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Dashboard Confessional

This is an interview I did with Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional on Sat. December 16th, 2000 in St. Petersburg, FL.

How long have you been Dashboard Confessional?

I recorded last year and released it but I didn’t play any shows or anything like that, I played just a few select shows like I played with Saves The Day because they talked me into it and then I played a couple of coffee house shows but then I didn’t do anything because I was in another band for a few months and the record still sold pretty well so I thought I should go out and try and do something to support it so I have been on tour now for 2 and a half months. And now its over… tomorrow is the last show and then I get to go home and see my mom.

How long have you been writing music?
Umm.. well… a long time. I really don’t know when I wrote my first song but… a long time.

And you said you have been in a few bands…?
Yea, I was in a band called Further Seems Forever most recently. I was in The Agency, they are on Fiddler Records, Further Seems Forever was on Tooth & Nail. And I was in Vacant Endings (spelling) and they are on Fiddler Records also but I am not in those bands right now.

Do you plan on staying solo?
No, it was never supposed to be just me that is why it is called Dashboard Confessional and not Chris Carrabba. That’s why tonights show had my friend Dan who played bass and an instrument called the “mellotica” (spelling) because it is supposed to for my friends that are free or don’t have to work or are on hiatus with their bands are welcome to come along and play. The crowd is always a big big part of it with their singing along and everything so I never really thought of it as a solo project. I am gonna take a drummer out on the next tour or the tour after that for sure.

What made you decide to do something as original as this?
As opposed to just a standard band? These are just the songs I was writing and I wanted to be in the studio again and do something in the studio and be productive. I was also in a band that, as bands are, very regimented ya know standard, the same guys all the time which I enjoyed, I love the guys but I had all these other friends who were in bands and I was like “well wouldn’t it be great if I had something that whenever they were around they could play with me” and like I said ya know when my friends bands were home and if I have a show somewhere and they could come with me and play whatever instrument they play. So that was kind of the initial plan for doing it this way but sometimes I like to be up there all by myself too, because it’s scary and fun.

How do you feel about “Swiss Army Romance”?
I am very proud of the record but it is just kind of insighted to where I was at that particular point of my life I guess, I write from the heart so you can kind of tell what I am feeling when you listen to those songs. I never really listen to it but ya know I play those songs every night so its like it brings me back to where I was when I wrote those songs so I am fond of it for memory sake and I think it’s a solid record so, I like it.

The name Dashboard Confessional, how did you think of that?
Well, I wasn’t sure like at one point I was like “well its just me for now so I guess I am supposed to call it Chris Carrabba” but then I felt really uncomfortable doing that for various reasons, I felt really vein so I had written a song called “The Sharp Hint Of New Tears” which at that point wasn’t called “The Sharp Hint Of New Tears” and in the song it says “on the way home, this car hears my confessions.” So that name kind of popped into my head, Dashboard Confessional, and I thought that would be a good name for the tune but then I was like “well that sounds like a band name” so I was like “well im gonna save it incase I start another band” and then I was like “well why cant I just call this band Dashboard Confessional, and so that’s kind of a long winded answer.

I think it fits really well because, well I listen to the record in the car and like when you’re in a car and your by yourself you think about your feelings and think about how you relate, and its just all around a perfect name.
Well seriously Josh, that’s actually a really solid capture of where I came up with the name. Because it had to do with that line and then I started thinking about it and I was like “ya know, I do a lot of driving” especially being in a band and I break cd players from listening to them soo much and like, you lose the outside world and become really introspective, and try not to crash, but and that’s kind like, it was very appropo to what I was doing.

I read that you were a pre-school teacher?
I used to be a pre-school teacher and I am an administrator at a elementary school now for about seven years I have been. Total seven years I have been doing it because I was in high school when I started the pre-school.

Do the parents ever get a little worried because of the tattoos?
Well, to be honest with you the parents don’t really see the tattoos very often because I wear long sleeve shirts but then again the local newspapers have done a few articles and one of them was the cover of the entertainment section. Ya know the parents read that newspaper so they were like “oh so you have lots of tattoos” and I don’t keep it secret. It’s funny, all the kids know, they just notice if the shirt sleeve comes up a little but they don’t care at all. And the parents, I gotta give them credit, they don’t seem to care much at all.

