Found Glory had a previous EP on the label before moving to Drive Thru. Drive Thru kept an eye on the Fiddler releases, and they heard it and liked it.
United Front: Whats the story with you leaving Further Seems Forever? When you left the band did you have any ideas about what you wanted to do? Start making acoustic music right away?
Chris: I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I just wasn’t into how things were going at the time. There were some factors involving me leaving Further, but Dashboard Confessional wasn’t one of them. I like this whole thing with Dashboard, I think its neat that all of these kids have gotten in to it and all. I had no idea it was going to be what I focused on after I left Further, I had no idea what I was going to focus on. I was leaning toward the idea of starting another band with me singing and playing the guitar again maybe, but I wasn’t sure.
United Front: I know those guys have continued the band without you and later this month they are releasing a new record. Did you take part in it at all, did you sing or anything like that and finish up recording before you left?
Chris: Yah I sing on the record. I had left the band already before I recorded it, but we talked and I chose to record the album with them still. We were never on bad terms or anything so we were like “lets do the record” and then we did. Those guys are excited and I’m really exited for them.
United Front: Recently you went out and toured with bands like New Found Glory, Saves The Day, Midtown, Face To Face, and The New Amsterdams. How was that?
Chris: It was totally amazing. It was really amazing that these kids come to the shows and get what I do. I’m not playing punk rock yet I’m playing at these punk rock shows and its going over really well. I just finished up that tour with Face To Face and it worked, strangely enough!
United Front: For the people who have never seen you live, whats your stage setup like? I know for certain songs you may have backing vocals and a second guitar accompaniment. Do you usually bring out the contributors from your album to shows to play too?
Chris: I bring them out only if they’re free, practically Jolie, I really like it when she tours with me. My friend Dan and Mike play on this new record and they’re not doing anything with their band now so they come out with me. They’re in the band called Ceville and they’re seriously amazing. I hope they don’t get big because then they can’t come out with me, but I know its inevitable! I have a drummer and bassist then, and on certain songs they play. On the songs for “The Swiss Army Romance” that had the extra guitar, Dan the bassist plays the guitar in the shows. Its funny but the crowd always sings Jolie’s parts when shes unable to tour, they’re great about that. The crowd is loud at my shows for some reason which I love. That’s always been the goal with Dashboard, sometimes I’d be by myself, the crowds a big factor, and sometimes when my friends are able to tour they come out with me. Its very fun.
United Front: How was it that you came up with the name Dashboard Confessional? I know some of the lyrics you have the word “confession” in them.
Chris: I always knew that at some level it wasn’t going to be just me if I ever did this. Calling it “Chris Carabba”, knowing the crowd would be a factor, knowing that if some friends had time to tour with me, I didn’t want them to feel secluded because its called “Chris Carabba” or they were supporting the “Chris Carabba Project” because that’s not what its about. I was trying to think of a name and then I was resigned to think, “Oh well, its just going to be called “Chris Carabba” and we’ll just call it that”. Then I wrote that song “The Sharp Hint Of New Tears” that you referred to and before I had that title I was thinking of naming the song, “Dashboard Confessional” and I thought, “That would be a cool name for a band”. Here I was in Further, not thinking I was not going to have this band soon, and too bad I’m not starting a new band, because that would be a great name for a band. Then I thought, “What the heck, what don’t I just call it Dashboard Confessional?”. It really encapsulates the attitudes of the song at that time spanning allot of time listening to music on the stereo or talking to my friends on long trips or just thinking allot while just driving around.
United Front: How did it feel to know that Vagrant Records was interested in signing you? They just got a copy of the album then and were instantly interested in you?
Chris: They got a copy of the record and they saw me play a few times, so essentially that’s how they heard me. Its kinda funny though, but the one girl who runs Fiddler Records now works at Vagrant Records. Its funny now that I get to work with her now again and its cool. Shes not that one though who was interested, it was the label. However she did play the album to the guy from Vagrant who really signed me and she was like, “You should really listen to this, I’m thinking of selling this to a bigger label”, and he had just signed some big name bands like Saves The Day and Alkaline Trio, I suppose though there was only so much money to go around and he was like, “I can’t afford to like anything else!”. I’m REALLY, REALLY happy on that label now.
United Front: What does Vagrant really bring to the table that Drive Thru really couldn’t?
Chris: Theres a number of things, the main one being artistic freedom. A better term and length of deal.
United Front: Yes allot of reports have come out that with Drive Thru they sign you to a 6 record deal, you have to set up your own tours, you only get 10% of your merchandise sales…..
Chris: Yah not the best deal in the word. But Vagrant on the other hand really made it to be worth my while to be on the label. There were other offers, but Vagrant was the best.
