Try to remember the last time you listened to Dashboard Confessional. Maybe it was in 2004 on the Spiderman 2 soundtrack, when a side-burned, dreamy-eyed Chris Carrabba shared a music video with a spidey-suit clad Tobey Maguire, singing the self-edifying lyrics of Vindicated. Or maybe it wasn’t that long ago at all. Maybe you caught Carrabba last month on Conan burning through a performance of We Fight, a single from Crooked Shadows, Dashboard’s first album in nearly a decade.
A lot has changed in those nine years. Carrabba has ditched his sideburns, for one. But aside from his fashion tastes, Carrabba’s musical sensibilities have grown from that of the outsider emo heart-throb into the thoughtful arrangements of a veteran songwriter. While on tour, Carrabba took a minute to talk to Revue about Dashboard’s comeback and his growth as an artist.
What’s it like making a record after such a long break?
We just fell right into it. It was exciting in the way that the first records were made. There are no expectations and there are no deadlines.
How does this record sit with your previous work?
My intention was to approach the record with this in mind: what if I had as much to say — in the way I like to say things — as I did on the first record, but say it with the skillset and broader tastes I’ve developed over the years, and not end up with some overly produced mess, to record it in my basement?
Crooked Shadows was recorded in your basement?
Yes, and I’ll be completely frank with you, I really like my old stuff better. There are songs on the later records that I like quite a bit, but on the first three records there’s an immediacy to them. That’s a hard thing to pin down, but it’s an easy thing to get pulled away from.
How did you reconnect with that?
I decided to record each song immediately after writing it. I would write a song and I’d walk right over to the microphone and record it. In almost every case, it’s that first take on the record. And it’s flawed. It’s not the most perfect performance I’ll ever give of that song by a long shot, but it is the most connected I might ever be. In that moment, I’m absolutely invested in the song with every part of my heart.
Heart Beat Here hints at a sentiment many were voicing after the election, that they were going to “leave the country.” Was that on your mind while writing the song?
I’m out of the country right now, I did it! (Laughs.) I’m kidding. No, I’m not grappling with leaving the country, but I am grappling with the state of social politics in the United States, which has gone from this extraordinary progression of social advances to this state of regression. ... I feel spurred to action by the state of what’s going on, and that’s how I felt while we were making the record.
The song We Fight wrestles with difficult childhoods. Is that song autobiographical?
Yeah, it’s autobiographical. I had a rough childhood and I also had a great childhood, like most people. Life is not just one thing at one given time. And then I had a challenging adolescence like most everyone does. But during my teen years, I found a music scene that was a collective of very special outsiders. If you felt like an outsider somewhere else, you weren’t made to feel that way in this scene. I realized then that if you have special people around you, you have to fight to protect them. You have to fight to advance your good ideas and you have to fight against bad ideas.
Do you see that inclusivity in your career today?
Yeah! But I can’t speak for any other band’s relationship with their own fans. I can only speak from my own very small corner of my subgenre. I feel like it’s an inclusive place where you can proudly and safely be who you are and think as you do. But it’s also a place where people will challenge your ideas, a place where you can safely have disagreements, which I think is important. Wasn’t America supposed to be that after all?
So, I’m not a defeatist because the person I voted for didn’t win the election. So what? I’ll get another chance. The world doesn’t end. Can one presidency completely derail a society? I just don’t think so.
What does the future hold for Dashboard?
I’m feeling pulled to write. It’s a good feeling, but until the songs come I don’t know how to answer that question except to say we’ll be on tour, probably forever. (Laughs.)
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