That’s very surprising, you know how parents are, especially in elementary school.
It is surprising, and I think its because they got to know me first and know that I care for the kids first before I care about my tattoos or whatever and so since they knew me well it didn’t bother them when they found out. But I guess if I walked in there with a short sleeve shirt and asked for a job and my first day came in with my tattoos blazin’ or whatever I don’t know that I would make to many fans among the parents. But Im on a sabbatical right now, Im at a leave of absence for about a year to try and tour full time.

Do they all know about Dashboard Confessional?
Yea, my family there at the school is incredibly supportive as a matter of fact I even thanked Mrs. Noush, who is my vice principal and everyone at JC Mitchell, which is the elementary school that I work at. I thanked them, they are incredibly supportive. I have a young staff, because what I do, Im in charge of the day care and so I have about 12 counselors that work for me and they all come out to my shows and stuff, a lot of the teachers come out to my shows. You wouldn’t expect it, even when I was in heavier bands before, they like this better, but when I was in heavier bands they still came out and its really cool.

What do you listen to?
I listen to the Movie Life, I love the Movie Life. I listen to the Rocking Horse Winner, that’s the girl who sings on my record’s band. And then I listen to the old standards like I listen to a lot of the Beach Boys, I listen to Hot Rod Circuit, I listen to a lot of Tom Petty and I dunno, I could go on for a long time. We drive sometimes 17 hours so we listen to lots of music.

Swiss Army Romance, the song, I can relate that to pretty much every person I know. Was there a particular person in your life at that time that you wrote the song about or was it about a group of people?
Well yea there is a particular person in my life that I wrote that about, or that I started to write that about, and then I realized after I wrote the first verse that that person was indictive of a lot of people. Or that trait in that person was in a lot of people, and myself too sometimes I think, and everyone frankly. It was initially about one person and eventually about a lot of people that I know and its not meant to be derogatory, and I don’t think it is because I know its about me too. As a matter of fact theres a line in there that says “you’re dying to look smooth in your tattoos but you’re searching just like everyone, you could be anyone.” That is as much about me as it is anyone else.

What do you think, in you, brings out the way you are able to vocalize your emotions?
Well I think that I am not the best singer in the world and I think that I am not the best guitarist in the world but I really know what I feel, I guess. I used to dress it up a little more and then eventually I was just like ya know what, theres nothing wrong with saying what I truly feel. So that’s it. And if other people can relate to it, that wasn’t my intention, obviously to alienate people, but it wasn’t my intention to do something that everybody can relate to or that I was trying to speak for a whole group of people, that wasn’t my intention at all. But the fact that so many people can relate to it is kinda telling, it must be kind of basic feelings that people have and I was lucky enough to capture that, I don’t think that I intended to.

What is your personal favorite song on the record?
Umm, I dunno, that’s a weird question because I don’t really listen to my own record. I guess my favorite song changes every night depending on if somebody asks me to play a song, the fact that they knew it and knew it by name its my favorite song that night. It means that somebody cared enough to pay attention to the song title, which I don’t even always do. There is some of my favorite bands and I would go to the show and want them to play a song really bad and just be like “track 6!!”

Is there any songs that you really don’t like on the record?
No because like I said they are like a real snapshot of where I was. However, that is kind of a lie. “The Sharp Hint Of New Tears” is really painful for me to sing, like it really… all those songs dredge up something to me every night when I play them I really feel whatever it is, I remember exactly what it was and exactly how bad it felt, or how good it felt, and that song felt particularly bad, or I felt particularly bad at the time when I wrote that song. And so it makes me feel band, I don’t play it very often.

So how has the tour been with River City High, Midtown, and New Found Glory?
Its been awesome, especially considering that I am definitely the odd man out. I play an acoustic guitar, its been strange like the nights that I have to play first if there’s no local band or whatever if its just my turn to play first I get really nervous if the kids are ravenous for punk rock like I said and they have been standing in line and they get up there and they see my silly guitar and me sitting on a stool, they are like “what are we in for with this??”.But I have to give the kids the most credit, well I have to give credit to all the bands for having the guts to take me out, like New Found Glory didn’t have to suggest me for this tour, but they like it so they suggested it and I am really grateful for that. And Midtown has taken me out before, just like a month before this tour, and they same goes for them. But I have to give credit to the kids because you would think that they would only, I even think that they’re not gonna like it. I don’t give them enough credit sometimes, I just initially think they’re gonna hate me. But they don’t. They may not all like me, but a good amount of them are really receptive so its been an incredible tour to be on, just to have my eyes open. Like, because Im a punk rock kid but I like music like this. I like to listen to singer/songwriter stuff like Pedro The Lion. Obviously I am not alone, in that. Its been really neat, Ive loved this tour and plus its been an incredibly cool tour because New Found Glory and I, well the guys in NFG and me have been friends for a long time. My old band Vacant Endings went out with them on their first before anybody was anything. And the guys in Midtown have become my really good friends over the past year. And I have been able to become really good friends with Hot Rod Circuit and River City High, and the Movie Life, and everybody that has been involved at any point on this tour. I have never been on any tour where there was not any competition at all. I have been on other tours with other big bands, and I wont name names, when I was in my other bands that were really competing for each others fans and each other sales. But like were out there pushing each others records. I can tell you that every night I hear the guy from New Found Glory say “go check out the dash stuff” and every night I say “check out the video for sale at the Midtown table”, CRVM check it out, its got lots of cool stuff on it.