United Front: Lets talk about your songs. Do you have a clear message in your songs? Does it differ from song to song? A deep meaning? I know that some of your songs talk about relationships and the hardships that go along with them.
Chris: The songs are highly personal and definitely about personal matters to me. I try to stay away from saying what they are about or who they are about just because I don’t want to ruin it for anybody. Everybody has their own idea about what the songs mean to them personally. That is what it means to them, and I don’t want to take that away from them. I know what they’re about to me, but I’m more interested in what they mean to someone else. Its good that YOU have feeling for it, and you can take it for what its worth.
United Front: On the new album, “The Places That You have Come To Fear The Most” you added other elements like drums, percussion, and bass. You still kept the theme of the acoustic theme though. What really prompted you to add these new instruments?
Chris: I haven’t really given that too much though as to why. The songs dictate what they get I guess. I know what songs I write get acoustic. I don’t plan in my head, “I need these many songs that are acoustic” or “this time I’m going to have drums”. I wrote a few songs though, that when I sat down and listened to them, they just didn’t sound complete. I thought “what happens if I add drums?”. Theres some songs with string arrangements that I added the bass to and piano. Basically whatever to make the songs better. The songs are the showcase. I may get some slack by not being true to all acoustic but I never was trying to be all acoustic. I just wrote songs that sounded good. Theres allot of songs on here that sound similar to “The Swiss Army Romance” songs but then theres a couple that just didn’t sound right and just didn’t sound full enough, they just didn’t bring out the emotion that I was looking for until I added drums and bass.
United Front: With the new album as well I know you also made two new versions of “Again I Go Unnoticed” and “Screaming Infidelities”. Why did you make this new versions? Were you not satisfied with the original versions?
Chris: No actually I was really pleased with everything on “The Swiss Army Romance”. Both songs I was really happy with how they turned out especially. When I played them live it was the same thing, I thought it didn’t lack anything. When I talked about earlier how I added the drums and bass to some of the songs because they were lacking, this was not the case with both of these songs. However, when I got together with my drummer, it made sense to work on songs he had heard over and over again. We just started playing these songs and they knew basically all of the last record. On some given night, I was like, “Dan! Why don’t you play on this song?”. When we played those songs I was like “Wow that really brings a new depth to those songs! Lets give it a shot then and see how it goes”. For me, “Screaming Infidelities” became moodier and “Again I Go Unnoticed” became way more charged with energy. I really wanted kids to hear these new re worked songs, so thats why we did that. I had other songs I was going to put on the record, but I thought it would be shame not to include these songs on there, and thats what I thought about every time we went to practice. These two new re-worked songs just seemed to be a part of this record.
United Front: With those songs that you left off of the new record, do you have any plans in the future to release anything else soon?
Chris: I’m going to take my time. See I recorded “The Swiss Army Romance” last year in January off 2000 and it came out in April. The re-press came out in November, so allot of people think it just came out. For me it came out in January if you get my meaning. Its plenty of time (even thought its been 5 months) for the mass market, but if I put out another record after this one thats coming out this month it be overkill. I have allot of stuff because I never stop writing.
United Front: When do you write? Is it ever on the road?
Chris: The only time I write on the road is in sound check. I practice the new songs I’m working on when I’m not in front of the kids. I need some solidarity I guess to write songs, and theres not that much chance for that when you’re on the road. Maybe if I was in a big band and I had a bus or someplace to hide alone. I usually write when I’m at home, but I’m not home as much as I’d like to be. Its funny because I’ve been home for short periods of time but I haven’t been writing, so I have all these songs in my head and they all seems to come out at once.
United Front: Any band in particular you want to tour with?
Chris: The guys of Saves The Day have been long time friends of mine. There just super guys. The first Dashboard show I did period was with those guys. I’m looking forward to upcoming touring that I will be doing with Alkaline Trio. The one band though I’m looking forward to touring with the most is the Weakerthans. The band is all I’ve been listening to lately. When the call came to tour with them I got real excited. The way that guy writes lyrics just astounds me.
United Front: Just take a look right not to the future and fast forward to five years. I know Dashboard Confessional is very young, but is there really any long term goals you have?
Chris: First of all, its just kinda of always going to be me. I know Mike and Dan will go off to do Ceville. Its weird to draw for personal and professional goals. All I want to do is keep creating music and hopefully kids will still be into it. Personally I just want to keep writing from a personal standpoint. Professionally I hope kids still like it. Even if I were to play only in my living room, I’d be more than happy. I wouldn’t like to have day job though, but I just like the music and playing it. Its so early to say really. I’d love to say, “Oh I want to do this for the next 20 years”. I’m not Tom Petty, I don’t know if it happens in our scene that much.
United Front: Any final comments?
Chris: Listen to the Movielife!
Interview by : Kevin of United Front Webzine