Chris Carrabba (Twin Forks / Dashboard Confessional)
Chris Carrabba, not set to rest of the laurels of his Dashboard Confessional successes, took a risk and went back to his musical roots for his latest venture, Twin Forks. We caught up with Chris last week in New York City, where he and his band were in town for one of the last few dates on their Spring tour with Augustana.
Read on to see what he had to say about how his new band came together, what he’s still doing with his old bands (yes, plural), and how this risky move is paying off.
Was it always the plan for Twin Forks to be a full band? Would it have worked as a solo project?
I started recording a solo project – this wasn’t when there was a plan for Twin Forks, but once there became a plan for Twin Forks it was always about being a band.
Did you always have Suzie Zeldin and Co. in mind? Or did other members fill out the band as you went along?
Well I had a number of people in mind, including Suzie – Jonathan [Clark] and Ben [Homola] were definites – and then Kimmy [Baranoski] and Kelsey [Baranoski] too, and a couple of other people were part of my wishlist. Which is really nice because Suzie’s gotten really busy again, and so now we do have Kimmy and Kelsey, more than we have Suzie.
What was the hardest thing about getting Twin Forks off the ground?
I think the hardest bit continues to be, or at least the thing that’s going to take a while, is that we’re trying pretty hard to not just trade on the Dashboard name. It seems a bit unfair to do that, to pull the wool over the audience’s eyes. I don’t want to have a big marquee that says this is “Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba’s Twin Forks”, where people would expect to hear Dashboard and what they expect is a set and what they get is maybe a few songs. So we’re trying to come by this audience honestly – playing smaller shows, being kind of fair about how we’re advertising it. And we’re not being dishonest, I would like to play Dashboard songs – I still play Dashboard songs, maybe 1 when we’re opening, more when we’re headling – but it is a Twin Forks show, and I don’t want to fake our way to bigger audiences by making Dashboard a bigger deal than Twin Forks for that night.
I’ve said to them, “Look, I’ll take the hit, you don’t have to take the financial hit on this. You just have to take the chance.”
– on convincing nervous concert promoters
Has there been any pushback from promoters, booking agents, or other industry folks that would maybe prefer to use the Dashboard name?
Pushback’s not the right word… it’s been a gracious understanding that I’ve gotten from promoters specifically. The label [Dine Alone Records] gets it, and they agree that that’s the way to honor the Dashboard audience, by not faking them out. They’ll come along if they enjoy it. Now the promoters on the other hand want to fill up a room and know they can do it in an hour if they put “Dashboard”, and maybe not at all if they put “Twin Forks”. But I’ve said to them, “Look, I’ll take the hit, you don’t have to take the financial hit on this. You just have to take the chance.” And we’ve been really lucky that these shows have been selling out, or doing well, and then at the end of the night they feel much more comfortable about trying that again. Eventually I don’t think it’ll matter anymore. It’s not like it’s a secret I’m from Dashboard, and I’m not making it a secret – I just want people to understand which thing they’re going to get more of when they come to see Twin Forks. I’d hate for anybody to leave dissapointed, or feel cheated – includuing the promoters. And I’ve been lucky that they’ve allowed me to do that.
You toured with Phillip Phillips recently, whose big break in to the music industry was very different from how you got your start — do you think shows like American Idol have changed the way people view the music industry? In a good or bad way?
I have no idea how to answer that question – I really have no idea. I’m perplexed by that path. I come form a world where if you want to make it as a band you go and get a van and you tour for 300 days a year until you can’t take it anymore. And in my case that’s been 15 years – and I can still take it, so I still do it. That other path, I couldn’t tell you if it was harder or easier, and I don’t know what other people think of it.
You’re playing a couple of festivals later this year as both Twin Forks and Dashboard Confessional — is that easy to do? Do you have to flip a switch to get in to the right mode?
Absolutely, which is hard to do mid-stream in the middle of the day. However, it is different company to keep. As soon as Johnny [Lefler] and Scott [Schoenbeck] walk in to a room, it’s really easy to get in to that mode. It’s a very specific sense of humor, a very specific approach to putting a show together, putting a set list together – they’re different bands. And if it was a solo Twin Forks show and a solo Dashboard show I don’t where I’d be. But that fact that these are two different groups of people that have they’re own spirited way that they apply the excitement makes it work for me. I get to be reactive, I don’t have to get in there and figure out, “which pants do I wear to be this guy?”
It’s only about the next song that takes you down that rabbit hole.
– on how musical inspirations can change instaneously
What’s next for Twin Forks? Do you have a plan for how much touring and recording you want to do? Other commitments?
I am committed to Twin Forks, so I think I’ll be doing this for quite a while. But I have recently recorded a bunch of Dashboard stuff too, so I can’t predict how things go. And Further [Seems Forever] too, I just wrote a song for them this week. I can’t predict it, but I know where my heart is, it’s in Twin Forks right now. I think some Dashboard fans would be excited to know that, some would be dissapointed, but I would just say that could change ten minutes from now. It’s only about the next song that takes you down that rabbit hole.
Stay tuned to Emo At Heart for our review of Twin Forks’ show as well as some exclusive photos from their performance.