What do you do in your spare time?
If I ever had any spare time I suppose I would skateboard and write songs. I write songs more then I skateboard these days because it seems necessary for me to have fresh songs when Im out on the road because I have to play them every single night. And I enjoy reading and seeing my friends which I never get to do anymore.

Do you read many books?
Yea, I read constantly. This tour has been strange, I haven’t been able to read very much because drives have been long but my favorite author is John Irving. He wrote “A Prayer For Owen Meany” and “The Cider House Rules”. He is very inspiring to me. Every book that John Irving wrote is absolutely well worth purchasing.

What do you like listening to?
Well we have been listening to those cds but in general I like listening to things that have really pretty lyrics. Like The Weakerthans is a band that when we were in CA we stayed with Darren from Hopeless Records and he was kind enough to give me a Weakerthans cd. Initially I heard it and was like “this is fairly good, I kind of enjoy it” and then I listened to the lyrics more and I was so floored that I started calling my friends and was like “you have to go out and buy this record.” Its just phenomenal.

What or who has been your biggest influence?
My mother has been the biggest influence on me. Strongest person I’ve ever, even now being an adult and being in the world not under her wing, I still think shes the strongest person. Ive never met anyone who is as strong and capable as she is, and she is a big influence on my music to. She is a singer and pianist and is phenomenal at both, much better then I will ever be at what I do. And she always encourages it forever, and she never discouraged me when I wanted to take time of college. I mean she was never happy that I wanted to take a break from school but she understood, shes great.

Being from Florida, what do you think of the election?
Well whats funny was that I left and realized that I didn’t register to vote and the fact is I would have voted for Nader anyway, but I felt like a hypocrite. I cant remember what state I was in, somewhere really cold though, I can remember that much, when the election blew up. I was kinda making jokes and then they were like “palm beach county” and I didn’t even vote so I cant be makin cracks so I felt pretty stupid, I was really disappointed in myself so I cant knock the voting system when I wasn’t even a part of it this time. But it was weird because at one point I was in Connecticut, which was where I grew up. I moved here when I was in my sophomore year of High School, and like they were making fun of me they were like “yea you moved to Florida, you should move back here look at they blew the election.” It really could have just happened anywhere, they were really close in a lot of places.

What do you think of Napster?
Now the people at my label would probably shoot me for saying this, but I think Napster is the greatest thing ever. I think Napster has a lot to do with the fact that people know my lyrics, Im a big proponent of it and I really believe, I guess I think differently, but I really believe that if they are gonna like the record they are gonna buy the record because they might wanna read the lyrics, and read the thank yous, and see the pretty artwork. Im selling a lot of CD’s a night and those kids already know the words so I really believe that it works. And ya know, I don’t own a computer. I don’t go on Napster, I’ve never been on Napster, but I’ve had people make me mix tapes and people hand me a pavement tape that they copied from their cd. And I might not buy it that week because I have that tape to listen to but eventually Im gonna go out and buy it, and I do. Sometimes the sponsor tours too.

What do you think of Britney Spears?
I’ll tell you my honest truth. I used to not like her very much. I used to think she was not as pretty as everybody says but now shes getting older and she is just ridiculously hot. So I’m a big fan, of her music to. We listen to it a lot because you can only hear so much punk rock and when you are on tour for two and a half months with punk or various punk rock bands you have to listen to Britney Spears every now and again for you’ll lose your mind.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Listen to the Movie Life.


 Interview by : Josh Stern –

Dashboard Confessional

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